1. SCorneliusJ
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    SCorneliusJ New Member

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    Animal's POV

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by SCorneliusJ, Nov 1, 2009.

    If you're writing as an animal should you have them ignorant to human words and terms? To what degree? Should they have other words for objects and such, or could it get annoying to decipher what they mean?

    I would love to hear your opinions and ideas.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    They don't have to be ignorant at all. You could even use an inanimate object that observes and listens in on characters. Basically, you can make them as ignorant as you want to. If you want to make it as realistic as possible, then you may want to research the animal you have in mind. Some animals pick up more about human behavior than we give them credit for.

    edit: I'm using the word "realistic" very loosely here.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You kinda leave realism at the door when you start writing from an animal's perspective. They don't have language, they don't think in the same ways, they don't have psychologies, they don't engage in discourses...so if you're trying to write them as though they do, then its inherently unrealistic and therefore you can write it however you want. If you're gonna make it so that they speak/think English, then I don't see why they wouldn't know English words for things though.
     
  4. Nightsong
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    Nightsong Member

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    I've read books that have it both ways. I have noticed a few trends, though. Usually animals that spend more time around humans (mainly pets) have good knowledge of human terms, while other animals tend to be ignorant of a variety of human concepts (such as cars and other types of machinery) and have their own terms for various objects and ideas. For instance, in the Warriors series the forest cats believed cars to be monsters that humans rode around in.

    But there are no rules about it by any means. Just write it the way you feel best fits the particular story that you're writing.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    SCornelius,

    Robert T. Bakker (a pretty famous palentologist) wrote a novel about a year in the life of a female Utah Raptor (similar to the raptors in the Jurassic Park movies--on which he also consulted).

    The novel is written from the perspective of the main raptor (Raptor Red--which is how she refers to herself). Anyway, it is a novel I would recommend reading (it was well-written, has sold well and also has remained in print since the 1990s when it was first released. Reading it, I think, would give you ideas and a great base to proceed from.

    Here is a link or two that may help you decide better if it's something that would be helpful:
    Raptor Red Info
    Random House info on Bakker
    Amazon.com link to Raptor Red

    Hope this helps.

    Terry
     
  6. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    They can't really be completely ignorant of human words if they're communicating through a written story, can they? (Unless there's a niche animal readership I'm not aware of.) What I'd expect (as a reader) is animal behavior built upon a unique perceptions of human behavior and language, which the animal character experiences and has a particular attitude about. It's up to the author to make it all seem plausible, of course, and maybe that takes a handful of stereotypical qualities (or qualities those pet owners might "buy") and adding to whatever makes that particular animal character interesting.

    Maybe a single peculiar word that the animal uses throughout would be effective. Or maybe some kind of speech impediment caused by the shape of the character's "mouth parts." Otherwise, I'd avoid making up clever words just to replace others you might expect a human reader to know. Maybe I'm just too unimaginative when it comes to understanding the animal equivalent of a foreign language; but I'm pretty sure I'd be too impatient to spend much time sorting it out.;)
     
  7. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    If writing from an animal's POV, I think you'd still need to be within the barriers of language, human description etc. Otherwise it would just become way too confusing for the reader.
     
  8. SCorneliusJ
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    SCorneliusJ New Member

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    Thanks, everyone, but i have another question.

    Should animals not explicitly involved with humans have names? I don't really want it to be a huge part of the story, so was considering mentioning it in passing.

    The animal i am writing is a Common Buzzard, Latin name Buteo Buteo, so I was thinking along the lines of the Buzzard hearing some people referring to it as Buteo Buteo and throwing in a joke about 'so great they named it twice'.

    Would this work or would it seem tacked on and unnecessary?
     
  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Again, if they're speaking/thinking English, then it follows that they would inherit English nomenclature...but again, since no aspect of it is at all realistic, logic isn't really worth much in this context, so just do whatever you want.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it can be anything you want, in re all of your questions!... you're the writer, so can have the animals be/act/speak whatever way you want them to...

    instead of asking others' opinions, you should be checking out the most successful works based on animal characters... here are just a few of the all-time best:

    winnie the pooh series
    beatrix potter's works
    wind in the willows
    watership down
    animal farm
     
  11. Runaway
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    Runaway Member

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    Like Nightsong said, if an animal's domesticated, then they'll know more human terms and if they're wild, then they'll have their own terms. Like, in Spirit Walker by Michelle Paver the wolf called things like the fire 'the bright burner' and his master 'Tall Tail Less'
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this perception is utterly false, and that animals of the more intelligent species are as complex in their psychology as humans. They don't have academic terms for things of course, but if you watch their interactions closely, you can see it. An abused pet will be as neurotic and paranoid as an abused human.

