1. Reis
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    Reis Member

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    Writing Anthropomorphism

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Reis, May 12, 2010.

    Well I searched a few topics regarding about anthropomorphism but they mostly discuss about animals and some hybrids. Mine is a little trickier I think. It's ships, or rather specifically, navy ships and some aircraft.

    I sometimes have trouble having 'hands' for the ships. I opted divots and cranes once but some critics (in another fanfic community) complained about pushing the "Willing Suspension of Disbelief" too high so I set to have humans involved that would act as hands (well the Captain's command of 'All Hands on Deck!' comes to mind).

    Overall it's kind of hard to describe a ships 'anatomy' as they're completely not human nor resemble any human figure at all. The only thing making them have human aspects is they can see, they can talk and they can listen (sonar lol). When I try to exhibit human gesture, that's when the trouble starts. Things like 'should I add sweat?' or 'do they bleed diesel instead?' 'is blowing a turret apart too much "gore"?' 'should it's engines/powerplants act similarly like a person's heart?' 'which ship part should I call "the head"?'

    Pushing further would probably mean making transformers out of my ships which I do not want.

    Any helpful suggestions in this area?

    Other than that, I also had some trouble in finding a common ground where readers can relate to the MC and his love interest's relationship while being best as they are--ships, because it's set for a romance story.

    Call me a bit of a Thomas the train engine fan although I have no idea who that is; just some critic branded me on a silly pop culture reference.

    .
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hands refers to the crew, not the ship, in the same way that head refer to cattle. Each member is symbollicaly represented by a body part.

    Ships are primarily anthropomorphized as taking a feminine gender, in the sense of being fickle and difficult to manage (don't blame me, I'm only reporting). The analogy is not taken very far beyond that, as a rule, except that the captain is often viewed as being married to his ship.

    That is also why the carved figureheads on old sailing vessels were typically women.
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd suggest watching the Herbie movies.
     
  4. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    You should take your cues from Thomas the Tank Engine anyway - if a ship could talk, parts of the ship would be like parts of anatomy - there wouldn't be any need to call it anything other than what it is.

    "My rudder's been really itchy lately."
    "Really? Let me take a look."
    "Don't stare - it's embarrassing."
    "Ah, you've got barnacles encrusted on your propellers."
    "What?"
    "Well that's what you get when you don't brush properly. You should get an engineer to look at that before it spreads."
    "Aw, maaaan."

    Regarding "bleeding" and "gore", it's probably best if they don't feel any significant levels of pain - just discomfort.

    "Help! Help! My starboard fuel talk is leaking and it's running down the stairs into the living quarters. Oh, ew. Ew, ew, ew, ew - I can feel it soaking into my carpet, oh yuuuuuck."

    or

    "Excuse me. Yes, you. The fat mechanic eating a sandwich below the bridge. Can you unwedge your spanner from the turret rotation platform before I jam a cannon up your rear so you know how it feels?"

    Sweat, no. Overheating, yes. Bleeding diesel, no. Taking on water, yes. Structural damage... well it'd be like a robot, really.

    "Um, Bismark..."
    "Yes? What?"
    "I'm not sure if you noticed, but..."
    "What? Is there something stuck to my broadside?"
    "Well... no"
    "Oh. Oh! Someone! I'm on fire! Thank you for telling me, Millenium I wouldn't have noticed otherwise. Help! Help! My kitchen is on fire and none of my fleas seem to know or care. Wake up! WAKE UP!"
     
  5. Reis
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    Reis Member

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    @Cogito

    I see although that could limit personalities somewhat and I'd be almost, if not, certainly come to stereotyping them. Nah, I think I'll add varieties and see where this goes.

    I'm not too comfy about the 'a captain married to his ship'. In metaphoric context that's understandable but literally? Feels like crossing inter-species romance. Otherwise, the theme would be more like 'A boy and his dog'

    @Rei

    Would that be the one with the odd racing car? Herbie was pretty pantomime the entire time though.

    @tcol4417

    Very useful advice, thanks. I'm now picturing Bismarck speaking in frantic German. o_o;. They all sound like prima donnas though but maybe I work it out.

    I think I'll have to revise my story a bit then and I wonder how the planes would behave.
     
