1. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    Description of non-human characters.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Flashfire07, Dec 15, 2011.

    Ok, so I'm writing a strange sort of story about a squad of more-or-less anthromorphic animals fighting weird plant people in the land of dreams, now waht I'm wondering is how to describe the characters without putting so much detail I have little room to write my actual story. For instance, do I just describe the character as "A large black furred mass of muscle and teeth" or "Taz’s claw shone in the firelight as he used it to pick the burnt petals from his large, powerful jaw" and the continue in this vein, bringing up new description as it becomes relevant? I'm using three main characters and they are all... odd creatures. SO if anyone could help me out with deciding how to describe them I would appreciate it immensly.
     
  2. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I always use the least amount of words to describe anything, but at the same time paint a powerful image.
     
  3. sithkittie
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    sithkittie New Member

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    I would say give your readers a general idea pretty early on of what they look like so they're not doing a double-take on "say what, Taz has claws??" I wouldn't make it incredibly wordy, but I would definitely spend some time describing them, either in motion at the beginning or through the eyes of a human element if there is one, again at the beginning.
     
  4. TurtleWriter
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    TurtleWriter Member

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    So, you are writing a short story then? I think it's best when the author leaves the reader an opportunity the shape the creator in their mind. Just give them enough rope so they can make the image themselves. IE, you have a character that its likeness is a lion human. In two words, you just imagined a humanoid with feline features. You could say, his whiskers stuck out from his cheeks. His ears were fuzzy and shaped in triangle like cones. His tail swung from the rear to and fro. His hands were human in nature but his nails were feline claws. In a few short sentences, you can describe a creature. I would weave the description in so you don't bore the reader with an "info dump."

    /2cents
     
  5. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    I'm glad someone brought this topic up. I can never get a good answer unless if it's for someone else. So, anyways-

    Think of what YOU see the character as. If Taz has claws, and is some sort of werewolf (hint: that's my first impression as of now), then you describe him as a feral human, with the fur, maw, and claws of a wolf (or whatever creature you can compare him to). If I can give an example-

    This is a bit of a more formal explanation, but instead of "small dragon," I've now created a creature that's much more human-like, but still menacing and terrifying in its own right. Best of luck!
     
  6. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I personally prefer the second option but don't overdo the detail. Maybe a combination of the two would work best. I like it when the scene is fleshed out and I can really visualize what is happening especially if I'm not familar with the creature.
     
  7. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    "A large black furred mass of muscle and teeth" sounds pretty great to me. It's a perfectly adequate description. I personally dislike use of similes in descriptions, like saying something has a head like a wolf or a mane like a lion or blah blah blah. Mention the head, mention the mane. Leave out the real animal references unless the narrator/main character is in a position to understand what those creatures are. If they have an elongated jaw, mention that, mention the wide eyes and the prominent forehead and the protruding fangs and the prehensile ears and the coarse, thick hair covering their body, which would be soft if only they washed occasionally.

    Paint an accurate description where necessary.
     
  8. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    Thanks for the advice so far, my real question is if it's best to use a minimalist approach or to provide a good amount of description. The point of writing fiction is to tell a story,, it's up to the author to paint a picture with words but too many words ruin it, too little and you have a confused audience. This is a problem as I prefer to write sci-fi and fantasy stories, and nothing says fantasy like weird and wonderful creatures. The problem in having weird and wonderful creatures is that they are very tricky to describe.
     
  9. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Personally, I would give a general overview of the description, much like you did with "A large black furred mass of muscle and teeth." Afterwards, I might zoom in on one or two distinct features that I could use every time I wanted to reference that character, like fiery green eyes, or elongated claws or teeth, or a scarred ear, etc.
     
  10. TurtleWriter
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    TurtleWriter Member

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    You really answered your own question. The process of describing sci-fi fantasy is a balance between overly wordy descriptions and too short of illustrations. Metaphorically speaking, it's best to paint your picture with enough detail to visualize your object. But, you also want to give them the opportunity to shape the image a bit themself.
     
  11. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    Not really, I still don't know what the best approach is. This indecision is really hampering my writing efforts.
     
  12. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd strongly suggest going for the minimalist approach. Describe the characters a "medium" amount when they're introduced (as in the example you provided (re: the mass of black fur, et cetera), and add in anything else when it's relevant.

    You wouldn't notice every detail about someone upon meeting them. It might only be during a staring contest that you notice their eyes aren't perfectly brown. Just go with first impressions and let the reader's imagination do a lot of the rest.
     
  13. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd strongly suggest going for the minimalist approach. Describe the characters a "medium" amount when they're introduced (as in the example you provided (re: the mass of black fur, et cetera), and add in anything else when it's relevant.

    You wouldn't notice every detail about someone upon meeting them. It might only be during a staring contest that you notice their eyes aren't perfectly brown. Just go with first impressions and let the reader's imagination do a lot of the rest.
     
  14. naturemage
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    naturemage Active Member

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    I agree. And, adding new descriptive details throughout the story gives mystery of the monster at the start. Knowing everything about it would just give it all away.
     

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