1. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    What work is still needed here?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by sleepindawg, Jun 25, 2019.

    I don't know if this is the right place for this, but I think that what I'm asking for here is a part of character development.

    This is the description of a character in what I'm referring to as "my monster", that's not the title, it's just what I'm calling the project because of how it got to be what it is. Anyway, I'm not sure that it's done and I would like a bit of advice on what if anything is needed in the following paragraph to finish making her real.

    Purrrow would look to an earth man like some over-sized bipedal house-cat or more like a wild cat of the margay family with the addition of tufts of fur making her ears look more sharply pointed than they actually were. She weighed around 57kg and was about 1.7 meters tall with markings that many males of her race thought were very pretty.

    For anyone not aware of them, margay are a breed of wild cat that live in Central and South America. If you are interested Wikipedia has a photo that really works with this description, and believe it or not, I found the photo after adding the above paragraph to the story.

    At any rate, I'm hoping for advice on whether or not it is complete.
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I guess maybe I'd want to know about hands. Bipedalism and hands kinda go together - it's a lot of effort to walk around on only two feet, and it really only makes sense if you're using your front limbs for something other than locomotion. So I'd be inclined to assume hands, but I'd probably want it spelled out.

    And then maybe clothes or ornamentation or something? Is she just fuzzy and naked, or does her culture encourage something extra?

    (This is all assuming she's intelligent, not just a cat standing upright.)
     
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  3. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    What I posted is the second paragraph, below I'm posting the first paragraph where you will find mention of a uniform which should lead to the conclusion that there is at least some sort of ornamentation in the form of rank indicators. You will also be made aware of her race being involved in a conflict and at least some tech in the form of an alarm which could (and in my mind should) lead to the conclusion... I'll just post it and let you see.

    Purrrow gave out a low growl as she woke to the sound of the Battle Stations horn. She had just gotten to sleep and was sure that this was another drill. Hurrying she was still pulling on her uniform as she entered the passage. She headed for her duty station at a run learning by other's errors was better than making errors of your own.

    Thanks in advance,
    The dawg
     
  4. The Piper

    The Piper Senior Member

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    In terms of the description, I personally think it's too vague. Of course you don't want to stuff details in there, but all I'm getting from this is "cat-lady".

    Essentially what you're saying in that first (very long) sentence is "Purrow walked on two legs but she was a cat, but not that kind of cat, this kind of cat, oh and by the way if you want to know exactly what kind of cat that is you'll have to Google it but yeah she looks like a cat, okay, also if you need anything else crammed into this sentence maybe I'd best tell you that she's furry and she has pointy ears - so, really, she looks like a cat".

    You've given us very little information, is all I'm saying, but somehow the sentence seems ridiculously long. You don't need to tell us she has pointy ears or fur, because you've already told us she looks like a cat - so we assume those two things without being told. What you should do is tell us the unusual features - like Bay said, hands and things like that. Human or cat hands? Does she have a tail? Does she wear people clothes? Does she like to scratch at balls of string?

    All of that has been said, pretty much, I think, but hopefully that's helpful in some way.

    My main point is actually focused on the "around 57kg" part.

    Firstly, 57 - not 55, or 60 - is a fairly specific number. So to say "around 57" seems a little off. Secondly, and most importantly, I have no idea how much 57kg is supposed to be. What is a kilogram, two pounds? Or is it two kilograms to a pound? This might be the standardised method of measuring weight in your country of writing, and if so fair enough. Either way, my point is:

    Do you need to tell us how much she weighs?

    Especially if we don't fully know what she looks like? Focus on the interesting - and more necessary - things.

    Don't take this to heart, feel free to take it on board or disregard but I hope it helps!
     
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  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I would eliminate the numbers. She's a human-sized cat; that's enough.

    In my voice, this would be:

    To human eyes, Purrow would look like a woman-sized bipedal cat. Pointed ears, yes. Fur, yes. Some humans compared her markings to a leopard, though a scientist had once told her that the markings of a margay came closer. Opposable thumbs, yes, though her fingers were far shorter than those of humans--she would never play the piano.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2019
  6. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    Hey all! :)

    I think I came to the right place! I was hoping that someone would be brutally honest with the advice and it seems to me you are the sort I was looking for.

    That's one of my problems, I don't know how to separate thoughts into groups to make sentences that aren't way too long. Part of what I'm here for is to get a clue about how to group thoughts properly. Yes, it may be odd for a 65-year-old person to admit but there you have it.

    Purrrow would look to an earth man like some over-sized bipedal house-cat or more like a wild cat of the margay family with the addition of tufts of fur making her ears look more sharply pointed than they actually were. She weighed around 57kg and was about 1.7 meters tall with markings that many males of her race thought were very pretty.

