The teaser for this week’s blog asked: What if your hero needs a dog?
For a writer of Star Wars novels, this is a legitimate concern: I might find myself writing something about Dash Rendar having a dog as a childhood pet only to remember that there may be no dogs, as such, in the GFFA.
The need for such things as pets, predators, wildlife and beasts of burden persists, so what’s a writer to do? While the Star Wars Universe is full of such things as banthas, tauntauns and mynocks, and while my characters may make reference to such creatures, I can’t just plop a tauntaun or a mynock down in the middle of Mos Eisley because these species are not native to Tatooine. Ah, but dogs, cats and goldfish are Earth species that may or may not exist in the Star Wars Universe. And I have learned that even among experts, there is disagreement about which species are present in the EU. I used the world “sheepish”, for example, to describe a character’s reaction to something and my editor asked, “Are there sheep in the GFFA?” I consulted the runes (i.e., the Handy Dandy Star Wars Encyclopedia) and heaved a sigh of relief. Sheep are cool.
(So are fezzes and bow-ties, but that’s a different Universe altogether.)
Still, there are ecological niches to fill, so when I need a creature, either to reference or write into the story, my approach is twofold.
I check to make sure that something doesn’t already exist. For example, I needed Dash to make a reference to a predatory bird that might be familiar to him on Corellia. So, I went online and looked up information on animals in Star Wars fiction. Wookieepedia offers a nice list with references. I found a perfect candidate and was able to determine that it came from approved Star Wars properties (in fact, I found it was invented for the role-playing source book Threats of the Galaxy and was mentioned in Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter by my personal Jedi Master, Michael Reaves).
If nothing exists, I make it up. Now, I might get away with just calling something a Corellian Cat, but I’d rather not. That’s just plain lazy. It’s nice to be more artful, if I can. If I call something a Spotted Vral Kit, you’d get the idea, right?
Now, this is not to say that the basic animal types—avian, canine, feline—can’t exist in a Star Wars novel. There are going to be furred and flying critters on any planet that’s evolved complex life, most likely—and, heck, this is science fiction set in a galaxy long ago and far away. And those basic terms—or words close enough to be recognizable—are a very good shorthand way of getting the reader to picture the creature without having to describe it in boring detail.
I mean really, when I’m trying to convey that a certain spacecraft reminds Dash of a fleet, flying, feathered creature with a razor-sharp beak and a sinister aspect, do I really want to say all that, or would I rather write that the craft was: “…sleek as a dart. Its long, tapered hull ended in a deadly looking point that, slanting down from backswept stabilizer planes and a V-shaped forward viewport, reminded Dash of a Corellian banshee bird.”
See? Now you have some idea of what the bird AND the spacecraft look like. <wink>
Next time: Real Men Don’t Use Maps.
Also, I want to hear from you! What would YOU like to have me blog about? Doesn’t have to be Star Wars-related.