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Apr 16 2016

#atozchallenge N is Novelsmithing #WriteTip Animal Characteristics to Describe People @SheppardDavid

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N is for “Novelsmithing”
Book: Novelsmithing, The Structural Foundation of Plot, Character, and Narration by David Sheppard
@SheppardDavid
My dice roll: 1646 (ebook location out of 2581)
Lesson: Use characteristics of animals to describe a character.

Capture the physical and emotional essence of a person using animal characteristics. An example from James Salter’s Light Years is provided.

I rewrote the example using Xavier from my Existence books.

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Xavier is dressed in his tuxedo, having as few predators as an orca, his short hair spiked, the Irish flames crackling. His real concern is keeping life on Earth flowing: preventing wars that eliminate millions of humans, keeping the world habitable, ensuring the safety of plants and animals. The rest is a bonus; it’s part of the disguise. He has a smile that distracts thoughts, one people become so addicted to that they’ll break out of their shells to earn a glance at it. Benches twice his weight, teeth that gleam. He hides his truth in extravagance. He orders the latest cars, only those in limited supply, collecting them to blend in by standing out. He is twenty-four. His dream, one in particular, drowns him, suctioning him to a past he can’t remember— a giant pacific octopus in the abyss of slumber. He lives like a tortoise. As friendly as a manatee. His true purpose is concealed to outsiders like an oyster’s pearl.

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This certainly isn’t my usual “voice,” but the lesson was interesting.

What do you think of the description? Has anyone ever described you using animal characteristics? Which animal characteristics might you use to describe Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, or Jimmy Fallon?

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8 comments

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  1. C. Lee McKenzie

    Using animal comparisons can be fun and a great way to characterize. Love the word “novelsmithing.”
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    1. J Lenni Dorner

      Yup. That and the great price of zero is what got me to acquire this book.
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  2. Rowena

    I hope no one has described me as smelling like my younger dog, Lady this week. One night she trotted into the house after rolling in a very dead animal and required an immediate shower. She hasn’t had a shower before and definitely noticed the difference to standing out in the rain and wasn’t happy. Later in the week she rolled in dead shark at the beach. She does a good job with these rolls too, Gets the stench right into the follicles!
    So hopefully the dog isn’t smelling like her owner, although my son’s feet could be contenders some afternoons!
    Must keep this idea in mind and thanks for sharing!
    xx Rowena

    1. J Lenni Dorner

      Ha ha. Great story! I’d think rolling on a dead shark would hurt. Good luck with your pup!
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  3. Diane Coto

    Hmmm. I’ve seen comparisons of people to animals done before, but I’m afraid I’m not very good at it. I’m completely drawing a blank for Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, or Jimmy Fallon. 🙂
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal – Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews
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  4. Yvonne V

    This seems like an interesting exercise. Thanks for sharing.

    Yvonne V
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  5. Sudha

    Seems like an interesting book and exercise. Thanks for sharing!
    Sudha from
    Everyday Muse
    Sudha has this post to share AtoZChallenge: N is for NaughtyMy Profile

  6. Melissa Sugar

    The lesson was interesting and amusing. I can see how using one perfect animal description could take the place of paragraphs of unnecessary and needless descriptive words and would do a better job of allowing the reader to get a glimpse of your character. Your examples are perfect. I had an image of each character in my head. Excellent job.

    Melissa Sugar @
    Melissa Sugar Writes
    Melissa Sugar has this post to share Othello Syndrome: Morbid or Delusional JealousyMy Profile
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