Plot: What would happen if dinosaurs had continued to exist and evolve into more intelligent beings. The setting is at a Dinosaur Adventure Camp, a dinosaur themed summer camp in Canada, where Dr. Hillary Slayton lives with her teenage daughter Lauren. Dr Slayton’s husband mysteriously disappeared on a fossil expedition into the “Badlands” and her daughter has not been able to come to terms with his disappearance. Lauren becomes the first human to encounter one of the evolved dinosaurs.
Have I seen it: Yeah and it’s pretty good. I mean it’s not great but it’s a nice lazy Saturday watch at least it has a decent plot. It’s not just aimlessly telling a story.
What advice might you give someone trying to write dinosaurs as sentient characters?
Sentient actually means able to feel and perceive things - so I assume you mean sapient, which means highly intelligent (the ability to act with wisdom, I guess) :)
A lot of advice kind of hinges on what exactly you’re writing and where you would want to go with it, but I can give general advice
1) Do your research on dinosaurs. Understand that their intelligence, while higher than what was supposed back in the early 1900s and such, is still not as high as things like corvids and parrots. So do something to make them sapient - have their intelligence be messed with during genetic experiments, or have them be evolved forms of non-avian dinosaurs living today that evolved intelligence, or have them be hypothetical dinosaurs from the Mesozoic that were sapient, or change dinosaurs that did exist to make them sapient- but that really depends on what kind of story you’re writing and what you want to accomplish with it. If your story is serious, you have to make those sorts of changes - if you’re writing something silly, like Land Before Time, you really don’t have to make any changes at all. Also, if you’re being serious, try to figure which sorts of dinosaurs would be sapient - birds are most likely, but Eumaniraptorans in general were pretty smart, etc.
2) Change their morphology to correspond with this. Birds have larger brains than dinosaurs and cannot move their eyes in their sockets - they have to tilt their heads to see what they want to see. While this inability to move the eyes may have evolved before larger brains (re: in dinosaurs,) what is certain is that it was necessary for larger brains in birds, as it removed the muscles necessary for eye movement and gave it more space in the head (note: we don’t know if this evolved in dinosaurs; it could have co-evolved with greater intelligence in birds after the Cretaceous extinction.) You could bloat the head in other ways to allow for the musculature necessary for movable eyes, but it would look horrible. Also, keeping the eyes stationary makes the head move like a bird head - the neck moving constantly to give the eyes better vision, which is very distinctive, and drives home that these animals aren’t really like mammals or humans - providing more distinctive features.
Dinosaur skulls are not big enough for larger brains; you gotta change their head shape even if you’re just making extinct dino species smarter. You don’t HAVE to, of course, but this would make it more accurate. You could hollow out the dome of a Pachycephalosaur… but this has been done have you seen Dinosapien cause that show was amazing I don’t care if it was cheesy
3) High intelligence does not always correspond to similar behaviors; nor does low intelligence. Things like tool behavior and communication is not always consistent. Recognize that your sapient dinosaurs probably wouldn’t act exactly like humans - they’ll have different measures and expressions of intelligence and different ways of perceiving the world, as well as different ways of changing that world. You gotta think outside the box a little bit in terms of how they relate to others in their social groups - do they have social groups? Since they’re related to birds, probably - and how they organize those groups. Do they have civilizations? Economies? Systems of power? Do they conduct agriculture? Are they expansionists? Have they reached human levels of disregard for the ecological community or are they more in tune with their surroundings? How do they make decisions? Do they have a sense of right and wrong, and do they punish people for doing things wrong? Do they have religions? Philosophies? Are they curious about their surrounding world? Do they conduct something similar to science? Are they creative? It’s unlikely that they would perceive and think about the world like humans do - make them their own unique organism.
4) Try to not make your dinosaurs, if you’re making evolved-dinos, anthropomorphic. There is no reason why a sapient dinosaur needs to be shaped like a human. In fact, it’s very unlikely that they would be, since they’re already bipedal (well, a lot of them are,) and wouldn’t need to straighten their spines to become bipedal like we did. Keep in mind dinosaurs couldn’t pronate their hands - meaning they couldn’t have their palms facing their body (bunny hands). Keep that in mind when you discuss tool use in dinosaurs - you are constricted to how they were physically. True, dinosaurs could evolve pronation - but this gives you a unique opportunity to have different reactions to the challenges of sapience. For example, birds are very intelligent - corvids (crows and ravens) are the second smartest types of animals after humans. They use simple tools - with their beaks. Animals can respond to different challenges in life with different solutions. If you’re going to use extinct, described dinosaurs and just make them smarter, you really have to work within these confines.
I hope this helps! A lot of this depends on the kind of story you’re writing - but I am completely happy to help in any way you need!