1. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    Naming objects in prose, despite intelligence of MCs...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TokyoVigilante, Jan 13, 2011.

    SO I'm finally getting around to writing a Caveman vs. Dinosaur piece (long short story, novella). However, I've encountered a problem;

    It's set in 3rd person POV, but should my prose still reflect the intelligence of the MCs? I have some vaguely deer-like animal being called "A gossamer field beast". But would it be easier/more practical to just call it a deer? I'm thinking that puts the story in a narrated-by-the-discovery-channel kind of a state, which I rather like. But i don't want to give the impression that these Cave-folk have been reading up on their Paleontology.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Call them whatever they are - cave people will have had and used names for animals. We no longer know what they were but don't think it matters if you call it an auroch or a cow etc
     
  3. Doctor Tao
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    Doctor Tao Member

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    Myself, I would try and be more clever in my naming conventions. As an example: in parts of Cameroon, Africa the locals refer to any small mammal that can be hunted and lives on the ground as "Ground beef", most birds are simply called "fowl"; and there is a large rodent that builds its nest out of grass and it is known as "cutting grass". This in no way reflects a lack of education it is just an easy way to catergorize the world around them.

    Hope this helps.
     
  4. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    I actually rather like this naming convention; it's both reflective of the culture I'm writing about and is practical for writing. I think I'll go with something along these lines.
     
  5. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    Character speech and narrative voice are distinct. If your MC narrates then speak as he would. Otherwise speak modern.
     
  6. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Ditto El. Save "a gossamer field beast" for an in-story ballad if you want, but it's awful awkward to use over and over in the prose.

    Hmm - there are a couple other work-arounds now that I think of it.

    I don't necessarily recommend it, but you could always include a footnote or glossary entry along the lines of "Ra'ad - Most easily translated as 'A gossamer field beast'".

    Or, you could pull a trick from "Song Of Hiawatha" and include a line like:
    Their first feast in their new homeland was raw Ra'ad - the 'gossamer field beast'.

    -Frank
     
  7. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    You are not actually going to have cavemen dealing with dinosaurs are you? Unless your piece is set in some alternative history, there was about 60 million years between the last dinosaur and the first early human-type creatures. Our predecesors lived during the age of the great mammals, Mammoths, Mastadons, perhaps Giant Sloths, Saber Toothed Cats, but no dinosaurs.

    As far as how the POV effects narration, if you are writing your scene from the Caveman's POV then I would use words he would be familiar with. If you are stepping outside as an omnicient narrator, use the words you choose. These POV's can vary from scene to scene at your discretion, but stick to one POV within each scene.

    Just my opinion, of course.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Call them deer. There's no more reason to use some other thrown-together description for the animal than to write the entire book in that fashion.

    And Terry is right, cavemen and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
     
  9. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    Yep. T-rex is also going to drag his tail. He always looks cooler while dragging his tail.

    I'm not concerned with scientific accuracy.

    I'm going for a modern re-telling of the extinct "Cavemen vs. Dinosaur" genre (Prehistoric Romance I believe is the name). The premise is a group of hunters (one of which is the first born Homo Sapien) stumble upon the domain of the last surviving Tyrannosaurus Rex (Diseased, ancient, and inbred) and have to survive as it hunts them around its territory.

    Themes of survival of the fittest and juicy dinosaur action ensue.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    it worked for fred flintstone.
     
  11. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    If it's 3rd person, it doesn't matter if your characters are intelligent or not. The narrator is telling the story, not your characters. You can flesh out the MC's stupidity through dialogue and thoughts.
    And yes, use deer, instead of the other variation you thought of. (IMO, it's a total throw-off)
     
  12. Kevin B
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    Kevin B Member

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    I think you're still going to have to come up with a metaphor as to where the dinosaur came from. Even though you're not concerned about being scientifically correct, I assure you that your readers will be. If you don't explain how this dinosaur was able to exist for some 60 million years, your readers will be the first to call you out on it.

