One of the most fundamental parts of worldbuilding is creating the races of people that live in the world you’re planning out. This can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but if you work at it little by little, it begins to flesh itself out.
People are the most important part of worldbuilding. They’re what makes the world the most interesting. And “people” is quite a broad term, really. In my own writing, for instance, “people” could refer to anything from sentient teleporting deer, to a race of predators that live outside the universes, to just normal humans. People basically means any sentient race or species that inhabits your world - any group of beings that can form a society.
Since my worlds get gigantic when I build them (sometimes to the point of multiverses), I tend to create lots of sentient species, even if I don’t use them in the story. It makes the story process more fun, and sometimes they end up in the novel anyway, in passing.
How do you create a species or race for your story, you ask? To start off, I’d say that you should have a vague idea of what you want in your story. You’ll probably be focusing most on the species that your main characters are, although depending on your number of characters, this can be more than one species. If you have a vague idea of what you want, you can expand on it, and the ideas will come to you then.
And by “vague idea,” I mean this: Is your species human, or any variation thereof? Is it humanoid at all? Is it land-dwelling, sea-dwelling, or something else entirely?
Basically, you should figure out the most crucial details about your species first, hence the questions above. Then you at least have a description like “land-dwelling humanoid.” That’s more than nothing, and it’s something to go on!
You can have a lot of variety with the species you create. For instance, a “humanoid” species would be any species that looks vaguely like a human, but isn’t. Time Lords, Fauns, Silurians, and the Minotaur are all examples of this. This could also apply to a normally non-humanoid species that takes a human form. I have a phoenix character who has both a full bird form, and a human-like form with bird aspects.
“Non-humanoid” means exactly that - any sentient species that doesn’t have a human-like body shape. Some examples of these are the Mulefa, the teleporting deer I mentioned earlier, and the TARDIS. These sort of species are a bit harder to work with. Since they’re not humanoid, they may have a drastically way of living and speaking, and you’ll have to brainstorm that as well. For instance, the Mulefa use a combination of gestures and sounds to make up their language, since they are more like ungulates than humans. To make a non-humanoid species believable, you’ll probably have to put significant effort into making sure their existence makes sense.
“Human” should be sort of obvious, although this allows for more variety than one would think at first. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean plain old human, although if you use regular humans in your story world, that makes your work a lot easier. “Human” can also mean any sort of human that’s genetically modified or mutated, or a human with robotic implants. If you’re writing science fiction, it’s especially fun to experiment with what humans would become in the future, and how they would adapt to a drastically changed world. That’s where this kind of a species would come in.
When it comes to making species, no matter what form it takes, it’s important to brainstorm quite a bit about that species. The more details you brainstorm about a species, the more it comes across in your writing, and it gives the whole thing more depth. I notice this a lot in Philip Pullman’s writing, for instance. The witches are not the most major players in His Dark Materials, but you can tell that Pullman spent a lot of time on their society anyway, and it’s fascinating to see a glimpse of that when you read those books. I’ll cover more specific things like society and politics in later posts, but just know that it’s important to make your species real and believable. They aren’t just people who live in a particular part of land, they are a culture.
These questions are at least a beginning, and should help you when you create a species. I find that when I answer questions like these, it exposes more about the story and its world in general, and sometimes plots come out of these. If you don’t have a plot for a story yet, maybe try to make a species of people! If you brainstorm them like this, something might come out and surprise you. It’s done that for me. Good luck!