Let’s Make: A Fantasy Story Shop — Lucky’s

It’s been a while since I did a Let’s Make, one of the many series that fell to the wayside when I stopped posting every day. Still, I love this series, so I thought I’d sacrifice one of the more recent, bloggier posts for another installment.

And, this time, I thought I’d solidify something I’ve been slowly gathering details for in my day-to-day: a fantasy shop.

See, the weird thing about “shops” in fantasy is that they’re often . . . samey? Basic? Maybe “convenient” is the right word, but what I’m getting at is that they’re usually thrown together based on simple standards (not so much tropes, but basic, established ideas of what fantasy shops are, how they work, what they sell). DM’s running D&D games might try to give shopkeepers a bit of charm, but fantasy, in general, makes the average shop a little simple. A little too perfectly named.

A shop in a town known for its thieves, for example, might be called “The Rusty Lockpick.”

In a seafaring town, the shop might be “The Bronze Spyglass.”

And, sure, both of those would be charming, acceptable names.

But, today, I want to offer a different approach: how about a shop built by someone who wasn’t cute about naming it?

How about just a no frills, mess of a store on the side street of a fantasy city?

Yeah. . . Yeah, let’s make that!

Step 1 — Choose a Name

A little backwards this time, but choosing the name of this shop first will help sell it as a hastily chosen name, or perhaps one that’s lost its meaning.

What I’m looking for is something charming — of course — but also something simple, memorable, and easy to say. Basically, I’m looking for a nickname for this shop, because I’m getting the feeling this rundown little place has been in business for generations.

Off the top of my head, I’m going with “Lucky’s”.

Step 2 — Figure Out the Proprietor

So, of course, I don’t want to go crazy giving a ton of backstory for a side character who won’t be a main part of Rainwater, but I do want to give the proprietor of Lucky’s a believable, charming personality, with just enough backstory to build off of. Because, as I’ve learned the hard way, if I don’t give my characters room to grow in my stories — if I hammer everything down in an outline — my details will be ridged when it’s time to write.

So, instead, I’ll jump into whatever smaller details come to mind.

  • The proprietor’s name isn’t “Lucky.” My initial thought is to make Lucky his grandfather, but I love the idea that Lucky was a mascot — maybe a dog? Maybe the proprietor’s grandfather’s dog, who used to be his companion on adventures?
  • Not sure yet what the proprietor’s actual name is, so let’s just go with a placeholder: Rosco.
  • If you walk in, see Rosco, and say, “So you must be Lucky,” he is guaranteed to gouge you for whatever you want, no matter how small.
  • I can’t fight the idea that Rosco has an eye patch. It seems incredibly typical somehow, but when I try to think of a notable shopkeeper with an eye patch, I come up blank.
    Actually, I think the stereotype for a proprietor in fantasy is literally “barrel-chested.” Inn keepers, smiths — whoever they are, whether they’re jovial or gruff, they’re always “barrel-chested” men.
    So, I think I’m alright on the eye patch.
  • Rosco lost his eye in . . . okay. I just brainstormed it for 10 minutes and found a bunch of possible ways he lost it. However . . . I’m also getting the strong, aimless curiosity I always get when I don’t know enough about a story/world to hammer down details with confidence.
    I’ll decide on his eye later.
    Although, I always love the idea of characters having countless stories for how they got scars/nicknames/etc., so everyone in Errsai has a story for how Rosco lost his eye.
    Rosco himself has several favorites.

Step 3 — Decide on the Merchandise

What does this store sell? General goods? Potions? Considering real world possibilities (my favorite thing to do in this situation), is this a pawn shop? A purveyor of refurbished swords and armor? There are countless possibilities, so don’t get stuck on the standards for fantasy shops: Items, Armor, Weapons, and Magic.

Lucky’s is pretty obviously a low-end thrift shop for cheap, second-hand goods. Naturally, it offers everything — at least everything that can be made cheaply and imperfectly. Finding those things, from flawed daggers to frayed novels, is undoubtedly Rosco’s calling.

Step 4 — Decide on the Look

What does this shop look like, inside and out? How is its merchandise arrayed? Does it have dominant colors — a clear aesthetic maintained by its owner? What’s the overall vibe of the place?

