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Measuring time

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In my current WIP, a fantasy where the characters are animals, many of my critique partners have mentioned they dislike my use of the words sun and moon; they want the animals to have their own words for these things. My main problem with this is that the age of my characters is vital to the story; I must show them getting older and I need a way to represent their growth without using human measures of time, like month or year. How do I convey that a creature is say, three months old without creating a clunky string of words?
#1 - June 26, 2010, 09:01 AM
« Last Edit: June 26, 2010, 09:06 AM by Vonna »
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Hmm. The book is in English, not Wolverine, right? You must be using human words for other things, too... I'd be wondering if their feedback is really based on something else. Because animals are much more keyed to sunrise and sunset than we are. And neither a month nor a year is exclusively human -- months are very closely tied to moon change, and years are seasonal sun cycles.

That said, random other ideas:

It seems to me that you create an animal-perspective word for those things... Glimmer or Glow or Skybright or whatever...

And/or, for longer periods than the diurnal cycle, perhaps that WOULD vary by animal, since their maturity timeframes would be so different. So use of seasons... somebody is "fur-change" old or "hunting alone" old or whatever... or else base it all off the seasons, e.g., by the time the leaves fell, by the time the grass browned, whatever...?

Good luck!
#2 - June 26, 2010, 09:08 AM
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I like Joni's suggestions. Instead of using sun you could call it a day star and give it a name. The moon could be a midnight light or something to that effect. Lame examples, but you get my drift...
#3 - June 26, 2010, 10:04 AM
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Thanks Joni and Aimee. I think I've got a handle on names for the celestial bodies, but the age progression is going to take a bit of finessing. I'll get there eventually.
#4 - June 26, 2010, 10:42 AM
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Ah, the age progression. Does this world have seasons?
#5 - June 26, 2010, 10:50 AM
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Yes, there are seasons, and each season has major events, so that is definitely one way of noting the passing of time.
#6 - June 26, 2010, 11:19 AM
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I'm sure you've already read Watership Down, but I just wanted to say, I've been re-reading it recently, and been shocked at how good the world building is.  There's words for everything, even a few footnotes, but it all makes sense and holds together.  It might be a good book to look at to see how someone else covers time passing, among other things, from animals' points of view.
#7 - June 28, 2010, 06:17 AM
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Ah, yes, I loved Watership Down. I've pulled out a several recent animal fantasies: Silverwing, The Warriors, Wolf Brother, Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Wolves of the Beyond and Wild Blue, and after lots of study, I have come to the conclusion that sun, moon, and sun/moon passing of time is typical. The only exception was Wolf Brother, but I think Michelle Paver had very good reasons for using more convoluted ways of expressing these things. She had only one important animal character, Wolf, and she used this technique to differentiate his voice from her human characters. I love it, and it is totally charming for one character, but I think it would get too confusing and would bog down the story if all the characters talked this way.
#8 - June 28, 2010, 11:09 AM
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I'd like to add FireBringer to that selection of animal books. I remember it having specific times of the year being called different things. (fighting time, antler time, something like that.) It was important to the story, though. Hope this helped! :)
#9 - November 20, 2010, 11:59 PM

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I don't have much to add because Joni and others have already given excellent advice, but I could help adding a note to say I am excited someone is working on an animal story. Good luck with it! Those have always been some of my favorites (Watership Down, Cricket in Times Square, Mrs Frisby & the Rats of NIMH).

I just took a look at my copies of Cricket in Times Square and Secret of NIMH and both actually use human/English months and times (based on re-reading the first few pages of each).
#10 - November 21, 2010, 03:37 AM
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The only exception was Wolf Brother, but I think Michelle Paver had very good reasons for using more convoluted ways of expressing these things. She had only one important animal character, Wolf, and she used this technique to differentiate his voice from her human characters. I love it, and it is totally charming for one character, but I think it would get too confusing and would bog down the story if all the characters talked this way.

For an absolutely *astounding* use of an animal POV in a fantasy, you have to read Peter S. Beagle's THE INNKEEPER'S SONG. It's told in multiple first person POVs, one of which is a fox, and that fox's voice is stunning. (Can't recall whether there's anything applicable to this thread's topic, but I wanted to throw in the recommendation, all the same!)
#11 - November 23, 2010, 05:15 PM

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