Building a World for a Novel – Part 17
New to this project: Start with Part 1
Part 17: Predator and Domestic Animals
We have briefly covered the need and function of both wild and domestic animals. Now it’s time to go deeper.
Predators: For our purposes we will assume that predators are creatures that hunt, kill, and devour other creatures. (The dictionary says organisms, but that suggests that rabbits hunt and kill carrots! Ah, well.) We assume that the term “wild animal” may include both predator and vegetarian creatures, and of course domestic animals are those that work for or live with (or feed) people.
What will your planet have in the way of wild things? As long as you follow some basic rules of physics, there is no reason you could not have creatures which are nothing like what we see on Earth today. What do I mean by following rules?
Based on physics, for example, a very tall, very thin creature, or an extraordinarily big creature may not have the strength of internal structure to support its own mass. Unless the creatures on your world are part machine, or magical, they will have to be reasonably sized. You may have some very fast predators, but a creature running on the ground will not go so fast as to be invisible or break a sound barrier. You will not typically see whale-sized things floating in the sky, or fish that live in clouds. Not typically, at least.
The fun part is working out a way to make outrageous animals work in your stories.
What kind of creature will be the biggest threat to your people? We all expect fierce cats, lizards or snakes to cause problems, but what about very tiny creatures the size of mice or even smaller? What about bugs that swarm, are not stopped by walls, and devour people? How about a creature that makes a sound that disrupts a person’s ability to think or act?
Side trip: So far we have only spoken of plants as a source of food. You should absolutely consider plants that can walk or roll on the ground to attack animals or people. Think about fast-growing vines that can strangle a sleeping person or animal. The predators on your world can come in many sizes and shapes, and can each present a unique challenge to your sentient races.
Domestic Animals: On earth we have horses, elephants, oxen, mules, and sometimes dogs to share our workload. We raise cows, pigs, chickens, goats and more for food. What animals will the people on your world choose to domesticate? And how will they do it? Even on our home world, the animals I’ve just mentioned didn’t walk up to us and say, “hook me to a wagon”, or “chow down on me”. We had to capture, feed, breed, and develop methods for taming these creatures. Think about how your people will accomplish this.
What about pets? Animal companions serve in many ways. They keep us company and comfort us. Some act as early warning against intrusion, even protect us from thieves or predators. What will the companion animals on your world be like? Will they be giant, cuddly insects? How about furry snakes, sharp-eyed talking birds? Will these creatures be totally devoted, willing to lay down their lives for your people? Or will they be willing to go only so far before taking care of themselves?
You get to decide the look and the feel, the actions and the reactions.
Next time we’ll get into a wonderful flying machine and take a first look at the world we’re building.
continued in Part 18