Lucky’s looks like any good antique shop — a densely packed nightmare of stimuli. Of course, the difference is that Lucky’s is lined with broken things you don’t actually want — things that you’d only buy at the worst of times, in the direst of needs. Lighting comes primarily from grimy windows, the lights inside of the shop too obscured by Rosco’s bent and breaking merchandise.

Step 5 — How Does It Make Money?

I guess Lucky’s actually pulls in enough of an income to survive in a fantasy city?

Actually, no — scratch that. I love the idea that Rosco found a loophole that keeps Lucky’s open forever; some kind of legal motion that locked it in government-funded perpetuity. Something starting with a petition to have it made into a historical landmark, which spiraled way out of control.

The point is, this junk heap is government-funded, somehow. And I love it.

Of course, I think Rosco still needs to make enough money to eat, so there’s a backroom lined with lock boxes, all available for rent — to people Rosco likes. Because that . . . is just the right amount of “shady.”

Step 6 — Add Some Regulars

No establishment is complete without regulars. Here are the first few ideas that come to mind:

  • A tall man with a deep voice stands outside, hawking Rosco’s wares. He does this rarely and is even more rarely paid.
  • When there is hawking, a much younger woman leans on the front of the shop, accompanying the large man’s cries with flute music. She seems to be a descendant of the shop’s original owner, begrudgingly attached to it.
  • Two old men visit Lucky’s almost every day, setting up whatever ramshackle table is available, playing whatever old, broken games Lucky happens to have.
  • Once a week, Mr. Olimpaie comes from Rainwater Archaic to browse for enchantments. He has never bought a single thing.

And, with that, Lucky’s is as finished as I dare to make it in the worldbuilding phase. I was going to add a “Give It Some History” step, but that actually worked itself out over the course of the build.

Anyway, thanks for joining me for this short bit of brainstorming! I hope you enjoyed!


To all of my regulars, thank you guys, once again, for reading. I’m not able to post every day, like I want to, but the site is still slowly building up a following, and that’s incredible. In the last few months, I’ve almost doubled my number of followers, and that support actually keeps me going. I’m not exaggerating — if not for you guys, it would be so hard to stay positive on the totally blind scale of writer self-doubt. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

But also, of course, thank you if this is your first time visiting. My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was published last year in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out–which means posting here every week, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting updates by email – a new post from me delivered right to your inbox – then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

But, either way, thank you again just for stopping by. And, as always, write well.

Let’s Make: A Fantasy Monster – Gekouls

Welcome back for the second part of this week’s accidental series of Let’s Makes. If you didn’t read Tuesday’s Let’s Make: A Fantasy Alcohol, you can check it out to find out how my creative process led me here.

Regardless, the goal of this post is to make a new fantasy monster for use in a future project–Rainwater Archaic. Because of Tuesday’s Let’s Make, I’m starting off with the idea that these monsters will be goblin-esque.

Now, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with going 100% goblin here. Fantasy is a genre with a large well of creatures to draw from, and even if we didn’t add a bit of flair to goblins, there’s nothing wrong with using them regardless.

However, that’s just not the kind of writer I am. Everything has to be abnormal. New. A pain in the ass to make.

So, let me walk you through what I already know about the race of fantasy monsters I’m creating today. And then, let’s figure out the rest of their details together.

Step 1 – Consider What We Already Know

This Let’s Make is going to start a bit differently because, again, we already know that these creatures are intelligent. Smart enough to make crude stills, which means they’re smart enough to fashion tools and weapons. They likely also have their own strange language and possibly make simple clothing for themselves.

That was my starting point last Tuesday, after posting. Since then, I’ve made one more decision about these creatures . . .

Step 2 – Decide on a Base Monster Aesthetic to Start With

If you read the salutations from yesterday’s post, you know lizardmen have something to do with this Let’s Make. What is it?

Yesterday, in the shower, while idling in brainstorm mode, I took this second step of the Let’s Make early, trying to figure out what kind of mini-humanoid I wanted to make. Beast-like? Elf-like? Goblinoid? Kobold?

The thing is, I didn’t even get to consider any of those options, because “mini-lizardmen” popped into my mind immediately. And then I laughed.

