1. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    specifics in description

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Garball, Aug 5, 2013.

    There is a scene in my story where the MC sees the town's main guard dog, a big black Presa canario, and is described as such. The problem is that I do not think most people know what a Presa looks like, but I don't think there is a dog that represents strength and ferociousness like this breed. Should I keep the Presa or attempt to describe a big dog?
     
  2. Kelson
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    Kelson Member

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    Make the main character surmise that is what the dog is after describing it. My point is, do both, describe it and then say something like "...it had to be [breed] or the, "description, description, description, etc. lead MC to believe it was [breed].

    I am listing this this way because I have no idea what the breed is like or what the description would be but my recommendation should remedy your dilemma: do both!

    Weigh my feedback by reviewing my work, web search Kelson's Challenge or Kelson Hargis, all of my stuff is free and readily available.

    ~Kelson
     
  3. Steve Day
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    Steve Day Senior Member

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    Always keep your reader in mind. Your dog is 'big and black'. Does the breed matter?

    Stephen King's 'Cujo' has a dog in it. Check out how he describes the beast.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Who describes the dog? Your MC or the handler of the dog? The handler might mention it. I knew a lady who bred fila brasilieros who loved to find or create any reason to say fila brasiliero. It was like her little claim to fame. The thing she could say that would always draw a puzzled look, which then gave her the segue of which she never tired, explaining the history of the fila brasiliero. It's the kind of thing someone who hasn't much else to offer in the way of conversation latches on to. Is your dog handler maybe "that person".
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This. Descriptions should stay in character for the person doing the describing. Not only what that person can perceive with his or her five senses, but what that person will consciously take notice of in that situation. A particular male character, when describing a woman, might not notice her face at all, but will fondly and in exquisite detail describe her contours netween her knees and he shoulders. Another character will describe her clothing, accessories, and of course her shoes.

    This goes for the narrator as well. The narrator is a (usually) unseen character who needs to be developed with every but as much care as your principal characters.
     
  6. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    If you need something specific, like that it was missing one paw... include it. Something that will be critical later? Include it.

    Otherwise, sketch the dog. Don't paint it. Look to Hemingway, for how descriptive you need to be. Amazingly, less is more. If you let your reader do the imagining, they will create their own terrifyingly ferocious dog. And they will do it for you! Just guide their imagery with the barest basics.

    Describe the effect of the dog... or its effects on the surroundings.

    "The air itself seemed to chill as the impossibly tall and powerful dog, filled the doorway. Everything seemed to stop and sound ceased as it padded silently across the threshold. It resembled nothing so much as one of those thick statues of short-eared, muscular dogs that guard the doorways to Buddhist temples."
     
  7. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    A book I read when I am having difficulty sleeping is called "Midworld" by Alan Dean Foster. Your mind fills with images of the most lush tropical rain forest. Filled with greens of every hue, bright colors and vivid imagery, your thoughts cannot help but be removed and replaced by this incredible visual story.

    But there is very little actual description of what things look like. Its a short, two day read, if you ever want to check it out. Out of print, so Amazon [used] is the only way to go. "Avatar" was based heavily on that book (as well as others), I believe. And to be fair, Avatar got very close to the imagery that your head will be overflowing with, as a result of that book :)
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see why you can't do both. Especially if you have an occasion to have two characters engage in dialogue about the dog. To my untrained, uninformed eye, the dog looks kind of like a pit bull. (For all I know it is, and Presa canario is just a different name.) But you could have an exchange something like:

    "Whoa, look out! There's a pit bull over there by the door."
    "That's not a pit bull. It's a presa canario."
    "Whatever. He looks like a pit bull to me."
    Then you could either continue in conversation or go into narrative or thoughts about the stout, muscularity of the dog, etc.

    I'd suggest describing it as best you can, but throw in the name if you really want that specific dog. People who know will get it right away, and those who are curious will google. The rest of us will (should) be content with your description. We know generally what guard dogs look like.
     
  9. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    I definitely describe the dog's characteristics, but in my mind I want it to be a Presa. The breed was made (in)famous in 2001 when Diane Whipple was mauled to death by a pair named Bane and Hera. Not only the physical prowess of the dog is important, but the reputation earned by this killing matches the underlying evil of the town.
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Then, as Liz pints out, you may need to do both. You can't count on the dog's "infamy" to carry coin with the reader. I'ld never heard of the dog until this conversation nor do I know who Diane Whipple is and I'm pretty up on events in the world.
     
  11. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Because you don't know nothing is lost, but if you did something would be gained?
     
  12. Motley
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    Motley Active Member

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    If the character is one to know specific dog breeds or have some good reason for knowing this particular breed, put it in. People can Google the word if they don't know it and learn something.
     

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