  6. linden
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    linden Member

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    Thomas the Tank Engine! That is something I know a lot about, as my son is obsessed. In case you're still unsure of who he is, he's a train that wants to be Really Useful but often does things that gets him into trouble. There are about 50 million other trains (okay, a bit of an exaggeration but it feels that way when you're trying to remember their names) that are also part of the story.

    The trains still have to have drivers, and I think they have handled it well in terms of not making the humans characters at all, rather tools to get things done. The drivers aren't really mentioned at all unless they're needed ("Thomas went off the tracks, so his driver had to go and call The Break Down Train"). There are some human characters who do the directing (Sir Topham Hatt) but the main focus is on the trains themselves.

    In terms of 'gore' I think it would depend on how you play it out. Often the trains get derailed, or overheat, or run out of coal etc. But being a kids show, they don't really go beyond that. You could make it gory, I suppose, depending (of course) on how it's written.

    If your main concern is making your MC relatable, then my advice would be to focus on the characters emotions and relationships rather than the physical components. Of course you can talk about them, but I wouldn't focus on the details.

    I hope that helps a little, if only to explain who Thomas is! :)
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, that's the one. The reason I suggest it is that it never goes outside what a real car can do, and seeing how they handle that could give you some ideas.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    are you writing a story for children?

    if not, what do you see as the market for this work?
     
  9. Eternity
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    Eternity Member

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    Ah, but there it starts getting interesting, you can be adventurous and quircky and have fun! Just get creative, make things up.

    I like that. Leave it like that, IMO.

    Sweat - no :D
    Diesel blood... mmm... at the risk of being a bit unoriginal... it could work, if you're creative with it :cool:
    Blowing a turret... this could be good, it could be like losing an eye or something. I don't see how it could be gory when there is no blood or guts
    engines being as a person's heart - yes, I would do that. You could get pretty creative with that.
    The ship's "head" - Well, the foremost part of the front of the ship. I only know the parts of sailing ships, I'm not sure what this part of a ship would be on modern navy ships (wait, I think it's the stern). :redface:
     
  10. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think some people here have your movie standard tall ship in their mind's eye:

    [​IMG]

    Which, I think, is less anthropomorphic than the naval ship you seem to be talking about:

    [​IMG]

    IMO if it's the naval ship you're after, the 'head' of the ship would the cabin, usually located at the bow of the vessel. It can also be located towards the stern -the space towards the bow could be like a mouth/jaw.

    Industrial cranes/rigs might be be arms - but you said you'd already considered this.

    I'm from a seafaring family/background and I've never thought of characterising boats really apart from what Cog said about them being female. Come to think of though, we did take a small car ferry to neighbouring islands sometimes. It was extremely anthropomorphic because it had jaws to the stern of the vessel that would literally gape open to let the cars drive in and then shut down to set sail. I found a little picture of it:

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Reis
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    Reis Member

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    More for fun actually, I've never done this before. :D
     
  12. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    Have you ever watched Farscape? The spaceship in that is a living creature, so that might help give you some ideas. The ship uses the pilot to interpret and communicate, but pilot isn't human either.

    It's a pretty cool idea, have fun with it :)
     
  13. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Oh and then you've got Jarvis in Iron Man and Iron Man 2 (the movies, mind you - not the comics).

    So if something were to catch alight, you'd hear this dry, effeminate male voice over the intercom:

    "My apologies, mister Stark but my west wing seems to have caught fire. Anti-conflagration measures are being taken, so please ignore the smell."
     
  14. bigSQUISHY76
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    bigSQUISHY76 Member

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    Ships

    I am actually in the US NAVY and have been on a great many ships. you send me a picture of the ship, boat or other nautical craft and I will do my best to help you identify in my opinion some ways to describe the specific features. That is the best I can offer at the moment but since you mentioned hands , as soon as I have a few more minutes I will try to give you as few ideas for them.

    Sorry I couldn't give you some assistance right away.

    V/R

    BS76
     
  15. Lankin
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    Lankin Member

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    There are really many examples for the personification of machines -- starting with "Bob the Builder" to the avatar-girl of the computer in Resident Evil.
    Perhaps inserting an avatar would be something -- surely depends on how much into fantasy or science fiction you want to go. That way you could skip that "hey you got barnacles on your propellers" bit (very nice post :) )
    Plus, it could add a vaguely erotic element, because the ship's avatar would be a woman -- most probably. By that, also "the captain is married to his ship" could be illustrated in a way.
     

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