    As for giving them a language, perhaps you should go watch Pixar's latest movie 'Up'. There's a bunch of dogs with voice boxes, and while they're strictly comical, I think Pixar pulled it off really well. For instance, this cone-shaped plastic thing that dogs are forced to wear in order to not scratch themselves, is referred to as "The cone of shame" among the dogs, and wearing it means an instant loss of status among the other dogs. It was hilarious because it seems true; Whenever I see a dog wearing one of those things, I also see a truly pitiful look in the creature's eyes, once among other of its kind.
     
  13. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    ^ Actually, what you're describing is a lot more to do with humans than it is with animals. Humans have evolved, as social animals, to have empathy, and we're a little too quick to assign agency to things that don't really have it. Which is why we look at animals and see happiness, sadness, shame, completely human emotions and tend to read them as such when there really is no basis for it besides our own perceptions. Animal faces, even closely related animals in the primate family, are vastly different to human faces in terms of their ability to express emotion, but because of our need to be able to read and understand emotion, we read "faces" even where there are none to read, as well as assigning human agency to things that do not have it (there was an experiment, whose proper name escapes me, where subjects were played an animated video of two triangles and a circle moving around a white screen--the vast majority created personas and a narrative to explain the events, while very few, when asked, explained exactly and only what they literally saw.

    Anyway, I guess I'm getting a little too far off-topic now, but yeah...its an interesting thing to think about...lots of exciting research being done too...
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    A dog that shakes, jumps at the slightest noise, has sleep disorder and loss of appetite, all because its former owner was a cruel bastard, is to me a pretty damned clear indicator that they have a psychology.

    Also, watch a wild animal defend it's young, and then tell me they don't feel empathy? This is empathy in the most extreme end of the scale.

    For an example of the lighter end, I had a dog as a kid, who would run straight over to me and start licking my face and be all shaky, if I had fallen and hurt myself.

    Have you never been able to tell by the sheer look in the face of a dog that it felt guilty as hell, and then proceed into the kitchen and find the roast missing?

    If you don't see any psychology in the behaviour of animals then I think you're missing out on something really basic.
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Both of those examples are simply explained as learned and instincutal behaviours in the best interests of the animal's survival, the most basic and primal urge of any living thing. They hardly indicate complex psychologies, and can hardly be compared to human psychologies. The things I said in that post aren't opinions, they are facts...
     
  16. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    So you're saying that neurosis is an instinct. This discussion has reached a level of absurdity I can't follow into...

    What facts are you talking about? You're basically saying that the science of animal psychopathology is a hoax. That's a pretty tall claim, unless you're a professor in comparative psychology and you have a nobel prize to back up a claim that defies Pavlov's.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Keep it respectful, you two.
     
  18. SCorneliusJ
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    SCorneliusJ New Member

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    Oh my. Thanks for everyone's help, but i don't think i'm informed enought to discuss animal psychology
     
  19. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I say write what you would like to read. Create a universe that you love. When I wrote my vampire novel, I created vampires that I love. It just so happened that over 1000 people loved them too.
     
  20. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    If you would like both sides of an animal's point of view I suggest two authors off the top of my head. THe first is Jack Londen, in many of his stories he wrote about animals and how they viewed things, even without the usage of human language. The second authour is David Clement-Davies. He's known for his stories about animals, in fact that's all he uses. Only they have human language and such.

    And on another note, Arron, your claims about animals are one hundred percent false. Science has actually proven that animals do have personalities and things that you believe they don't. Good examples of such is a lot of the shows on Animal Planet, if you just watch them without the volume turned on you'll notice that they do have the things you believe they lack.
     
  21. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mammamaia is spot on correct. I wrote about a rooster who fights an invading army, joins a human militia, and enjoys watching action movies. By the end he is a philosopher. Just do what works for your story.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the famous author referred to in an earlier post is jack london... his 'call of the wild' is a classic about a sled dog that reverts to its basic nature and joins a wolf pack...
     

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