Do you have any tips on writing characters with a tail?
TIPS ON HOW TO WRITE CHARACTERS WITH TAILS (FOR BOTH FANFIC WRITERS AND ORIGINAL CONTENT WRITERS)
1. Only make a tail if it’s strictly necessary (your character’s tail has to serve a purpose)
Unlike what you may think, tails are very, very tricky to write about if you’re putting them on humans, which I assume is what @dollyjean911 is asking about. There’s something about them that makes it incredibly difficult to describe them without making it seem silly. (Unless your character is a mermaid / has a tail that’s used for swimming; in that case, it’s reasonable, which is exactly what you want- for it to be reasonable).
If your fantasy species/character has a tail, make sure that it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, because otherwise you risk your readers finding it ridiculous, especially if the tail is just used for comic relief like annoying other characters (I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take out the tail if it’s used for comic relief, I’m just saying if that’s the only thing that the tail does, you might want to reconsider giving your character one).
Things that your character’s tail can be used for:
It’s relevant to the creature that your character is (aka a dragon or something)
2. Know That There Are Many Kinds Of Tails and They All Serve a Different Purpose
We seem to be one of the few animals that lack a tail. All animals have it, and therefore that means there are plenty of kinds of tails for you to choose from, both real and imaginary. Here’s a list:
Bovine (Cow / Ox / Wildebeest / etc.)
Canine (Wolf / Dog / Dingo / etc.)
Cervine (Deer / Elk / Caribou / etc.)
Equine (Horse / Pony)
Feline (Housecat / Tiger / Lion / etc.)
Rat / Mouse
Reptilian (Dragon / Iguana / etc.)
Plus many more!
3. Unless it’s Magic, Your Character’s Tail Has Limits; DO RESEARCH
Unless specified, your character’s tail can’t do loop-de-loops and stretch to crazy lengths or whatnot.
Some tails are powerful and muscular, capable of doing some hefty destruction (aka Reptilian and Mermaid) and others are dainty and delicate, more of a nuisance in battle than an actual weapon (Feline).
Like I said, tails have different jobs, and if you have a dog tail doing a monkey tail’s job, you’re gonna have some serious backlash from the readers, who will either critique harshly or simply stop reading altogether, and that’s the LAST thing you want.
If after this you don’t heed my warning and DO YOUR RESEARCH PLEASE!, I can guarantee that your readers will not be a fan of your character’s tail, even if you think you know everything there is to know about it.
3. Unless It’s a Mermaid, the Tail Shouldn’t Be the Only Trait That Your Character Has If They’re a Part of a Fictional Species
“Oh yeah, I’m a dragon but the only thing I have is this tail.”
“Yeah, just like your home with your family in it rn.”
If you’re writing about a fictional species, as a reader I am begging you not to just put the tail as a defining feature. Otherwise, your creature is gonna feel pretty lame.
Add horns and/ or wings! (See my incredibly popular post about writing characters with wings here)
Perhaps maybe scales on the backs of the hands/ cheekbones / down the spine!
Add fangs or fur in various places!
What about various fur patterns like stripes or spots on parts of the body?
(See my popular post about shape-shifters here)
How about fur on parts of the body like with the werewolf?
And so on. It’s not necessary, but it’s recommended if your character with a tail is a part of a species, just to spice it up a bit!
4. Please Be Professional
This is just for the people writing professionally, as well as for people who want to write serious fanfiction.
Like I said, tails are risky business. One wrong move and your story can seem like a nine-year-old’s first furry yaoi fanfic, and unless that’s what you’re going for, I suggest you listen to what I’m about to tell you:
!!!!!****SHOW, DO NOT TELL*****!!!!!
Yes, I know you hear this all the time;
The writing advice community shoves it in your face whenever they possibly can, but with tails, this is a necessity. It will make or break your novel/fic/story/etc.
“Her cat tail fluffed up in surprise”
The above sentence should not exist.
I don’t mean to be harsh, and you may feel bad if you’ve written like this (I admit I’ve written like this myself!), but that sentence sounds very unprofessional, and many readers will close the tab/ the book as soon as they read it.
You need to introduce your character’s tail by means of describing it. Unlike with wings, you can’t just say “cat tail” and be done with it. It doesn’t sound like professional work, which is what you probably want to write.
This is COMPLETELY a matter of opinion, and I’m just saying what I as a reader and a writer believe. Some people have different tastes, and that’s ok!
Here’s how you should introduce your character’s tail:
“Her cat tail fluffed up in surprise.”
It could be:
“Her eyes widened, and he caught a glimpse of movement behind her. Fearing it was one of those creatures from before, his hand flew to his gun, only to find a/n [adjective] tail curling around her leg.”
I know that writing is subjective, but doesn’t that second description sound a whole lot better?
I don’t know about you, but in my opinion I’d rather be presenting my readers with the second description than with the first.
(Granted, I did add a few details, but that’s what has to be the case. Besides, it boosts your word count!)
5. Do Not Ignore Your Character’s Tails!
(Honestly I’m just copying and pasting parts of this section from my wing post because it’s the exact same thing and just as important)
Tails are a 100% real, 24/7 thing! It’s bothersome when writers mention
the tail in one chapter and then only bring it up for comic relief or to knock something over and block the bad guys! Most of the time, I forget
that the characters even have a tail at all!
Here are some pros of having a tail (these are also things you can use for description)
Bludgeon enemies (if they’re bulky)
Use for swimming (mermaid tails)
Knocking things over to block enemies
Cause general havoc (pranks)
There is also the fact
that tails have many cons, even more so then they have pros!
They knock things over
They can get stepped on
They can get grabbed in battle
Unless they’re bulky or can grab things like monkey tails, they are useless against enemies
They can get caught in things
They can annoy other characters
Your character’s tail is an extra appendage; it’s a part of your character! You don’t have to spend every second
reminding the readers that it’s there, but don’t go long stretches of
time without even mentioning it.
6. Tails Can Convey Emotions, Too!
When cats are angry, their tails lash back and forth.
When dogs are happy, their tails wag.
When cats are surprised, their tails fluff up.
Like with the showing and not telling, this tip can boost your word count 100000% and can pack that little extra punch to make your readers more enthusiastic about your writing.
Here are some things your character’s tails can do:
Curl around character’s leg
Tuck between the legs
Lash back and forth
Knock people’s feet out from under them
Bludgeon (it probably won’t will but it sure will leave a hell of a bruise if the tail is muscular enough)
There are more, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.
Last friday we had an Art Jam at Syn Studio. We were split into teams and given a topic to create a series of concept sketches in a four-hour period. The topic I got was “The Fascinated Pigeons with Dark Souls”. DARK SOULSSSSS!!! Anyway, we brainstormed a fantasy civilization whose entire technology and livelihood revolved around birds, inspired by the ancient practice of augury. I was in charge of doodling the NPCs to help give shape to our universe a little.
In order of sketches we have: A mailman, a weather reader, a midwife, and an ancient golem. Then again in a separate sheet to show size comparison for good measure (pun intended). I have better descriptions of each character in my head, I’ll be sure to share those, I’d love to share a little bit of what I was able to brainstorm with my team. I’m quite proud of our results!
The sketches I presented last friday were a complete disasterfuck so I have spent yesterday and today cleaning them up to the result you see now. :) Now I have to paint them. UGHHHH, why’d I do 4 characters ;w;
I was thinking maybe streaming the process a little. I’ll probz fix myself dinner and hop right on that. I kinda want to start the Yhorm Tarot Card too. What a great day to stay home doing art :3