Because, man, if there’s one race I actually hate, it’s lizardmen. The go-to, forgettable, middling flunkies of fantasy. Do you remember the 80’s, when lizard people where slightly more threatening because of Conan: The Barbarian?

Neither do I.

When it comes to making a race of annoying, stupid, stunted swamp monsters, lizardmen were the perfect choice.

Step 3 – Add the Weirdness

Let’s face it–I’m weird. Three Let’s Makes in, I’m just embracing it.

Because, even before I got to this step–back when I started this post–an idea for a weird detail popped into mind, and I’m going with it.

These small lizard people have tentacle mouths.

A Zoidberg, if you will, only not crustaceans; they’re still lizardfolk, but their mouths are hidden behind writhing tentacles.

Which winds up making them feel a lot more like strange question marks, and a lot less like archetypes. “They’re those small, squid-faced lizard things that live in the swamps,” someone would say, instead of, “They’re the lizard creatures that live in the swamps.” And that level of uncertainty is something I strive for. Because it almost always feels better to make a unique thing that warrants an explanation instead of a simple thing that needs no explanation.

Adding just a bit more weird here–they’re also hunched over. I don’t know why I’m so hellbent on that idea, but the thought of them having perfect posture, running easily on two legs, seems completely wrong. These things, although bipedal, need to be borderline harmless, shuffling around everywhere with slow, grasping, chameleon steps.

Step 4 – Add a Culture

We already decided that these things are intelligent, so we need to give them some kind of culture.

I don’t think going crazy with it will serve the idea well, however. At most, these guys might have a crude religion, but even just imagining them worshiping whittled idols feels wrong.

Because these little bastards just seem too . . . primitive for that. They’re only borderline sentient. Like, imagine if a cat could talk; these things are only slightly above that level (so I guess they’re in intelligent bird territory?).

Whatever. The point is, I think they’d have a society, but that’s it.

And their society would absolutely be based around a queen. Because an animal hive-mentality seems right for them.

Which works well with the only other idea I came up with for these things in the shower. I thought, “Maybe there would always be one giant alpha in every clutch of mini-lizardfolk.”

No, buddy. That giant, tentacle-faced monster standing at nine feet, able to run on all fours like a wolf? That’s their queen.

I . . . love these things.

I’m really just adding more weirdness here, so I’ll reign it in. But first, really quick, if you haven’t heard of surinam toads, they’re amphibians who give birth from their backs. I’m not saying the queen of these lizardfolk gives birth in a similar way, but I like the idea that these creatures gravitate towards the queen’s back. They definitely can and often cling to her as she migrates and hunts, but she does the latter very rarely, spending the majority of her time bathing in pools of swamp water, face down and hibernating, her back acting as the central hub for her drones’ camps.

Those drone spend the majority of their time hunting–to feed her and themselves–and stealing as part of a mating ritual (the lizardman with the most shinies is most enticing to the queen).

This thievery is likely how they’ve learned to fashion tools, weapons, and simple armor, which they use to aggressively defend their territory, or venture abroad for plunder.

Their kleptomania is also likely how they learned to develop stills. They, apparently, have a great love for alcohol.

Step 5 – Decide on a Name

“Cthuls” came to mind immediately, but it feels too easy.

Trying to think of something else that ends with “-uls,” because I feel I can get away with that much, and it reminds me of “ghouls,” which I love.

Thinking of common reptile words and sounds, my mind snaps to “gecko.” The end result is “geckuls.”

Respelling it so it doesn’t sound like a pelvic muscle, I end up with “gekouls.” It feels oddly clean–like the correct pronunciation would come naturally–but it also feels like it could be the name of a mythical, forest dwelling creature from an Earth-modern culture, and that’s the real win for me.


Phew. This was a lot of fun. I’m excited to use these weird little bastards in Rainwater, because I absolutely love them. Thanks for joining me as I worked them out, and I hope that look into my process helps you make a strange race of huggable, violent monsters in your own fantasy world!

My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Either way, I hope to see you again tomorrow. Until next time, as always, write well.


Let’s Make: A Fantasy Alcohol

I’m sitting here with a rum and orange.

