It’s Kind of Hard to Explain…

Most people like to have questions answered in a way that is short and to the point without being terse.  Even when they are seeking complex information, the briefer you can make it, the happier they will be.

Last night I experienced the positive side of this.  I needed to know how to return a DVD from Amazon.com that was scratched.  The website had a very straightforward, bullet-pointed process that was easy to understand.

Unfortunately, there are some concepts that can’t be explained as succinctly, particularly in writing.

I brought some genetics into Dragon, because it was necessary to explain how a human woman could give birth to a dragon.  In order to make the concept understandable, I had a character explain and demonstrate with biscuits.  I think it turned out pretty clear, but it took 325 words.

I’m experiencing the same problem tonight, from the questioner side.  The football announcers keep mentioning this “read option” and assuming I know what that means.  I don’t.  So I took to the internet to find the answer.  It turns out that football concepts are hard to describe succinctly or even clearly, at least with text.  (I have a feeling that many sports concepts are better explained with a visual example.)  I finally did find an explanation of it, although still a bit wordier than necessary, so I at least have an idea of what is going on.

The next time I have to say “It’s kind of hard to explain,” I’ll try to remember my frustration with this football concept and be as understanding as I can to the person asking the question.

(If you are now wondering about the read option – it’s an offensive play that lets the quarterback choose if he wants to hand the ball to the running back or run it himself, based on how the defense lines up.  Okay, maybe that wasn’t so hard to explain; perhaps the sports writers just need to try to simplify things and leave out all the jargon and extra details!)

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Fake Science

My creativity is often easily distracted.  After the discussion with one of my First Readers about writing a fake genetics research paper, guess what I started thinking about?  Yup, the made-up science paper.

I’ve decided it will be an appendix of the novel.  Instead of the whole paper, I’m creating an excerpt.  The topic of interest (human/dragon offspring) does not have enough data to produce an entire paper; it will be a side discussion in a paper about dragon hybridization instead.  Here’s the title of the fake paper: “Genetic analysis of the lack of hybridization in interracial crosses of Khai” by Spencer O’Neal, Ph.D. (Columbia University).  The journal containing said paper has yet to be decided.  (Khai is what the dragons are called in my novel, in case you were confused.)

Having a science background, I am capable of coming up with sentences like the following off the top of my head (this one is based on a discussion with a friend).  “Pine (1987) postulated that a Khai/human cross could lead to multiple generations of heterozygous individuals with a human phenotype and the potential to produce Khai offspring.”

That’s right, I said heterozygous.  🙂  There are science nerds out there (including one of my First Readers) who will appreciate the fake paper very much, and my brain is having fun creating it.

Genetics

Yes, that does say genetics; no, you’re not at the wrong blog.  🙂

I have a fairly scientific mind, which means that in order for me to be able to write about something, I need to have a reasonable grasp on how it works.   For The Dragon Pendant (my non-Butterflies novel) this meant I had to create some unusual genetics.  For some reason this came to mind yesterday, so I thought I’d share a bit of it with you.  This does include a little spoiler for the story, but since it isn’t even written yet (let alone published) I hope you don’t mind. 

The main character of Dragon is a human female who doesn’t know she is actually a dragon.  (Bear with me, I will explain.)  Her grandfather was a dragon who changed into human form and fell in love with a human woman.  He opted to stay with her and marry her and never changed back to his real shape again.  He gave her his dragon necklace – where a dragon in human form stores his magic – and they eventually had a daughter.  Here’s the tricky part that required some creative science.  Grandpa is a dragon, Mom (his daughter) is not a dragon, Daughter (main character) is a dragon.  I eventually figured out a way to make it work: dragons and humans don’t hybridize.  Their DNA doesn’t mix.  So Mom carries the genetic material for a dragon while she herself is wholly human.  Daughter has both human and dragon DNA, but the dragon is dominant in her. 

Her genetic material is an exact match to her grandfather’s.  This brought on two more issues which I also solved.  She’s female instead of male because in dragons (like alligators) the gender is determined by developmental temperature instead of genetics.  And she’s born in human form because she doesn’t have access to her magic.  Grandma’s still wearing it around her neck.

Once she gets the necklace as an heirloom and puts it on, the dragon DNA starts to assert itself.  As soon as she learns to take her real shape, the dragon DNA burns out any trace of the remaining human DNA, and she is truly the dragon she is meant to be.

Of course, very little of this information is going to be included in the story.  I just had to know that it would make logical sense in some fashion before I could use the concept.  🙂