    Believe me, I know from experience.


    :)
     
  13. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    I would hope that if an audience can believe Cowboys can wrangle dinosaurs and King Kong can make over $550 million dollars, then my story would qualify under that same suspension of disbelief.

    My main proponent is called "Dead Clade Walking"; The phrase Dead Clade Walking refers to the fact that some clades (groups) of organisms which survive mass extinctions either become extinct a few million years after the mass extinction or fail to recover in numbers and diversity.

    Is it really a huge stretch to imagine that a small breeding population of Tyrannosaurs inhabited an isolated region and survived into what can still be classified as "Prehistoric" times?
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think there is any problem with the story concept.

    But I still think you should call them 'deer' if that's what they are. :D
     
  15. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    So, I assume the deer is not a deer as we know it. I would call it deer-like or its technical name, if it's real, once. Then, I would switch to calling it "the creature", "the animal" or the name the cavemen gave it. Since the reader has a memory they will recall that's the deer thing.

    Also, you could make a little cast list at the front of the story.
     
  16. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I bet you're one of those people who believes Elvis is dead. :p
     
  17. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    What's the whole deal with combining dinosaurs and cavemen? It's fiction.
    That's like telling Rowling, "Oh no, sorry, you can't do that. Magic doesn't exist."
     
  18. Kevin B
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    Well, that's not exactly the same thing now is it? Unless the Dinosaur is going to magically appear through some form of magic. and I don't think it was mentioned that one of the cavemen is a wizard.

    It's the OP's book, and he/she can write in whatever he wants. In my opinion however, you can't just have the dinosaur exist just for the sake of the story. Especially when there is such a time difference. The "dino" would have to come from somewhere. If I were reading the story, I would wonder where the dinosaur came from. Wouldn't everyone? It wouldn't be that hard to come up with a reason for why the dinosaur exists.

    I haven't seen The Valley of Gwangi, but I'd bet that somewhere in that movie the existence of the Eohippus is explained.

    If Dead Clade Walking refers to the fact that some clades (groups) of organisms which survive mass extinctions either become extinct a few million years after the mass extinction or fail to recover in numbers and diversity. Then there is still no basis for the existence of a T Rex during the reign of Cavemen. To leave out why the T Rex exists will be leaving out a major part of the story. That's not just asking the reader to stretch his/her imagination, that's asking them to overlook and ignore the scientific possibility, in my opinion.

    :)
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    If someone can give a reason and context it can work. Jurassic Park comes to mind :) Flinstones and a few others.
     
  20. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    The OP makes a good point in refrencing King Kong as an example of what he wants to do. I've thought about that in terms of my original objection and came to the following conclusion. As a reader I wouldn't have trouble suspending my disbelief if the fictional world he created had an environment well detailed enough to make me believe that a pocket of Jurrasic era animals (not just one species) could still exist at such a late date. By that I mean there would have to be explainations for the proper temperature, appropriate food sources, territory enough to support a breeding population of very large animals, etc. It would not be enough to just have a few T-Rex still hanging around like the last drunks at a party. Jurrasic Park, King Kong, even Journey to the Center of the Earth (original version) all satisfied these criteria.

    Magic fits in Rowling's world because she created a world where in which magic is a logical fit. Heck, I'm not adverse to having creatures in stories which supposedly can not exist -- I wrote a vampire novel for heaven sake! I just don't belive you can insert the fantastic without getting the reader's buy-in.

    IMHO The Valley of Gwangi is exactly what you don't want to be like. That was a terrible story.
     
  21. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    That's kind of the idea; take an abandoned genre and give it a modern sensibility. Use the same fantastic (and iconic; everyone knows Raquel Welsh!) imagery and make it believable again. I think it's an interesting challenge and something I personally enjoy trying to figure out.

    But, I don't want to turn my story into a documentary of a hypothetical scenario. I want to keep it really personal and close to the characters. I guess it's a balancing act I'll have to try sort out on my own terms.
     

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