As I’ve been editing stories in the furry fandom, I’ve noticed something, something that took my non-fur husband to point out for me to realize was actually a problem. He said to me, “I feel like I need a degree in Zoology to read some of these stories”, and I realized he was right. I’ve noticed several authors that try to push super subtle hints on non-common species/genus characters that the average reader (and especially those outside of the furry fandom) have never heard of before. Take one example:
When I was editing the FWG anthology, two stories used a “skink” in their stories. I had no idea what one was, but at least, since the species had been mentioned, I could look it up. It turns out that the other two judges had heard of/seen a skink before, but it’s something that doesn’t really exist in my area, and thus I’d never heard of it. This isn’t a problem, as long as the species is mentioned along with your usage of their traits to incorporate them.
In contrast, both a novel I’ve been working on recently and a short story I am currently working on have not mentioned the species more than once, if at all, in their story. They’ve used the story well to get the idea of what the character should be like, but I go through the story continually asking what the heck it is. One story in particular, I’ve asked the author what it was, was told, and still had no idea what it was. Time has passed and once again I find myself asking what the character is supposed to be.
While it’s unavoidable that different species/genus of animal will exist in some areas and not others, and some will/won’t know what the species is, what would you feel is a good way to mention that species without bashing the reader over the head with it?
Feel free to use this thread for other discussion of character species choice as well, though the above (and a recent Coffeehouse Chat discussion) is what prompted the thread.