1. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Describing an object/food that a character doesn't know the name of?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Youniquee, Jul 20, 2011.

    2 of the POVs in my story are characters who aren't from earth. It is Third person limited btw. Their worlds are less advanced and modern than Earth so how do I describe a TV, or a burger ect without confusing the reader? Or should I leave the reader guessing what it is?
    For example, I described a pastry like this:
    Lol..sounds so odd. But I don't know how else to do it!
    I hope my question was understood.
    Thanks.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Be careful with the similes you use - "curled like a snail" is going to make me picture the food as being slimy. :)

    For a pastry, I'd write something like "It looked like bread, but finer, and lighter in color. It was twisted into a circular pattern, with a flaky [or creamy] white coating on top of it."
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, snail might give a bad image. And it might make the reader wonder how the aliens know what a snail is, but don't know what the pastry is.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Good point.

    You have to be careful with similes and metaphors when the comparison is to something from our culture and not the characters'
     
  5. nickvsshark
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    nickvsshark New Member

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    Describing food truly allows us to utilize all the senses, so take advantage of that. Without directly telling the reader what the item is, you can use senses outside of sight to clue them in. A visual description of vinegar would have to stop at it's color and appearance as a liquid, but when you throw in the fact that it has a pungent smell that stings the nostrils and leaves your characters salivating in anticipation of the sourness, you're really able to relate the item to the reader as something familiar to them, without giving it away.
     
  6. SteamWolf
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    SteamWolf Senior Member

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    Matt handed the object to Desolisin.
    "What's this?" Desolisin asked.
    Matt smiled like he knew a secret. "It's food, of course. Eat it, it's good for you."
    Desolisin held the soft golden object to his nose and sniffed at it.
    "It smells oily and sweet at the same time. We don't have anything like this back home. Is it supposed to be so soft? What's this in the middle?"
    Matt rolled his eyes.
    "Just eat it, will you?"

    Desolisin took a tentative bite of the corner and chewed thoughtfully.
    "Oh, it's very sweet. Some sort of bread? I like the meat in it but what's the red vegetable? It's a bit sharp on the tongue."
    He opened the remainder up in his hand and pulled the tomato out of the ham-and-cheese croissant.

    "That? That's tomato. It's actually a fruit. Or something" Matt replied with a shrug. "Are you going to eat it?" He opened his own croissant and held the halves out for Desolisin to drop the slice of tomato onto it as it began to fall apart in large soft chunks.

    Desolisin handed over the disintegrating slice before poking at the congealing cheese.
    "So what's this? It tastes nice but the consistency is odd."

    "Cheese" said Matt, around a mouthful of food. "You know, congealed cow's milk."
    "Milk? From another species? Eww, gross!" Desolisin said, making a face. He proceeded to scrape the cheese out of the snack while Matt watched on, laughing.
     
  7. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    As far as imagery, I was able to connect the visual cues and get a cinnamon roll with white icing on it.

    Though, if they aren't from Earth, do they know what a snail is to use it as a comparison?

    Either way I think I would have more of a problem with how the description was carried out more than descriptory words.

    "It looked like a snail with white stuff on it."

    Sounds very typical Earth adolescent speech. If said person describing the object is not from Earth, I wouldn't except them to talk just like any other teenager unable to describe something (which is what it sounds like). I'd except some type of distinction in their speech. Maybe they speak very formally or maybe their descriptions are very precise? I don't know, but it might better if you make a distinction in the speech itself more than the words.

    "There was one that curled like a snail with white stuff over it."

    vs.

    "Ah, yes. There was one object that looked very much like a snail's shell. It was soft and warm, and had a liquid-like white drizzling on the top. It was marvelous, have you heard of it?"
     
  8. Patrick94
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    Patrick94 Active Member

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    Or you could go on as if you were actually telling the story, eg

    The poor alien looked at the pastry, wondering if it wasn't some sort of ungodly weapon. He couldn't make head nor [don't know if that should be 'or'] tail of it. Tentatively, he poked it with one finger and flinched. When it did not react, he look a small bite.

    "Mmm!"


    Something like that
     
  9. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    @Sundae The POV character is a teenager with an attitude. I don't know if she needs any more distinction as her personality does that already. I think she would know what a snail is (Maybe in her home world or something)...Argh, but what else do I compare it to? >.<
    @Patrick94 It's third person limited so it's directly from the character's eyes.
     
  10. PenandPencil
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    PenandPencil Member

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    Hi,

    I can most definitely relate to you. I'm writing a piece about life through a dog's eyes. I usually just keep it simple - simple language - but what Mallory said is right; Be careful of similies. They are hard to do when you're talking about something as simple, as you said, a pastry or something.

    Maybe, when you are referring to snails, shouldn't it be the snail's shell as a similie to the pastry wrap-around? Snails aren't exactly "curly" themselves. I might be wrong (but I don't think I am) :p
     

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