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Old Jun 17 2009, 09:02 AM   #8
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Gender: F
Fan of: Harper Hall
Default Re: Accomodating Non-humans

Another way of describing your non-human is to have someone else react to it. I generally string the description out, or have my protagonist discover more about the alien as the action progresses. But then I get told that I haven't put in enough description.

Or else I describe something alien in reference to something normal: "bare feet were going to be more trouble than weird eyes," - especially when the characters concerned are being chased through the forest by giant lizards!

A little later, my protagonist gets confused by the alien's dietary preferences:
" David couldn't work it out. The kid didn't like salty or savoury, that was clear. The expensive Ambrosia jellies had long since run out. He ate the sweet berries and refused the sweet drink. David offered a chocolate bar. The kid nibbled on it, though he didn't show the enthusiasm he'd shown for the sweet berries."

If the readers had been paying attention earlier when I'd described the Ambrosia sweets as pure natural sugars, they'd have worked out the problem before my protagonist did. The kid is an Endrian Flamelord, and they can't digest artificial sugars. David just thinks he's fussy.


"The speaker was wearing a floor-length ripple-velvet gown in rich reds and golds that matched the fire-ginger of his beard and the hair that made a curling halo around his face. He also had horns.

"FlameDancer, Endrian Satyr, I am," ...

FlameDancer was one of very few who had the courtesy to introduce himself. The next alien got introduced tail-first.

"Something very strange caught the corner of his eye. He had to look straight at it to make sure he wasn't hallucinating. The tip of a long black tail, the fur on it standing on end. He watched the hairs prick, from smooth to upright, starting from the tail-tip. The tail belonged to a very large female Saarian, a Felinoid, this one had to be a Policewoman. She was wearing chest-harness and pistols holstered at her hips - or what would have been her hips if she had been Human-shaped instead of cat-shaped.

"Get the hell out of here, Rala," Commander Adral said.

As for where my aliens come from, they generally arrive in my imagination fully formed. I was better at making them when I was living with my son and we could bounce ideas around. We both stole each other's characters too. At the moment I'm living with my 83 year old mother, and she can't see the point of fantasy writing, so there's little inspiration for me to do it.

I also use sketches, character-sheets, and something that I call "Vinesh's Guide" which has notes about my character's backgrounds, lists of all the different racial characteristics, religions, telepathic and genetic ratings, preferred intoxicants and hallucogenics (my son's idea) diets, space-fleets, some of their marriage and living habits, ecological details of different planets and anything else that I can think of.

I tried Pern fan-fiction as a writing exercise, but it wasn't all that successful. It was much harder to write in someone else's universe than I expected. I think it got up to about episode 16 before I lost interest in it. There is still a chance that it might get revived.
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