When I decided I wanted to write about mermaids, I knew I didn't want my mermaids to look like this:
I'm not even sure what kind of pose Ariel is doing here.
Instead I wanted incorporate my love of saltwater fish into my creatures. I want my mermaids to be based on actual fish.
Ok, so maybe she's based on a koi not a saltwater fish, but you get the idea.
Image by Bamfette
Mermaids aren't an unusual creatures. Their imagery is all over the place, especially around any location that has water. Their image is as iconic as unicorns and fairies. Mermaids are typically visualized as top half very human and bottom generically fishy. Going outside of the box is a glitter tail and gils. Using actual aquatic inspiration for mermaid designs seems rare. I have found some, and they're based on dolphins. (I am not, nor have I ever, been a dolphin person.)
My family has been aquarium hobbyists all my life. In fact, they bread freshwater angelfish on a fairly large scale for a chuck of my childhood. Then when I moved out, I didn't last a year before I bought a betta fish and put it in a giant martini glass.
When I got my first apartment, I set up my first saltwater tank. It was big and I kept lion fish, though I desperately wanted a Harlequin Shrimp.
These are totally my favorite aquatic thing ever! The EAT starfish! How cool is that?
Plus they look like aliens.
Anyway, times pass, and I get this inspiration for writing a mermaid book. Immeadately my years of fishkeeping come to me. I know that my mermaids will take on characteristics of specific fish. Razor fins! Venomous spines! Yes! I start browsing images online, looking for mermaids that resemble mine...
I don't find much.
I start reading more mermaid books to examine how other authors building their creatures and worlds. Still nothing quite like I imagined.
I often feel sad seeing this lack use natural inspiration. Aquatic creatures can be down right cool and weird. They have some of the craziest color combinations on the planet. I knew immeadately, that I would attach a fish inspiration to all of my merfolk. That I would drawn from all my knowledge about cool aquatic creatures. I'll incorporate razor fins and juvenile color patterns.
The Emporer Angel juvinile. My MMC still has this pattern and is teased by his sister for it.
Creature creation is a very difficult part of writing. Mermaids are both over explored and underexplored. The word itself brings to mind a very specific image, yet, it's not the image I want. I'm very excited to mold that image into something new and unqiue. There are so many cool things in nature to take inspiration from. When it comes to mermaids, I want to see this happen.
The Mermaid combinations are endless!
Picture by Doodlebuggy
So, take time to create your creatures. Draw from inspirations you know and love. Google cool pictures and keep a folder. And sometimes, the thing sitting in front of your nose is the best place to start.