From unicorns to mermaids, and dragons to dinosaurs, mythical creatures can be a wonderful hook in your picture book. But each creature is surrounded by mythology and cultural assumptions. You should always research the creatures before submitting a story that includes them. Why?
Because it’s Not about You
If you are writing a book meant for publication, then you are writing a book for your reader - not yourself. Your reader will likely be bringing assumptions about the mythical creatures you are writing into your story. If those creatures act out of character, then your reader will at best lose interest, and at worst be angry with you the author.
One of my picture books has a clumsy hydra in it. I showed how a hydra was a horrible pet because it kept growing a new head every time it bumped into something. One of my critique partners didn’t like this character because it was not true to the mythology. She didn’t think having the hydra be clumsy was believable, nor was it plausible to have a new head grow from a simple bump.
The Reader is Always Right
My critique partner was right! I shouldn't have a hydra that doesn't match its mythological background without explanation.
But I couldn’t have my hydra’s heads get chopped off in front of my 5-8 year-old target reader. My solution was to make the appearance of new heads a mystery and leave it up to reader to decide how it happened.
This trick is used by Jon Klassen in This is Not My Hat. The reader gets to decide whether the little fish got eaten or somehow got away.
OK, that’s all I have to say about that. Onto the next installment of THE GREAT ALPHABET DISASTER.