EelKat Wendy C Allen - Dark Fantasy Author

The Princess Bride predicting Covid-19?


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Your World: Mammals | EelKat's Guide To World Building - The Squidoo Series

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Your World: Mammals | EelKat's Guide To World Building - The Squidoo Series

Our world is full of mammals. Big mammals, small mammals. Cats. Dogs. Elephants. Aardvarks. Bears. The world is just teaming with animal life, and yet, how often do you see mammals in fantasy books?

Yes, the wandering wizards always have a horse or a donkey.

Yes, the witches always have a black cat.

Yes, the wolf is always out the get the little girl.

Every fantasy novel has a horse, a cat, or a wolf.


One horse,

One cat,

One wolf.

Just one.

Only one.

Reading most fantasy stories you'd think the world was devoid of mammals, other than the humanoid people and one horse. Reading stories like that, makes me put the book down and ask:

Did this author ever set a foot outside?

Did he ever turn on the Animal Planet channel?

Did he ever have a pet cat or dog?

What the hell is wrong with this guy?

How can he write a story about a world so full of life and yet so devoid of animal life?

You know what? I always think there is something wrong with a story that never once mentions animals. I find it weird that the characters have no pets. It's freaky when there are no squirrels chattering in the trees as the wizard wanders through the forest. Think about it: is it realistically possible to think that you have this world full of faeries and demons and dragons, but no cats and dogs or lions and tigers?

Look at my stories. What do you see?

  • A mad scientist running around rescuing sheep, for no reason at all other then, he just plain likes sheep.
  • Talking cats around every corner.
  • Wizards in taverns, tripping over goats and chickens.
  • Barking dogs in the distance, annoying some characters or another.
  • And have you ever noticed the squirrels in my novels? Loo for them. A squirrel always runs by. Runs across the road.. Gets in the way.

And with the exception of the talking cats, not one of those animals is important to the plot at all.

I know. I know. Every body always tells newbie authors: "If it isn't important to the plot, cut it out!"

I guess no body every told Stephen King that one. He could cut at least 700 pages of none plot important stuff from every one of his novels without effecting the story at all. We don't need to know the main character lives in Maine, drinks Coke, reads Tales From the Crypt, listens to AC/DC, or that the driver of the car ahead of him has expired plates on Maine crawdaddies...and yet we learn all of those things in the first 10 pages of Dark Half. Not a one of those things moves the plot forward or is ever important to the plot. 

Or J.K. Rowlings. Who here, remembers Hermione's campaign to save House Elves, which had absolutely nothing to do with the plot, and not only did NOT move the story forward, but in fact, held the story up, de-railed the plot, and ranted on in a 36 page lng tangent of the pros and cons of saving House Elves, while Hermione bought a button making machine and set about to printing up buttons to hand out to everyone. 

Those 36 pages of House Elf history, only made us feel sympathy for Dooby and see Hermione as a tree hugging hippie on and animal rights PETA crazed vendetta, that was completely out of character for her and had nothing to do with the rest of the Harry Potter story whatsoever.

So, WHY did Stephen King let his main character sit at the red light listing off everything he loved and hated in life, for 10 long, drawn out, pages?

WHY, did J.K. Rowling let Hermione go on a 36 page House Elf rescuing tangent?

Neither of those scenes fit in with the rest of the story they came from, yet,nither scene moved the story forward. Both scenes are completly off-topic to the book's main plot.

So WHY did each of these two authors leave those scenes in, instead of following the often preached advice of:

"If it's not important to the plot, remove it."


Because it adds flavour to the story.

It draws the reader in, gives the reader something to hook on to and identify with.

The book Dark Half could easily take place anywhere and not change the story, but now we know it's set in Maine. It's not important to the plot, for the story to take place in Maine, however, the reader knows something about Maine, so when the reader reads that the character is sitting at a red light in Maine, suddenly, concrete images of real Maine cities, form in the reader's headd. Maybe they think of Biddeford. Maybe Bangor. Maybe Portland. But the thing is: a visual cue has been placed in the readers mind.

Later in that same novel he talks about a bird, and at first, it's just a bird. Could be anything. Could be a robin. Could be a blue jay. It's Maine, it could be a sea gull. We don't know... yet. But then, he looks again, and it's not just any bird, no, it's a sparrow. It's specifically a sparrow. Now we know, without the author describing it, what the bird looks like. We know it's a small, fat, brown bird, with dark spots.

A tiny unassuming bird. Until he looks again, and there's more sparrows on the lawn. More on the bushes. More on the wires. More on the roof tops. More and more and more and more.... and suddenly, that one tiny innocent little bird, harmless and nothing to fear, becomes the most terrifying thing in the words as the sparrows are flying again...

Something as simple as a tiny unassuming bird, suddenly brings the story to life. And that's why, I say, it's bad advice to follow the oft heard chant of:

"If it's not important to the plot, remove it."

Think about it for a minute. How much better is that story, BECAUSE of that memorable scene with the birds? The birds, brought to story the life. They cue the reader to the fact that this character is not existing in some bland cookie cutter world... no... this character exists in a world that is alive...and in his mind, out to get him.

And that's why I say adding animals to your story is important, even if they have nothing to do with the plot.

