Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Character Species and You

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.

Instead of “he said” / “she said”, I rather like using “The (species) said”, for some stories. Or have it be a casual point of discussion between characters, now and then, just tidbits of the daily life in conversation, like: “Hey Burt. How’s the hooves today? Wife still working that dairy contract?” etc.

My belief is that the species of a character – if not human, because human is default for human readers – should be established very quickly when a character is introduced. Ideally in the first line or paragraph. Almost certainly on the first page.

I agree with this. However, there’s also the problem that stories will mention that species in the beginning of the story, but then never mention it again. I can’t tell you how many times I, and other readers, have had to look back to the beginning of a story to remember what species the main character was.

This seems to be the most common route, but in a way that most seem to either love it or hate it. Even on this forums there are a lot of people that really hate stories that do this.

I tend to use the species as another option for a pronoun as well. So long as it’s not done every single time you would normally use he/she/shi, thus avoiding over-use, it’s a good little reminder and adds options for my own little problem of over-using he/she/shi.

Ever hear the story of “the Miller, His Son and Their Ass?”