Geekdom Come, World Building 101

World Building 101- Plant and Animal Life

Hello and welcome faithful reader! Thanks for taking the precious moments out of your busy schedule watching cat videos and spending a little time with me. Speaking of cats, which we totally just were and this isn’t a forced segue at all, we’ve come far enough in your world building journey its time to start peppering your imaginary world with plants and animals.
Now while I know my usual advice is to be thorough and think out everything about your world beforehand I’m not recommending that for this particular phase of world building. Scientists estimate that their exist a roughly 400,000 different species of vascular plants and anywhere from 3 to 30 million species of animals. If you attempt to personally create that kind of biodiversity for your world, you will go insane before you ever finish a chapter. So unless your protagonist is an herbalist or a naturalist on a completely alien world its probably best to use the standard earth creatures as your base and add, subtract, or modify your world from there.
When making your adjustments there are a plethora of important questions you should answer for yourself. For plants the list is a bit simpler so we’ll start there. First off, where does this plant grow. In the jungle? In the desert? Basically the question is how much water and sun is this plant going to get and how has it adapted itself to get more of what it needs. When you’ve answered that you have to consider the soil and the wind in the region. Are their nutrients readily available in the soil? Or does the plant have a sophisticated root system that allows it to survive where other plants can’t? Does it reside in a high wind area, if it does how has it adapted so it doesn’t get blown away by a powerful gust. How the plant reproduces, whether or not its a flowering plant, what animals might make it part of its diet are all things to consider. Perhaps most important in your thought process when creating a new plant is how it affects humans. Can it be used as food, medicine, or building materials. If it produces food, what kind? Nuts, berries, grains, can it be grown as a crop? This is far from an exhaustive list. But if you’re going to turn some made up plant into a stable food or medicinal mcguffin in your world they are important questions to consider.
But you’re probably not reading this because you have a crazy lawn-hedge you want to make central to your plot. You’re reading this because you drew a bad-ass tiger-bear-dragon hybrid in the fourth grade and you want to incorporate it into your five-volume fantasy-opus. Well if you’ve got the Tybeargon, I’ve got the time.
First a disclaimer, if your creature was created by a god or a mad scientist you don’t really need to read any further. Just write them however you want and if your fans get uppity just shrug your shoulders and say magic or science. Whichever applies.
If your creature is a natural occurrence in your world then you have some thinking to do. First how does its physical characteristics help it survive in its environment. In other words don’t give a jungle/desert dweller woolly mammoth levels of fur or hair. After your animal has adapted to its environment you need to determine its place in the food chain. In other words you need to decide what it eats and what eats it. This will also affect its physiology as most creatures in the wild have developed traits that help them catch prey and fight off or hide from predators. Maybe your animal has thorns or horns to do battle with the things that find it tasty, or maybe it knows how to camouflage itself in its environment.
Once you’ve established answers to those questions it again time to examine your animal’s relationship to the the sentient species of your story. Pet, companion, pest, parasite, predator, or just plain delicious.
Well that’s it for this edition of World Building 101: Animals and Plant Life. I hope you enjoyed this attempt at maintaining biodiversity in your fictional fantasy romp.

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