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How to Describe Non-Human Races

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Griffin, Mar 11, 2012.

  1. Griffin

    Griffin Minstrel

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    In my fantasy world, humans do not exist and have never existed.

    So, how does one describe another race? For example, I have a race called the Thundra. They are essentially gorillas with elephant tusks (because that's what gorillas need.) However, I can't compare their looks to that of a primate because primates don't exist! Every race and animal does not come from the real world. Everything is made up from the people to the color of the sky (it's purple, by the way.)

    I think by making everything my own, I have made it harder for me to explain what everything looks like.

    Does anyone have any advice? It is challenging, but fun. The laws of language will have to be ignored. I will have to use comparisons like "wolfish grin" or "built like a tank." I want the audience to know what I am talking about. But when I describe the Thundra, I don't want to say "gorillas with elephant tusks." That's cheap and, to me, robs potential imagination.

    What do you guys think?
     
  2. BeigePalladin

    BeigePalladin Sage

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    well, the first thing I'll say is your writing for humans, not Thundra, so use human description and the like, as it's the only way you'll actually get desriptions across with any form of eloquence. The characters, in their speech, would of course use in-universe comparisons, but in general narration it'll be much kinder on your readers; remeber, if your the only one who can understand something that is meant to be understood, your the only person who can enjoy it - everyone else will be scratching their heads wondering what the heck your on about :p

    as for describing them, describe them like you would a gorrilla with elephant tusks to someone who dosen't know what a gorilla/elephant is. They may not get the exact same idea as you, but they'll understand (and if you don't use the words goriila or elephant, chances are people will imagine them as something that has the same elements as both, but as a different creature)

    exampligratas:

    Silverback stepped out of the darkness of the canopy and into the noonday light, his broad knuckles leaving deep imprints in the rain-soaked ground as he walked. The light reflected off his deep silver pelt - his namesake and the mark of his destiny - as he shielded his broad, noble head with one arm. Finnaly able to see once more, the young Thundra noted his two long, curved tusks had been covered in all manner of discared grime and foliage; an irritant, he could not let anyone see him in such a state

    of course, done with more time so it sounds a little better :p

    hope this helps
     
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  3. Griffin

    Griffin Minstrel

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    It does, thank you! I already know that I have to use human language. No one would know what I am talking about.

    But I do see where you're going with the description. Helps me a lot.
     
  4. gerald.parson

    gerald.parson Troubadour

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    Elephant tusks or Walrus tusks? I know you said elephant, but I am having a hard time picturing that in my head, the anatomy just doesn't seem to work for me. Not saying its bad, many things escape me until I see them with my eyes. Anyway, if a thundra is a gorilla (with tusks) then how would you describe a gorilla?
    I am also kinda confused as to why you will use tanks to describe things but not any form of ape... I very well might be missing something, so please feel free to shed light upon my confusion.
     
  5. Griffin

    Griffin Minstrel

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    I will most likely NOT use that comparison. It was an example. I cannot avoid all human language or lingo. I will use a comparison more to a tree trunk or a boulder. Something more neutral based.

    As for the actual creature, their heads are wider and their legs are slightly thicker for weight support.
     
  6. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

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    It's tempting to make a comparison, isn't it?

    As someone above suggested, if you can describe a regular, Earth gorilla without using any monkey words, then you should be able to describe a fantasy!gorilla without using 'primate' or anything. Is the dominant species of your world still man, or some derivation (elf, dwarf, etc.)? If so, remember that primates in general look a lot like humans. Hairier, and in a gorilla's case, bulkier. But they have human-like expressions, the same basic structures (two arms, two legs), etc. Draw comparisons to the creatures that do exist in your world, particularly if any of them *do* have Earth equivalents.

    Also, certain imagery will connect the dots. Beige, above, used the "walking on their knuckles" bit in his(?) description. That alone will convey "gorilla" to a lot of people. Elephants might not exist in your world, but if you want to convey that the tusks are elephantine, use words you'd associate with an elephant. Ivory would be the obvious one. You might not be able to say a word, but you can play off real world connotations.
     
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