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techvixen dot moc's avatar

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I have an idea for a novella written from an animal's point of view, but am unsure as to the best way to go about writing it. The story will take place in a realistic setting, with real as opposed to fantasy animals.There will be human interaction in a part of the story, especially the beginning, but the events will then switch mostly to the wilderness. I need to find the best way to write this that would draw the reader in.

For example - should the characters be able to talk to each other or should I find a way to make them appealing and 'relateable' without speech? I think that having them actually talk would be better for the plot I have in mind, but then there is the issue of the reader kind of being drawn away from the 'realism' of the rest of the plot. Does anyone have any ideas on having animal characters speak to each other, yet to NOT have any relation to them acting or being human-like at all to the reader? Of course having the animals behave as animals is one thing - but are there any specific ways that you know of of writing from an animal's point of view, yet having them speak? Do you think it would be better for different species to NOT be able to understand each other or to be able to converse freely?

Thanks in advance.
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Well, I heard that in the Warriors series, which is told from the point of view of cats, they don't use human word like spoke, instead they use cat terminology, such as purred, and the cats can't understand other species. (Don't know about humans, though...) It may be rated for younger kids, but I think that reading a little might give you a good idea of how to tackle that problem. Theres also Guardians of Ga'hoole, an owl series. Dunno how they do 'conversations' in that series, but I'm guessing it's similar.
I think you have a good idea on your hands, and I also feel quite timid when aproaching new writing styles.

I was thinking maybe something like, speech without dialogue. I dont know how to explain it so i'll use an example.

The bear let out a bellowing roar, which frightened me at first. I arched my back hoping I would appear intimidating. As the bear reared up on its hind legs, I began a low rumbling growl, bearing my teeth.

Sort of explain what each action means to the animals.
You may also want to study animal behavours so as that you know what each action actually means.
For good examples, check out James Clement-Davies's books, Firebringer and The Sight. They're written, respectively, from deer and wolves' points of view.
I went through an animal phase. ^_^ Where I wrote a couple short stories all from animal point-of-views. But they talked. I've seen animal roleplays that don't use any dialog, and just convey things through the animal's action (don't know that I've ever done one myself though). But yeah, basically the only thing I can recommend is to really get to know the behavior of the animal you're writing about. That's important with or without dialog if you're going for realism.
Nobody has mentioned Watership Down yet?

One trick that really makes Watership Down click is its sense of vocabulary. Cars, for example (and tractors, really all motor vehicles) are hrududu, and dogs are rowf, because... well, that's how they sound, and that's how the rabbits relate to them. It's very easy to get carried away with this and fall into the "Call a Rabbit a Smeerp" phenomenon, but done carefully it can provide an interesting look into the way your animals think and perceive the world around them.

(( As an aside, in Watership Down, rabbits speak freely to each other in a lapine language, but inter-species talk happens in something called "hedgerow", which I think is a bit of a pidgin. That's one way to do it. ))
I picked up a book last year called I, Alien. The first story is told from a dog's point of view. Since he's an alien, he doesn't have a concept of how Earth is "supposed" to be. And he doesn't refer to himself as a dog. We have to figure that out for ourselves.
Sounds interesting using a creatures POV though I kinda do that anyway. Just do research into the creature before writing. Lean what spectrum of light they see and about hearing and such. That way when you write we can get a feeling of how they live. Especially sense of smell and what odors tell them.
I think it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to write a really realistic animal-point-of-view story.

The reason, is that animal thoughts are so much simpler that human thoughts, and they focus on other things than humans. They notice different things. They reason differently. The writing itself would either be too human-like, or be very difficult to read. Compare to writing a very small child. To me, it just doesn't... work out.

So to write this, you will have to introduce your animal characters to mr. Language. That already is a change in their nature. So it's up to you how far you want to go from their original nature. Are you willing to allow them to speak with words, so you can have them interact more? Are you willing to let them understand human speach, so they can understand what's going on around them? Consider that.
try reading some novels that are from animals' point of view and get ideas from those.
I would suggest while you write this to focus on the other senses, rather then sight. Most animals work primarily off of smell, sound, and touch.

Watership Down and Firebringer -- both mentioned above -- are excellent books to read to help you out. They both give their animial characters their own termonology for things, which is a great idea. I love both of those books dearly.

Having conversation with the animals would make it easier to read. Your characters may be animals, but your audiance is humans, and humans are used to communication through speech. It's also the fastest way to convey what is going on, so the readers don't get bored while you're trying to convey what their saying in a unique way.
techvixen dot moc's avatar

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Thanks a lot for all of your replies, I'll definitely check out all of your recommended books. I am almost finished reading a crime novella (few pages to go) and my next book is Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst, which is written from the point of view of wolves. My idea doesn't involve wolves itself, but it'll definitely give me some good insight into this type of writing.
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Sounds like Julie of the Wolves and those books...I really liked those. The author let them communicate very realistically, and it sounded good and was easy to read; i.e. didn't seem like filler content. I like those kinds of books, realistic about something that normally wouldn't seem too realistic.

But you should NOT let your animals talk like we do, if you're trying to make it realistic.

Another thing: be careful about letting one animal communicate with another animal (i.e. tiger and bird). They wouldn't communicate in the same way. It would be kind of like a person with perfectly good hearing trying to communicate with a deaf person, without knowing sign language. You might be able to get your point across, but again, you might give a gesture that could mean something completely different in the translation of it.
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I think someone mentioned it earlier, but you should check out the book The Sight by David Clement Davies. I've read it and its a great book from a wolf's point of view. Other than that, I'll have to say the writing as an animal wouldn't be a devastatingly hard to-do.
Have you ever seen or read Homeward Bound? If not google it and take a look. That might give you a place to start. Personally if I am going to read a book with Animals as the main characters I perfer that I understand what they are doing and saying.

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