    I should have used colored text for the paragraph of interest, it happens to be the second paragraph of the story. In my second post on this thread, I posted the first paragraph of the story in the hopes that it would clear up some of Bay's concerns. On the other hand, some of what you are referring to is in a paragraph that I added here for the people on these forums to read. Let me place the two paragraphs that are actually in the story here in colors and in their proper order.

    Purrrow gave out a low growl as she woke to the sound of the Battle Stations horn. She had just gotten to sleep and was sure that this was another drill. Hurrying she was still pulling on her uniform as she entered the passage. She headed for her duty station at a run learning by other's errors was better than making errors of your own.

    Purrrow would look to an earth man like some over-sized bipedal house-cat or more like a wild cat of the margay family with the addition of tufts of fur making her ears look more sharply pointed than they actually were. She weighed around 57kg and was about 1.7 meters tall with markings that many males of her race thought were very pretty.

    It seems that I'm getting a lesson in how to post clearly as well as getting advice on describing a character.


    As you can see from the first paragraph she does wear clothing in the form of a uniform at least. Her race are tool users which should imply some sort of hands. Those things said I'm of two minds about talking about them in the second paragraph. Does having the first paragraph handy for you to read clear up the questions about those things? Should I include mention of them in the second paragraph anyway? Oh, and I trust the ball of string is just mentioned for effect.



    Fair enough. I live in the USA and am trying to express the thoughts about her size/weight in the metric system. That said I wanted her to be much like a fit and trim human woman around 5'7", I could be mistaken, but 125 would be pretty close to that form. On the conversion, 1 kg is a bit more than 2 lbs. So you see, by the time that you go down to 55 kg you are already around 4 lbs low, and if you go up to 60 kg you are over 6 lbs high. It's been my experience that women are picky about such small amounts too. BTW, while margay can be described as being a bit larger than house cats, they don't come close to the size and weight range needed for this character. That's why I went with this information here.

    I do want to put in more about how she looks but I'm not sure what to put in or how to fit it in right. That is after all why I posted here.

    That could work, I will have to give it some thought.

    Some of that stuff isn't right for me, some of it could be adapted to my voice, some of it doesn't fit the story.

    I do want to thank you both for your input, and I hope that me clearing up a few things will lead to more ideas from you both.

    With thanks,
    The dawg
     
  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Women are picky about their own weight going up and down. Once the focus goes out to (1) a fictional character that is (2) an alien race with (3) an unknown muscle density, etc., you’re very distant from that. 4 or 6 or 20 pounds are largely irrelevant. She’s like a small woman, or a tall skinny woman, or some such. Numbers will be far less clear than words.
     
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  8. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    Very good points!
     
  9. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    How does this work?

    Purrrow would look to an earth man like some over-sized bipedal house-cat around the size and weight of an average fit and trim human woman. She had front paws that had evolved into a cat version of hands but her tail was still fairly long for her body. Her eyes looked a bit large for her head, but her race had evolved from a breed that were nocturnal hunters and those eyes worked very well in low light. She was spotted somewhat like a leopard with some of the spots almost stripes. Her markings were what many males of her race thought were very pretty and the best of them just happened to not be covered by her uniform.

    Thanks in advance,
    The dawg
     
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    If this will be in the narrative, I think it's a too-big glob of information.

    "fit and trim human woman" feels to me like advertising copy, or like you're eager for the reader to understand, "She's not fat, all right? She's NOT FAT!" I would instead use just one word, maybe "slim human woman"

    Also, why "earth man"? Would earth women think something different? This, combined with the "SHE'S NOT FAT!" vibe, and the "males of her race", and the implication that she has tailored her uniform to make the most of her visual appeal, all suggest immediately that she's going to be in the story for sexual interest. Even if that is her primary purpose, unless this is romance/erotica, or unless the point of view is that of someone who is mainly interested in her sex appeal, I think I'd avoid signaling it so early.

    "evolved" is more information than the reader needs. As a race description in a handbook for a roleplaying game, sure, but not in narrative. The same for the eye evolution. It's OK to let the reader guess about some things--just tell them that her eyes are large.

    What is the point of view? If it's Purrrow's, I especially doubt that she'd be thinking about her own evolution or how pretty her markings are in this moment.
     
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  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Purrow was about the size of a woman, her front paws clutched [something] claws retracted to soften her grip. [human character name] thought she looked like bipedal house cat but bigger, her tawny pelt spotted like a leopard. Clearly her markings were attractive to the males of her race if all the scent marking and scratching at trees was any guide.
     
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  12. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I got the upright part. I can't wait to see how you develop her.



