Monday, November 27, 2006


They're a lot of critters in Caliban's End. Some are wildly fantastical like the Cabal, a group of arse-kicking monsters. I finished Chapter 8 last week, the climax of which is a fight with one of the Cabal - big ugly bugger called Katcochila. This creature is a little bit like a half-deflated hot air balloon. He has countless legs which struggle to move his fat body around. Katcochila has a few other quirks. He has no skin. His stomach lies on the outside of his body which is rather unpleasant for anyone who falls onto it. He also has a long thin neck with a tiny head at the end of it. Many of my monsters are quirky and hopefully a little bit disturbing. I didn't want to go for archetypal monsters. I want the reader to have the same sense of incredulity as our heroes have when they come across these behemoths for the first time.

This week I also created Puddy who is currently my favourite character which, I admit, is something that changes every week! (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) Poor Puddy doesn't stay in the story for long, but I think I managed to infuse him with plenty of character for his brief stay. He's a huge flying lobstery thing, is very childlike, a bit of a sook, but wonderfully loyal. He's basically a big blue puppy with a hard shell. We meet him in Chapter 7 which I should finish tonight if I have a few cups of coffee.

It's probably worth commenting upon something whilst we're talking about critters. I have a bit of a challenge in this book - I can't refer to any animals in our world. Doing so would break the suspension of disbelief as there are no horses, or dogs, or cats, or lions, tigers and bears in Terra. All the creatures of Caliban's End are unique to the novel. So why's that a challenge? Well, I am quickly discovering how bloody hard it is to avoid animal metaphors and similes. If I have a crab-like creature I can't describe it as having "claws like a crab". That would be too jarring. Perhaps I could emply a word like 'crancriform' instead (which is a word I do like), but this makes the novel a little inaccessible to some. Luckily, they more I write, they more techniques I discover to get around problems like this.

The first technique is to use the sound of familiar words to evoke a sense of a made-up creature's design. For example, Puddy is a lobbsle. Hopefully that conjures images of lobsters because Puddy looks a bit like a crustacean. I have used this simple technique quite a bit. In the novel I have shelps (which are like sheep), snorses (which is kind of a cross between a horse, a snail and a taun-taun from The Empire Strikes Back), squirls, turtla and gillygulls, to name a few. It's turning out to be quite a menagarie. I may have to add a bestiary page to my Caliban's End wiki (

Another technique is to use a sound that evokes something of a creature's nature. For example, in the book you'll meet some grizzum which are melancholy, stubborn beasts of burden. The look a bit like a cross between a bear and a yak (that is if bears and yaks were ever predisposed to mate). I think the name grizzum creates a sense of the creature's grumpy and recalcitrant nature. Similarly, marroks are nasty, cunning beasts and for some reason I can get a feeling of this from their name. One of my favourite animals is a bird called a quawk. It's an ugly, vindictive bird. Out of pure spite, a flock of quawks will shit on any unwary people below. They even do it high above fierce battles. Fortunately the act of defecation is painful for these avian menaces, so they release an ear-piercing shriek just before dumping on their victims. Soldiers have been known to momentarily cease hostilities just to avoid this beast's vindicative noisome deposits.

The last technique I utilise to escape the need to use traditional animal imagery is to focus upon a creature's characteristics to suggest what sort of animal he/she/it resembles. For example, Puddy is a lot like a goofy labrador, so describing him in a way that would also befit a labrador is a way of bringing a little more clarity and definition to this fictional beast.

I am also enjoying placing a twist on conventional and cliched metaphors by using the creatures of Terra to describe people in the book. Phrases like 'cunning as a marrok' or 'as proud as a staggorn' are becoming quite prevalent in the book. Note to self: take care not to overdo this.

Lastly, on a totally unrelated matter, I installed Vue on my laptop today. It's basically 3D rendering software. I've used it once before for a couple of hours and you can get pretty good results from just a little bit of effort. I plan to use it heaps in the year to come. The past few days have seen me writing about Lara Brand's journey up an unnamed peninsula to the Isle of Grisandole so today during my lunchbreak I did a quick picture of Grisandole. It's not brilliant but for 45 minutes' work, it's not bad.

I'm going to sneak downstairs and have the chocolate Drumstick that's sitting in the fridge and then I'm going to finish Chapter 7 before midnight swings around.

Cheers, Paul

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