In the genres of science-fiction, fiction, and fantasy, any manner of creature can be real. The books, movies, and TV series of Star Trek explored all kinds of strange and interesting aliens. Babylon 5 did the same and some were very intricately conceived with so much depth that anyone would think them to be real. many mainstream comic books do the same as well; look at Green Lantern as an example.
The late, great, Isaac Asimov created many wonderful creatures in his books. A few, I swear he described them from living creatures rather than from some hidden recess in his imagination. Authors like Piers Anthony and Roger Zelazny took main stream legends and folklore and took them up a notch or three in their writings. In either case, these were custom created for their stories. Any decent fiction and fantasy writer does the same.
In my oldest work in progress, Way of the Comet, I created a race to fill in a rather empty gap. I needed something to help fill a sub plot but also fit in well with the main story line. I needed a race that wasn’t war-like, but they could fight to defend themselves, have a bit of mystery surrounding their people and ways for a lot of misunderstandings and rumors about them, physically strong but not powerful and have a few special abilities of their own. They had to have something about them to make them sought after by other races for what ever reason.
What I came up with was a feline race I named Kiyrie (pronounced kee-eye-ree). They aren’t just simple felines like other anthropomorphic cats. They have wings and an inherent magical ability to change shape. Actually, they aren’t true felines. They are mostly feline with a few other bloodline tossed in for the benefits they gave to them such as flight and magic.
Sketch of a Kiyrie: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/2558640/ Not the best it shows what one looks like in my imagination.
No, they cannot change into anything like other shifters or were-creatures. They have limits to what they can become. Part of it deals with mass, meaning they can’t become very big or extremely small. This means they cannot become an ant to crawl under doors or into giants to stomp their enemies flat. With practice and time, they can change into something as big as small dragon or as little as a n average house cat but holding these shapes takes a lot of effort.
Their magic does give them some disadvantages. When the young kiyrie first come into their magic at puberty, it can cause problems if they aren’t prepared for it. Magic is a fickle thing and appear quickly or slowly, so the unprepared can end up dying trying to control the sudden bursts it can create. Those who do survive onset can learn how to work with their developing abilities but it still takes time to master the first shapes beyond what the shapes they accomplish instinctively in need. A short teleportation is an instinctive magic in the young as a survival trait. A full shapeshift is what they learn after onset and even then, it can be deadly.
Magic of any kind is not the sparkly wonderful thing so many writers make it out to be.
Their abilities and natural strength make them sought after as slaves to a couple of enterprising nations. Knowing what works to stop their magic helps these people maintain control over their captives. Certain ores and gemstones wreak havoc with Kiyrie magic. They can trap them in a form, turn off their magic entirely or even cause them to force shift into something. A high-ranking mage can guide a kiyrie into any shape they want then trap them in it for as long as they wish; usually permanently. Once trapped in a shape, the kiyrie can forget themselves simply be what ever it is they were turned into.
Catching them isn’t easy, they are masters of stealth. To be considered an adult, the adolescent kiyrie has to prove themselves in a hunt. They have to capture specific creatures. They don’t have to kill the creature unless there is a need or it is a prey animal.
As a whole, the kiyrie are a shy, reclusive, people and keep to themselves. If one is found, it is more than likely a scout. Scouts are brave by comparison and prefer to be out exploring the world beyond their hidden villages and camps instead of being a productive member of their tribe. Yes, they are a tribal type people. This helps in the mystery and rumors surrounding them. It is also why they are hunted, too. They aren’t like everyone else and therefore are savage people who should be taught how to be civilized. 😉
I have made a web page and several docs about this species I created so i won’t bore anyone with the details here.
Through role play and some writing about them in various short stories, I have developed the kiyrie into something that sounds believable. I have put a lot of thought into this race and changed parts here and there over the years. In the beginning, they seemed very over the top with all kinds of powers to prevent them from being captured or harmed. Once that part of my brain was reined in, they were tamed down and given realistic problems like a high mortality rate and few children make it to adulthood.
It took a lot of people who were patient and fun to hang with to get this race to this point.
Creating a race for a story is fun, but so challenging. It’s easy to modify something well-known like elves or dwarves into something, or take your cute and cuddly friends and turn them into something for your book. But to come up with something original, it takes a lot of time to consider the pros and cons, what they can do why they can do, how, what their society is like and so fort.
I don’t think I’ll create many custom races because of all that needs to be thought of but I will certainly think of stories to surround any race of mine.