So you’ve gone and done it. You’ve decided that your next project is going to have…Aliens!
But now you’re sitting there wondering what to do next…
Don’t worry. Building your own alien race is fun, easy, and surprisingly affordable.
Ok, there’s going to be work involved, but the good news is, you’ve probably already started it.
You know there’s an alien race. You might even already have something in mind, or maybe you don’t, that’s ok.
Now I don’t know what kind of alien race you’ve got in mind, so I’m going to walk you through how I created one (of three!) in my current project: Queen’s Will.
First off, your mileage may vary – it probably will. For me, the first thing that came to mind this time – yes, I said, “This Time.” The process varies, and I find it just about as frustrating as you probably do. Anyway, the first thing that came to mind was the name:
I have no idea – exactly – where the name came from. I had a vague notion that I didn’t want this race to be humanoid, and I was tossing sounds together in my head. Krit-Tchik stuck.
Let’s look at the name: There’s a lot of sharp-edged consonant sounds in there. To me, it sounded vaguely insectile.
Here’s where your mileage is going to vary. You don’t have the same personal history that I do. I’m rolling the name Krit-Tchik around in my head and thinking about insects, and my thoughts drifted back to my tabletop RPG days and my favorite (well, one of my favorite) D&D sourcebooks: The Fiend Folio, inside whose pages one will find an entry for the Thri-Kreen – a kind of Mantis Warrior.
Now I’ve got a toe in the door. I dig preying mantises, and the name seems to fit.
While I’ve got mantids on the brain, I start going through Google Images for some Mantis pictures. What I find is the Devil’s Flower Mantis. Content Warning: Bugs!!
How Cool is that critter??? That is an entire foot in the door kind of cool.
Now I’ve got a name, and now I’ve got a look. That look is going to influence future decisions.
By this time, I’ve started jotting down notes. I find a nice clear page and start dropping in what I *Know* about this race in a bulleted list.
I know they’re a space-faring race. So they’re intelligent.
I threw out the idea of the two front legs ending in single claws, and I replaced them with long, articulated fingers – which could double as claws if I wanted.
Basing them off the Mantis, I know that they’ve got large eyes. I know that they’d be quicker, and have faster reflexes than the humans in this story. I know that they’ll have an exoskeleton – I’ll make it tough enough to turn a blade, and withstand indirect blaster fire – but I’ll balance that out with making them slow healers.
I know that they can turn their head around almost 180 degrees. I also know that that pivot point is a weak spot.
It was never a question for me whether or not the Krit-Tchik were going to be large or small. They were going to be large, and I went back to height/length statistics for mantises and decided that they were going to be six feet tall, and about twelve feet long. And they’ll have six legs.
Also going back to the Mantis, I decided that they’d have a wide range of coloring – from nearly while to black, with varying accent colors.
I knew that they had wings, but that they were going to be vestigial left-overs from much earlier. Still used in threat displays, or maybe communication, but not actually capable of flight.
Those are the things I knew. The next things sprouted from the list I’d just created.
They’ve got better vision than humans in low light, but those senses can be overwhelmed.
I decided they’d be omnivorous, and that their native language would consist of clicks and chirps – again with a lot of hard consonants. The language can’t flow smoothly off my tongue.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to create an entirely separate language, but I do need to know what their speech sounds like when I come up with curse words, and slang later on. Yes, you’re going to have to figure out how your aliens cuss, and what it means. Even if you never give the definition to your reader, it’s worth your time to do this. A language has to feel lived in.
Now I’ve got what an individual Krit-Tchik looks like. I’ve got them walking and talking – even though I don’t have much in the way of vocabulary, I know how it’s supposed to feel in my mouth. Now it’s time to turn my attention to how they interact with each other – and the rest of the races in this project.
Additionally, I have to know what their world looks like. Some of that is going to sprout from decisions I made here. 12 feet long, and six legs – I’m thinking that a Krit-Tchik chair is going to look pretty different from something that you or I am used to seeing – if chairs exist at all.
But I’ll save that for Part 2…