Oct. 13th, 2009 07:35 am
guardian_of_hope: Take a breath, it gets better (Rose)
[personal profile] guardian_of_hope posting in [community profile] writers
People say to write what you know, but I've also heard that in fantasy, anything is possible.

So here's the background, in my story there are talking animals, they're created by the God and Goddess who look after that particular land, mostly just to appear wise and occasionaly offer useful advice. If I wrote what I know, there would only be dogs, cats and horses, but if I took the 'anything is possible' route, there are a variety of wild animals that I could find useful that I know little about beyond species and random facts.

Here's the question: In the 'anything is possible' version, should I take the time to research things like, say, common illnesses in birds of prey, and make the animals be close to their mortal brethern, or should I just assume that since they were created by the God and Goddess for the purpose of being sort of guides to humans such things are not a concern?

I'm not saying the animals are immortal, but they do have an extended life time, roughly from the time their human partners are thirteen until said partner dies. And they can be killed; like shot down by arrows or stabbed.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-13 01:12 pm (UTC)
ilthit: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ilthit
Well, if you don't, you'll probably lose vets and other people who work with those animals as readers. I don't think it would necessarily come up a lot, but little touches that show you understand the animal would, I think, only improve the story. An example of that would be Matthew, the talking raven who used to be a man, in the Sandman graphic novel series. He has raven-like instincts like going for eyeballs in things that have been dead for a while, but also remembers his life as a mortal man, talks like somebody you might know, etc. To appreciate these guide animals as characters, I think it would be useful to look into what behavioral patterns or biological needs or weaknesses come packaged with the shape they're in, to add some realism into your fantastical characters.

As for disease specifically, being able to communicate, I would expect that even if they are susceptible to the same diseases as ordinary animals, they'd be able to seek cures, avoid infected animals; know about the importance of hygiene etc (although this might be on occasion overrun by other concerns such as communication through scent).

(This is actually pretty relevant to me now as I'm writing a what-if story about a certain animal species going down a different branch of evolution...)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-13 09:10 pm (UTC)
sweet_sparrow: Miaka (Fushigi Yûgi) looking very happy. (Work)
From: [personal profile] sweet_sparrow
Thing is "Write what you know" means something a lot closer to "Know what you're writing". (Sorry. Pet peeve. I know it's a staple saying, but that doesn't make it any less faulty/misleading/ambiguous/whathaveyou.)

No matter what route you decide to take there will always be a physical aspect you need to look into. A sparrow, for example, won't be able to fly backwards. Its body isn't built for it. Since these messengers/guides/partners will be restricted to a physical body, they'll have the restrictions of those bodies. I don't really see a way around that.

While I think delving into all sorts of illnesses might be a little overkill, knowing whether they can get sick will, as [personal profile] ilthit points out have a big impact on their behaviour regarding sickness and the whole of society. It's the more general questions that really need answering: do they get hunted? (By what/Why not?) Do they need to eat? (What/Why not?) Do they mate? Those questions might not come up so much in the actual story, but, again as [personal profile] ilthit points out, they add touches of realism. More than that, they'll help the reader suspend disbelief for your animal characters and world. You don't need to know enough to survive a Mastermind specialist subject round, only enough to make the animal partners believable. Whether that's looking up the diet of a hummingbird or saying that, because they're divine in origin, they don't need food is up to you/your story. As long as you know the answers and can include them when/wherever they fit.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-19 05:02 am (UTC)
anthimeria: Open book, says "sometimes you reach what's realest by making believe" (Books)
From: [personal profile] anthimeria
. . . should I just assume that since they were created by the God and Goddess for the purpose of being sort of guides to humans such things are not a concern

My only concern with the above is that characters with few weaknesses have little conflict or want, and desire is what drives stories. Don't be afraid to make things hard for your characters.

I agree with hyel and shanra--and add this: once you've made up the rules, you then have to stick to them. If you say they can't get sick, then the raven can't come down with West Nile. Fantasy readers are totally willing to go wherever you lead, if only you don't pull the rug out from under them.


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