Does anyone have any suggestions on where to go to get some ideas on different types of monsters that can be created for a fantasy novel? I'm not talking about different variations of zombies or vampires, but rather something more unique and original. I'd like to see some fresh ideas for mosters as antagonists.
Why just as antagonists? But well ...
One of the best monsters out there is a human being. A nice guy. No-one expects (i.e the reader) that he is a monster. A well known pattern with uncountable variations--use them.
Reading mythology of all kind (Greek, Northern, Indian) is a good source for monsters (Tolkien has proved that).
When your kid next time is afraid of that monster in the closet, don't tell him "No, there is none, I'll show you." Ask, what is so frightening. How does the monster look like?
Insects. Get a book, look them up. Magnified they are really terrifying.
Have a look around for the AD&D 2nd Ed. Monstrous Compendium (or whatever the current equivalent is under their new rules), which listed hundreds of possible monsters (I think there were several of these books). Easy enough to get ideas from these, or other RPG books.
For my own part, I tend to scour around for books on myths and legends from countries around the world, as they're a great source of inspiration when it comes to gods, spirits, demons, and monsters.
Alternatively, look at nature, and make up your own monsters based on the weird and crazy creatures that exist in real life. Believe me, there's enough of them!
You could borrow from deep sea creatures, there's some WEIRD critters in the deeps. Or look at tiny organisms and imagine them human-sized. Or do something with weird plants.
Pay less attention to what the monsters look like, but rather what they do.
Is your monster simply a beast with fangs, muscles and acute hearing, or does it have special abilities? Are these abilities magical, or pseudo-scientific?
What is the monster's weakness? Like a good character, a good monster has weaknesses. Is it afraid of anything? Is there a specific way to kill it? Can it only attack someone who wields a weapon?
Consider making your monster represent something. Perhaps your monster can be the personification of fear, hate, hunger, sadness etc.
Look up "encyclopedia fairies" on Amazon and peruse some of the available books. Pick any being and start varying it. Cross a few. Add an unexpected characteristic. (Within reason. I think even Tolkien would be hard-pressed to pull off something like a half-vampire/half-weredragon who keeps kosher.)
I am not much experienced in writing but coming up with ideas for a creature is not a problem for me, so I will try to help [:
The first thing I think about is its function. For example, I had to create a creature that was linked to the hive mind and its duty was making food, or specifically farming. The farmer had following specifics: a plow on belly and two strong front legs so it could drag itself with ease. One leg in the back (three legs are exotic) for stabilizing. Its back was like a bowl where it could store harvest or take seeds from. Two small to medium sized hands for managing the harvest. One eye and no head as the hive mind controls it and it only needs to look forward.
So basically you think of what would be the reason for creatures existence, how it would survive, its function, and then think how evolution would handle it. You can take an existing (or non-existing) creature and then modify it to suite your needs. I also find useful crippling the creature in certain aspects, it makes them exotic, but don't overuse it.
You can also add to them random vulnerabilities that wouldn't get guessed so easily and can add to the mystery factor.
Hope I helped [:
I think fairy tales and folklore provide a huge resource for monsters. Around the world you can find an infinite amount of scary stories to crib from. You can take them and use them as they are, just bring them to the modern world, or you can re-vamp the to be a modern incarnation of the original.
One thing to bear in mind though is that no monster thinks it's a monster, they all think they are the hero of their own story and it's the erstwhile hero who is the bad guy. This is good advice iof you ever think of flipping the point of view of a story and telling it from the 'monsters' perspective.
I don't think it will be particularly helpful to you, but there is a book of imaginary beings that you might consult - read more here.
This book does not offer much details in its entries and list relatively low number of creatures - however, there are two characteristics that you might find interesting - it will give a really good overview of creatures that you can find in literature and, also, gives references and entry points that you can follow.
NOTE: If you want true originality then recipe is not possible, except very general ones such as: study the cultures (fictional, literally or national) whose legends you do not know.
RPG games are the great source of ideas for monsters, as good as spells. Some of them have quite a lot of magical creatures.
One of the games I've played have very many creatures with very strange names. This was Vallheru clone. In fact I've played in 2 Vallheru clones, Orodlin and Khazbanar, but both are based on the same source code available for free here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/vallheru/
I don't have the account there now, but there was a small description site for each of the monsters. All in Polish, but google translate would give you the idea what's going on. The names of the monsters can be found in SQL file in source code, here are some of them:
- Dragon Beattle
Playing a lot of RPG games and noticing the ideas from them will also help you. Thanks to your question I've realized how much of this magic stuff I have forgotten.