That's why you see tavern scenes in my own books, where, it's not just the people sitting at the bar and tables... but you also see the drunk wizard tripping over a goat, as the goat clammers through the room. No more is it just the main character being a talking head, but now it's a character in a world, interacting with that world. Why a goat? Because in real Medieval life, goats were often kept indoors and had free roam of inns and taverns and pubs.

Now granted not every fantasy story lends itself to having animals in it. If your characters never leave their castle you may not need anything more than a dog or cat or a canary or a ferret. But if your characters are spending a lot of time in wilderness than you can be sure they will be seeing animals somewhere along the line. When creating your world, remember not to overlook the animal life that lives there too.

Always remember that your world is alive, and your reader needs to feel the life in that world if you want them to be drawn into the story.

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EelKat's Guide to
World Building For Fiction Writers
The Complete Article Index

The list below are the original pages written in 2003, and republished on Squidoo in 2007:

<<< Back To

Or Head To Another Article In This Series:

For help in creating characters in genre fiction try:

Even more articles have been written for this series since then:

As there are now more then 100 articles for this series, it now has it's own index page on which to list them all, as there are just too many to keep adding them to this end of article list. You can find the complete listing of all the World Building articles here now:

More on Worldbuilding In Fantasy Novels:

Books I Use When Creating Fantasy Worlds:

*UPDATE: ADDED November 7, 2013 - I suppose one thing I should point out at this point, before we go any farther, is my use of the word fantasy throughout this series. The bulk of this set of articles was written 7 years ago in April of 2006, parts of it appearing on EK's Star Log and other parts of it appearing on my personal Squidoo account. In the 7 years since writing this I've received hundreds of emails regarding it. A common question asked being: "Why do you talk of building a fantasy world if you don't write Fantasy?"

ANSWER: Fantasy with a capital "F" is the name of a type of fiction, in other words Fantasy is a genre. I do not write Fantasy fiction of the Fantasy genre, that is correct. I do however create fantasy realms for my Science Fiction and Horror works. I write Dark Fantasy, which is a sub-genre of Horror and Space Fantasy which is a sub-genre of Science Fiction.

Did you see it? No? Let me point it out: I write about fantasy worls as the exist in Horror and Sci-Fi but I do not write about fantasy world as they exist in Fantasy Fiction.

If it is not real it is fiction, if it exists only in fiction it it fantastical, if it is fantastical it is a fantasy item, because it is not a real item, however being fantastical does not make it part of the Fantasy genre, just as not everything in the Fantasy genre is always fantastical in nature.

The word "fantasy" with a lower case "f" is a word that means "not real" and has nothing to do with the Fantasy genre (capital "F") at all. And therefore when I say "fantasy realm" I mean a world that is NOT the Earth on which you and I live on in the real world, and am in no way, shape, or form referring to the Fantasy genre.

The methods I use to create my fantasy realms can be applied to ANY genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Romance, Western, etc.

2013 World-Building Series UPDATE:

Due to issues with content scraping, outright plagiarism, some of my articles appearing on OTHER Squidoo member accounts without my permission, and many of my "Squidoo articles" being stolen off Squidoo and posted without my permission on various  blogs and sites including Wikipedia and Helium; all of my articles are in the process of being removed from Squidoo.

This series of World Building articles in one that has been heavily plagiarized over the years and as of September 2013, it can only OFFICIALLY be found here on - if you find it posted elsewhere, know it was stolen and I am not receiving royalties for it.

2014 Update:

As you know, or not, Squidoo owners Bonnie and Kimberly-Dawn stole thousands of Squidoo articles from Squidoo members, and tried to pass them off as their own, resulting in the lawsuit against Squidoo owners for the theft of tens of thousands of articles.

More than 100 of my articles were transferred off my Squidoo account and moved to Bonnie's account,

while my authorship and writing articles, including this world-building series were deleted off my Squidoo account and transferred to Kimberly-Dawn's account!


I am shocked and flabbergasted at what these 2 women have done. That they thought they could get away with stealing so many articles from so many authors! Buying Squidoo from Seth Godin, did not give then the rights to our articles and these two horrible women had no right to delete them off of our member accounts and republish them on their own accounts, trying to pass them off as their own.

More then 100 Squidoo authors have gathered together in lawsuit against Squidoo owners, Bonnie and Kimberly-Dawn. The result of that is, Bonnie and Kimberly-Dawn, to avoid their asses being sued to hell and back, have now transferred the Squidoo lenses back to their original owners and deleted the entire Squidoo website.

Squidoo is officially gone. It exists no more. Squidoo is dead. Most Squidoo writers have opted to move to Hub Pages as HubPages has bought the remaining shambles of what is left of Seth Godin's Squidoo after Bonnie and Kimberly-Dawn massaquered it in their article stealing frenzy.

While I do have a HubPages account and my remaining Squidoo Lenses can be found there temporarily, they are being moved here and deleted off HubPages as I move them

April 2017 UPDATE:

As of now, all on my 600+ Squidoo pages are now moved here to and no more are remaining on HubPages.

It's hard to believe, Squidoo has been gone for 4 years now. It was such a big part of my life for a decade.