    [​IMG]
     
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  13. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    Hey all! :)

    This is to tell the reader what this character looks like and what any others of her species that I may introduce looks like in general. Am I still feeding the reader too much in that case? Also, someone IRL said that she felt I should say more about what the character looks like than what was in the paragraph I first posted. The above rewrite is intended to cover the request for more info that she made and to make it more useful info as has been suggested here.

    Purrrow would look to an earth man like some over-sized bipedal house-cat around the size and weight of an average fit human woman.

    Does that fix that concern?

    This needs to be looked at in parts, but possibly as a whole as well.

    Maybe I should have said "human", you tell me after reading below.

    Her uniform shows off her best markings by coincidence, she actually is a bit bothered by the attention that her male contemporaries. The line is intended to set up some of her thinking later in the chapter that the paragraph is from.

    She is to be the mother of a character that is the MC of the project, however, the project may expand to include a story about her people. In the interest of that possibility (and being an avid reader of a few different series) I'm trying to make sure that I have that sort of thing set up in the first part of the project to be written. Please let me know if this is a bit too much future planning.

    Thanks for that info.

    This paragraph is for the description of the character to the reader, it's not any thoughts of or from the POV of any character in the story.

    And now onward to chat with the moose in the house.

    I like that as it is, it doesn't fit where I'm at in the story, but when she encounters a human (and she will) I'm sure I will be influenced by it.

    I'm not sure if I should do a rewrite at this point or wait until CF replies to my questions before I do.
     
  14. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    While I was composing my above post the following post was made:

    Picture "cat hands" rather than front paws.
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Yep. :)

    I suspect that what you're thinking is that once you've gotten started on this species, you may as well offer all the information, so the reader is fully informed and you don't have to interrupt the narrative with that information again. That sounds sensible. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. In long--really, even medium-sized--passages of description and exposition, the reader tends to skim and lose the thread.

    I think you can have moderate confidence that the reader will get "human-sized cat lady" out of this. If you entertain them, you might manage to communicate one more fact. Anything past that will be lost. So if you truly need the rest, you're going to have to feed it to the reader over time.

    For example, two pages later you could have something like:

    Joe watched Purrrow walk away. He murmured to Mike, "Those eyes..."

    "Mm?" Mike looked up. "Yes. An evolution very similar to earth cats. The oversized pupil serves for superior night vision. I wonder if she has a second eyelid?"

    Joe shook his head. "A man who can look at...I'm going to call her a woman. A man who can look at that woman and talk evolution is a man who has no soul."

    Mike turned back to his screen. "I'm more curious about the ear tufts than the eyes. Earth zoologists disagree on the function of feline ear tufts."

    Joe said, "Their function is to steal my heart."

    "Oh, for God's sake." Mike pulled Joe's tablet out of his hands. "Get out. Try to be competent to work by tomorrow."

    Remember, you're trying to keep the reader's attention. There are a lot of words there that don't communicate added information and will therefore accelerate the reader's loss of focus.

    I'd go with:

    Purrrow looked like a bipedal housecat roughly the size of a human woman. A short, but lean, human woman.

    (or "tall, lean")

    The emphasis that it's by coincidence feels coy--the reader will assume that you're winking and communicating that she went out of her way to show those markings. So you're communicating the opposite of what you want.

    It's also a POV issue. I think that you have POV decisions to make--discussed a bit later.

    Too much, too fast.

    But you almost immediately have thoughts from her head--the "low growl" paragraph is clearly from her POV. Switching from a POV that's outside her looking at her, then to a POV that's inside her seeing her thoughts, within one paragraph, is IMO too much of a POV jolt even for omniscient--and in any case, omniscient is both quite difficult, and currently not very fashionable.
     
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  16. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    The real problem I will be having here seems to be the fact that I have just over 2 pages of story and through it all, the reader is watching her spending time for the most part alone, she only interacts with others by radio and that's just for a bit. On her way from her quarters to her duty station she may see others, but they are on their way to their duty stations and there is no interaction. She doesn't know it at the time but she is on her way away from all others of her species. From time to time the reader will be getting a look at her thoughts, but for the most part, the story will be the reader watching her as she progresses out of the life she knows.

    I was telling you that it was coincidence, not the reader. This does bring me to a question of how or even if I tell the reader about it. BTW, since I figured out that I should have posted the paragraph in colored text I have started making my replies in black text. The intended reader of the story will not see any of those remarks in the story unless they are added to the story later.

    In response to me saying that I'm setting things up for future works you say:

    Okay, but I will need the reader to be able to see a mental image of her in a couple of chapters when she actually does meet a human. At least as well as each reader does see such an image. Personally, I see some pretty good images of dragons and their weyrs from the works of Anne McCaffrey in her Dragon Rider series. I would hope for some readers to get even a hint of so clear a mental image.

    Your reply to my mention of the paragraph being a description is.

