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Following on from last week’s post, here is the second half of my animal A-Z, again with thanks to my niece Jasmin.  This selection of animals was a little more challenging because I had to google so many (I should learn more about animals, I guess!) but I’ve chosen the most pragmatic characteristics for this post!

N=Nurse Shark – lives in tropical and subtropical waters; puckered appearance; nocturnal, solitary, smooth

O=Octopus – keen eyesight, intelligent, flexible, venomous, defensive,

P=Puma (cougar) – predatory, solitary, slender, agile, secretive

Q=Queen Bee – Reproductive, dominant, aggressive; has many attendants; can ‘sing’.

R=Rat – Friendly, altruistic to other rats; aggressive, adaptable, keen sense of smell.

S=Snake (Jasmin suggested Saw Shark, but I decided not to use two sharks) – forked tongue, smooth, sensitive, undulating, symbolic

T=Thorny Devil – spiky, deceptive, shaky, slow, two-faced (technically, it has a false second head but unless I’m writing about Zaphod Beeblebrox, that won’t really help me…!)

U=Ungulate (as this is a varied group, I’ve opted for tapir as one of the many ungulate families) – splayed feet, large noses, brown eyes, thick-skinned, vegetarian

V=Vixen – red-haired, adaptable, opportunistic, wary, good hearing

W=Whale – warm-blooded, strong mother-child bonds, grieve at loss, melodic, long-living

X=X-Ray fish – small, live in groups, peaceful, tolerant, hardy

Y=Yak – bulky, sturdy, friendly, long-haired, fresh-smelling

Z=Zebra – striped, wild, vigorous, excellent eyesight, communicative

Once again, I wanted to share some basic examples:

Woman based on a whale – ‘She was sitting on the edge of the bench when I first saw her: a tired, ancient lady, arthritic fingers clawing at her purse as though digging through the leather.  She wanted to show me the picture, she said.  The picture of her and her children, long before the world had separated them.  She was convinced they were still alive, somewhere.  She said she could feel it as clearly as she felt the beat of her heart.  I wanted to put my arms around her and give her comfort, but instead I nodded the meaningless nod of the professional record-keeper.  She patted my hand with her bent fingers, and sang me the lullaby that she had sung, once, to the children that she’d lost.  The sound seemed to reverberate along my soul.’

Man based on a tapir – ‘Billy was one of those men that never quite knew what was going on.  He was ungainly, over-sized, with a long nose crooked from an accident in his teens and brown eyes that didn’t shine so much as water.  He was a friendly fellow, but not too clever – the boys would shout taunts as he passed, but the barbed comments slid off him like butter from a warm knife.  He was a kindly, thoughtful sort too: so soft-hearted he refused kill a creature he had raised.  Instead, he lived on a diet of breads, and vegetables, and the occasional egg.  He had no family, but the women of the village all took turns to make sure his house was clean and his clothes were laundered: the women respected his warmth as much as the men mocked his weakness.’

I hope you’ve like the animal magic posts; they’ve worked well for me so the A-Z theme is one I may return to again, either for characters or settings.  If you haven’t tried this version, give it a go one day – within ten minutes you’ll probably have a character jumping off the page towards you, and a story will be following in their wake!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Before I went on retreat, I set my 11 year old niece, Jasmin, a challenge to come up with an animal A-Z for one of my blog posts.  I am clearly in an A-Z mood for some reason – and I’m going to go with the flow 🙂

Jasmin did a brilliant job and within a week, I had a list  all ready for me to write about!

I decided that the best way to use it was to think of something related to each animal – habitat, colour or behaviour for example – and relate those characteristics to a human character.  This gives me a basic resource to use when I’m searching for a description, or if I want to do some general exercises on introducing new protagonists.

I’ll give a couple of basic examples at the end of the post – as the post was getting very long, I’ve split it into two, so I’ll cover A-M this week and N-Z next week.

This is a new technique for me, but I actually found it quite interesting and fun, and a couple of really distinct creations popped out of it which I’d like to use somewhere in the future.

A=Ant – scurrying, strong, orderly, teamworkers, hierarchical

B=Badger – nocturnal, strong, loping runners, diggers, striped ‘hair’

C=Cat – feline, independent, prowlers, flexible, sacred

D=Dog – loyal, loving, energetic, intelligent, inquisitive

E=Elephant – good memory, territorial, thick-skinned, self-aware, empathetic

F=Frog – metamorphosing, swimmers, croaks, defensive, benign

G=Goat – strong-smelling, greedy, curious, intelligent (it’s true!!), hairy

H=Horse – sleek, balanced, responsive, energetic, sensitive

I=Iguana – excellent eyesight, calm, agile, demanding, colourful

J=Jackal – opportunistic, sly, aggressive, vocal, monogamous

K=Kangaroo – strong, sociable, wild, maternal, swimmers

L=Lion – mane of hair; live in savannas; tall, tactile, socialised

M=Monkey – quick-witted, mischievous, matrilineal, intelligent, arboreal.

So that’s the first list.  Some things you can see would work for a character really well.  Some are a bit more challenging but with some thought and a bit of flexibility they might be exciting and unexpected personality traits…

Here are a couple of examples using some more random mixes:

A female based on a lion: ‘She lived on the edge of life, in the crease between civilisation and the untamed savanna.  Her hair was wild and free in the dusty breeze; it was an outward emblem of the soul within.  She sat with her friends, stroking the glass of wine like a favourite pet, and smiled a fierce smile.  What would they think if they knew the person she had once been, the person she had left in London with her old belongings?’

A man based on a badger.  ‘One day, he knew, he would find what he was looking for.  As he swept his silvering hair back from his face, he surveyed the site in the soft pinkness of the sunrise.  Another night wasted, another risk taken; but one day the dawn would break over him as he drew the Armour of Achilles from its forgotten tomb under the dusty earth.  One day, he would be as revered as a God among men.’

So there you go – animals making characters.  It doesn’t have to resemble Animal Farm!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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