Don’t worry–I’m not drunk. Even though I don’t drink often (or I don’t think I do), I’ve settled into the habits of nursing drinks or spacing them out so long that I never get well and truly smashed anymore. Even if I’ve been drinking all day long.

Oh, right . . . Full disclosure, I’ve definitely been drinking rum and oranges all day.

A totally not-that-serious blizzard hit New York and everything shut down, including work, so I figured I’d grab some rum to make the extra day off a little bit more sound.

The result of casually mixing bevs all day: I thought it’d be fun to make a fantasy alcohol together.

Now, this will be a challenge, because, unlike last time’s Let’s Make, I’m pretty clueless. Last time, I made an animal, and I love animals; I’m a huge nerd for weird animal facts and regularly procrastinate by googling “new cutest animal [insert year]” (red pandas are still the reigning champs). I’ve even worked at the Bronx Zoo, taking the opportunity to learn a lot about the animals on exhibit.

In contrast, I know nothing about alcohol. I like beer. I like to mix incredibly simple drinks for myself once in a blue moon. I don’t have the palette required to enjoy wine . . . That’s pretty much it.

But, hey, there will be drinks in Rainwater Archaic, and this site is supposed to be about challenging myself, so let’s figure this out together.

Step 1 – Choose a Type: Beer, Wine, or Spirit

It feels like starting with a big picture question always works best whenever I make something for a story, so we’re starting with as broad a choice as I could imagine.

And, immediately, I’m going with “spirit.” I’ve already made a spirit and a wine for other fantasy projects, but making spirits always feels fun. I don’t know why. Maybe because ales and wines seem more commonplace for fantasy? Whatever–spirits it is.

Step 2 – Add the Fantasy


I know this is immediately out of order compared to last time, but I’m having a hard time with what would’ve been the second step: Choose a Base Material. For whatever reason, it’s a little tough deciding on a random material to distill for this drink, so I’m going to take another route–hope that I find some fuel for this creative fire. Something to bring it together.

A bit of brainstorming later, the answer is . . . goblins.

No, I’m not fermenting goblins to make this drink.

This spirit is made by goblins, or some other semi-intelligent race of monsters. It’s a weird idea. Which makes it perfect.

Side note: I refuse to use typical goblins in a fantasy story, but this isn’t Let’s Make: A Fantasy Monster, so we’ll have to call them goblins for now.

Step 3 – Choose a Base Material

Mushrooms seems like the perfect answer . . . but mushrooms don’t contain sugar, and thus can’t be fermented into alcohol.

The runner up: tree sap.

The sap from a stunted tree that grows in swamps.

Ugh . . . why is everything in my mind gross? Yeah, sure, these little monsters make disgusting alcohol from swamp trees.

Step 4 – Choose a Name

“Nosh” came to mind immediately. It sounded wrong though, and, sure enough, it’s a term for “food,” a little too far afield to work for my drink.

I tried googling “mash” as well, remembering that as a brewing term, but it’s a specific brewing technique, which would make it a lazy name.

Considering all the elements that went into it, I lighted on “bog sugar,” which I liked a lot. However, that was probably because it reminded me of “moon sugar,” a drug made by the Khajiit of the Elder Scrolls series.

So, instead, I went with a simple, playful alternative: “bog syrup.”

I may change it (depending on what the monster people who made it turn out to be like), but I’m happy with it at the moment. I’ll be using it for Rainwater, after all, and the inherent sarcasm of “bog syrup” is perfect for that story.

Step 5 – Assign a Social Niche

This is the part where I’m supposed to say when and where people drink bog syrup, as if it’s a normal drink.

But it isn’t. Bog syrup is most commonly used as fuel for fires, deemed unfit to drink by the average person. Perhaps because there are so many stories about how it drives people crazy or kills them.

Of course, there are still people who drink it–vagrants who find crude, abandoned stills out in the swamps. Cultures that celebrate those rare finds. The former often sample too much, destroying their minds. The latter, determined in the way of humans to have what they want, practice careful sips of the syrup, often arguing that it isn’t hurting them while it slowly obliterates their brain cells.


Well, that was fun. I apologize that my mind is so fucked up, but that was easily the most unique form of alcohol I’ve ever created, so I’m excited–even though it’s absolutely disgusting.