    It seems I will be having problems with POV at least throughout this chapter and If I don't learn how to handle watching the characters while sometimes dipping into their thoughts properly in the next few chapters. Possibly through the whole project.
     
  17. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Okay, so have a look at how McCaffrey handles the description of the dragons. If you're serious about this, I'd suggest getting a print version you don't mind marking up, and going through and highlighting or underlining every bit of description McCaffrey gives you of the dragons. I suspect you'll find that it's spread out in bits, only given when needed to advance the plot, and not nearly as extensive as you expect.

    Skimming the first chapter of Dragonflight, I see we're following F'lar as the main character, in a reasonably close third person POV. (The author mentions what F'lar is noticing, sometimes uses F'lar's own wording for emphasis, like the oath "by the golden shell of the queen" right in the narrative, not set off as dialogue/thought, but sometimes zooms out a tiny bit to give enough description and narrative for readers to make sense of it all.) And in that POV, we get "bronze Mnementh's great neck...", and then several paragraphs later most of the description comes in, but still mixed in with action: "Mnementh rumbled approvingly as he vaned his pinions..." "...furled his great wings..." "Mnementh dropped to his knees..." "...huge wedge shaped head..." and a few paragraphs later, Mnementh rests his chin on the ground and his "many-faceted eyes" are still "on a level with F'lar's head", which gives a good sense of size.

    But, really? As someone who read those books obsessively in my youth, I can say that my mental image of the dragons comes almost exclusively from the cover art. I don't think any description in the book is going to be able to compare with the visual of, for example:

    [​IMG]

    I've seen other covers, with the dragons imaged in different ways, and I mentally rejected them as 'wrong', even though they fit the description of the book just as well as this one does. (I mean, really, assuming that's Lessa and Ramoth, who are supposed to be a small human and a super-big dragon? The scale is off. If that dragon put her chin on the ground, the human's head would be significantly ABOVE the dragon's eye. But we're told in the text that F'lar is a big man, and Mnementh, while large, is smaller than Ramoth. So why would F'lar's head be at eye-level?). But that stuff doesn't matter, because this image is what told me what dragons look like. Not the text itself.

    Is it the same for you? If so, I think you may want to use Pern as an example of how to tell a great story that allows you to earn yourself some great cover art that will do a lot of the descriptive work for you!
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2019
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  18. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    I don't think it's the cover art as much for me as it is for you. I do wish I still had one of the copies of those books that I've owned in the past, I could then look up the passage where the floor of the entrance to the weyr showing me the gouges in it from landings of dragons over the many years that it has been in use, that was really able to give me clear images that are still with me today.

    Then there is a passage where Jaxom is washing and oiling Ruth, there I can see the patch that is of concern in my mind even though it's been more than a few years since I last read it. I guess I need to reread more stuff that I've noticed good descriptions in so I can figure out how to craft such clear images using my own voice.

    EDIT: On a reread of this post I must say that some great cover art could be based on the image that Thundair was kind enough to show here, it's exactly the image that I was trying to point you guys at when I gave the Wikipedia reference.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2019
  19. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    Let's try this:

    Purrrow looked like some over-sized bipedal house-cat around the size and weight of an average fit human woman. She had front paws that were a cat version of hands. Her eyes were a bit large for her head, but her race had been nocturnal hunters.

    Is it still too much?
     
  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    You've kept some redundancy, eliminated some information that was more valuable than the redundancy, and stripped all the entertainment.

    Really, it probably just makes sense to go on with the book. When you come back to this, it will probably come more easily.

    I'm doing a rewrite anyway:

    Purrrow looked like a bipedal leopard the size of a tall, lean woman. Big-eyed. Fierce. She had tufted ears and hands that looked like they might very well have claws. Children tended to shriek and run to pet her. Men tended to just...look.
     
  21. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Active Member

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    Purrrow. The noise a cat makes when it suddenly experiences pain. 'Purrrr…..owwwwww'.
     
  22. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    BTW, I meant to respond to this:

    I like that, and if she were going to meet modern or future humans I would wish to adapt something like that for my use, but she isn't coming to now or the future she is coming here, but in the 1400s, that's when she is living just a long way from earth. I could see someone with exotic tastes getting like Joe over her as I envision her.
     
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  23. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    Hey Mav!

    It's a purr that turns into a meow and usually raises in pitch at the end giving it a sound like a question. It's just a sound that I like when a cat makes it, I had a cat that would rise on its hind legs almost as much as the margay in the photo and make the sound while trying to see if I had any bread on the kitchen counter.

    [​IMG]
     
  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Hmm. In that case I think you again have a POV issue, in referring to humans. I assumed that humans were in the story.
     
  25. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Member

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    Again, what I said in that post was for people in these forums to read, not for the final reader to see.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2019

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