1. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    lion names (and other animal names)

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ettina, May 21, 2012.

    I have a setting in which a plague wiped out all of humanity, and the only survivors were people who could change into animals (such as werewolves). They fled to live full-time as animals, and intermixed with the wild populations of their respective species. As a result, several species ended up with enough shapeshifter/human blood to make them sentient.

    Five hundred years later, the main plot is a lion vs hyena war, around the same time that both races are rediscovering shapeshifting.

    Problem is, the lions and hyenas both use very non-human styles of communication - basically their animal forms' natural communication elaborated into language. Their names can't really be depicted in writing because they're not exactly sound (each one has a signature smell and a sound/body movement name). How do I write their names? Also, how do I work in an explanation of how their language works, given that the protagonists have grown up with it and know almost nothing about humans?
     
  2. Luna13
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    Luna13 Active Member

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    I don't know. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful, but I think you're going to have to just use names, unless you manage to invent some sort of scratch-and-sniff text so you can identify characters by their smells, which is highly unlikely. As for the language, it might make some difference whether it is written in first or third person. If it is first, then you will have a really hard time with it, because it is narrated by the protagonist who knows next to nothing about humans. If it is in third person, it might be a little easier; you could put something like, "they spoke in growls and with scents, rather than in any intelligible language." Or something.
    Also, how civilized are these animals?
     
  3. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Most of them would live lives fairly similar to the real-life animals - very tied to the ecosystem, little or no technology, no herding or crops. The one exception is that some of the primate shifters would have done what they could to maintain a human lifestyle, and 500 years later a few human cities are still around and being run by various primates. I was thinking my protagonist may, at one point, travel to one of these cities and learn about humanity there.
     
  4. Afion
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    Afion Senior Member

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    You could give them long complex names (for example, Longtailed-Leader-Of-The-Pride-Who-Kills-With-A-Swift-Bite) but have the other animals call them a shortened version (like Longtail) :)
     
  5. GillySoose
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    GillySoose Member

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    I'd just write their names normally, but if they can't be "spoken" then exclude them from dialogue and just make sure it's clear who's talking to whom. So instead of, say,

    "Hey, Man-Bear-Pig!" called Lion01.

    You can do something like,

    "Hey!" Lion01 called to Man-Bear-Pig.

    You get the idea. As for the language, sounds trickier to do but perhaps you can work body language and "sign" language into your dialogue and explain it to the reader as you go. Maybe you can even just stick the meaning of each gesture as you mention it, something like,

    "Who took the cookie from the cookie jar?" asked Lion01, tail lashing from side to side. Intense discontent.
    "The buffalo took the cookie from the cookie jar!" said Man-Bear-Pig.
    Lion01's tail went still and he sat down, staring straight ahead. Bewildered surprise. Confusion. "They can do that?"

    That's all I got.
     
  6. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Great ideas!

    Afion, I was thinking of descriptive names, but worried since those features may change with age (eg 'Halftail' may have lost her tail in a fight, so what would she have been called before then?), but if you have long names that are shortened, it could be that they add to the name with important events or characteristics that become evident with time. These would be the spoken names, of course - the distinctive smells would be more like facial recognition plus signature (scent-marking) instead of real language.

    GillySoose, I love the idea of explaining the gestures in italics like that. I'm definitely going to use that.
     

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