If you’re a regular, thanks for stopping by again. Fair warning: I’m probably going to follow this one up on Thursday, with a Let’s Make for the goblin creatures that make bog syrup.

If you’re new, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Either way, thank you just for dropping by, and, as always, write well.

Let’s Make: A Fantasy Beast

Holy shit am I cheating right now.

If there’s one thing that all of my manuscripts have, but almost never actually benefit from, it’s a list of beasts. “Beasts” in this case meaning “animals.”

Why not just call them animals? Cause Bloodborne ruined me. Whatever.

My point is, all of my worlds come with long lists of native creatures that are different from monsters. Because it always feel important to distinguish between the animals that always existed in your fantasy world, and the hellspawn (or what have you) created by your big bad.

How does this mean I’m cheating? Well, as H&T revs up, I’m continuing to worldbuild for it, getting down into “probably won’t affect the plot” territory. Which means making up a new list of beasts that won’t appear anywhere in the novel.

Come on–let’s do it.

Step 1 – Choose a Niche

I make a lot of land beasts, a moderate amount of flying creatures, and almost no aquatic animals (cause, personally, I’m terrified of deep water–like, phobia terrified). I’ll try to work on that balance, I swear.

But, for today, we’re doing a land beast. Because, if for no other reason, they’re the most accessible to the average cast of fantasy characters–the most likely to be encountered while traveling.

Step 2 – Choose a Behavior Model

Scavenger, predator, prey? Solitary or pack mentality? Aggressive or skittish? Territorial or migratory?

I already had it in mind that I wanted pack scavengers. Migratory seems like a good fit, but I also want them to be aggressive in packs. [Edit: I wound up switching to ‘territorial’ when I was done creating these things.]

Basically, they’re already assholes. This is going well.

Step 3 – Choose a Body Type

I’m feeling canine. Or, rather, I’m feeling that fur on a quadruped is the right call for this scavenger.

Step 4 – Add the Fantasy

We’re not just making dogs. We have to change it up–make it weird.

My reflex is to give these things long, dexterous arms, but if I’m not careful, they’ll dip into creepy hellspawn/whatever monster territory.

So, maybe just slightly longer front legs. Sharp claws on small hands with distinct fingers. Generally thin bodies with patches of grey fur.

Man . . . These things are just turning out creepy anyway. Again, I blame Bloodborne. But eh. Maybe they’re just lil creepers.

Oh . . . Goddammit. I just had an idea I like, but . . . I mean, it’s so creepy. Ugh. Whatever.

They have no eyes. Not in a gruesome way; there aren’t empty eye sockets or anything–they just don’t have eyes, period. Their skulls are flat bone where their eyes would be. I have no idea why, but they must’ve evolved that way. Obviously cave dwellers, fond of much deeper burrows than the average beast. Maybe native to that environment, only coming up to scavenge. [Definitely native to that environment, and territorial in the sense that they’ll take advantage of other creatures falling into their dens–a free meal, helpless in the dark.]

They communicate [and echo-locate] with creepy wails (because let’s just go all in on the creepy angle), bellowed out of beak-shaped mouths full of small, sharp teeth.

Beyond superior hearing, they also have a keen sense of smell and can detect body heat from great distances.

Of no threat on their own, but capable of hunting and killing humans in a pack–particularly lone children.

Step 5 – A Name

“Wastrel” immediately pops into mind. It happened so fast that I need to Google it–find out if it’s already being used for a fantasy creature somewhere.

A quick search says no. Double checking the meaning of “wastrel” reminds me that it’s not a perfect name, but I’m willing to allow it; “waste” combined with an “-rel” ending similar to “mongrel” feels appropriate.


And, bam–there you have it. A new creature for my current WIP. And one that I’m probably going to use too; Modis is a kid after all, on the run, in the wild.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed hanging out for my monster-making process. If you did, please let me know with a Like; I’m trying to get a feel for the posts people like on this blog, and I realize I can’t do that without asking for feedback.

And, if this is your first time here, I’m Louis Santiago, a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. One of my short stories, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy (which you can find here). However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process. Still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit that Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Regardless, thank you for reading. And, as always, write well.