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Old 12-07-2012, 02:30 AM   #1
Slytherin
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Can I make these kinds of references?

In one of my sci-fi stories, I have a lot of objects/concepts like force fields and balls of light. When describing the appearance of these things, I usually mention the of the size of them, since that can be vital to the scene. (I.e. sometimes the force field is huge, but other times it's the size of a golf ball.)

However, my story is set in a very futuristic time and place, so the world I am describing is very different from the one we live in. (I don't think a game like golf would exist.) However, I'm having a hard time deciding how to describe the sizes of unusual things like force fields and balls of light without referencing basketballs, beach balls, golf balls -- I find myself using a lot of balls, lol. Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

"She opened her palm and produced a force field the size of a golf ball."

I feel like there should be a better way of doing this, without having to reference earthly objects or create clunkiness by giving specific measurements like: "--a force field that was one inch in diameter."

Do you think it would be okay for me to continue referencing earthly objects in a story that takes place on a futuristic, faraway planet? If there's nothing technically wrong with that approach, I would be willing to continue making those comparisons. If not, does anyone have any suggestions of how I can describe sizes of things? Is the approach of giving specific measurements maybe not a bad idea after all? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much!
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Old 12-07-2012, 02:34 AM   #2
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In my opinion, referencing things that do not exist in the story is not the best choice. You may not even need the descriptions.

In your example you say she opened her hand, so the force field fits in her hand. I already know it is the size of tennis ball or smaller, unless the character has differently shaped hands, ya get me?
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Old 12-07-2012, 02:39 AM   #3
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Well sometimes the characters DO make pretty huge force fields that don't exactly fit inside of their hands. I guess the excerpt I provided was a bad example. But like... for instance, she could spread both palms, holding her hands out in front of her and making a force field that was like... the size of a car or something. I should have mentioned that the force fields don't always come from inside of the hands, they can hover above the palm as well.
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Old 12-07-2012, 02:42 AM   #4
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Well sometimes the characters DO make pretty huge force fields that don't exactly fit inside of their hands. I guess the excerpt I provided was a bad example. But like... for instance, she could spread both palms, holding her hands out in front of her and making a force field that was like... the size of a car or something. I should have mentioned that the force fields don't always come from inside of the hands, they can hover above the palm as well.
In that case you could say something like, "The force field eclipsed her view of the room..." I guess I'm just not a fan of giving exact measurements often in description. Hold out though, I'm sure someone will come a long with a better way
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Old 12-07-2012, 02:46 AM   #5
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That's still a good suggestion -- that I could just use more indicative language rather than giving specific size descriptions. Thanks for the response!
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Old 12-07-2012, 03:23 AM   #6
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Try a duck's egg or something.
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Old 12-07-2012, 10:22 PM   #7
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Try a duck's egg or something.
But only if there are ducks in the future!
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Old 12-07-2012, 10:30 PM   #8
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Old 12-07-2012, 11:30 PM   #9
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So the end of ducks is the end of the universe?

I always had a lurking suspicion about that.
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Old 12-07-2012, 11:47 PM   #10
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Your characters have to eat, right? So, use common fruits & veggies to convey comparative sizes. Even in a future society or on another world food that humans can consume must be prevalent.
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Old 12-07-2012, 11:49 PM   #11
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Old 12-08-2012, 12:39 AM   #12
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It would be better to use the size of something that existing in the world and that world as well. If necessary very basic things (eye ball etc).

Honestly I would be just as bother by the far future protagonist using imperial measurements as knowing about golf balls.
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Old 12-08-2012, 01:17 AM   #13
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This isn't just a problem for futuristic or otherworldly SF/Fantasy. Anyone writing a story set in a specific past setting needs likewise to be aware of the danger of anachronistic references. For example, in a medieval setting, you can't compare something to a basketball.

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Old 12-08-2012, 01:31 AM   #14
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Maybe use body parts?

Size of a fist?
The length of a hand?
Minute like an eyeball?
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Old 12-08-2012, 02:49 AM   #15
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I did the body part thing. Heads, hands-breadths, so many men tell. But its best to SHOW how big something is. When I whoop out my forcefield, I don't want to hear 'oh wow, thats big', I want to hear 'ouch!'
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Old 12-08-2012, 05:41 AM   #16
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Using body parts is a good idea. Thanks for the suggestions, everyone!!
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Old 12-08-2012, 07:57 AM   #17
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Using body parts is a good idea, but so is using food.

It was the size of a grape, an apple, a cantaloupe, a watermelon. Lots of round things in the fruit family to compare it to.
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Old 12-08-2012, 06:43 PM   #18
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Alright, I'm writing it down. Body parts and food are both really helpful suggestions. Thanks!

What do you guys think I could use for very large objects that are bigger than any food or body part? Things the size of cars or larger?
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:00 PM   #19
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As tall as a man, as big as three men, as big as a three-man travelpod, or as big as a freight shuttle, or the size of a Dynaxian Herd-Porker. Just make sure to define how big the three-man travelpod or the freight shuttle (or the Dynaxian Herd-Porker) is.
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Old 12-09-2012, 01:05 AM   #20
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Lol @ Clare. Thank you!! I think I get the picture now.
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Old 12-09-2012, 07:18 AM   #21
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I remember a comedian doing a monologue about how hail is always compared to sporting equipment (marbles, golf balls, baseballs etc), while tumors are compared to fruit (President so and so had several grape-sized polyps removed from his colon today and is recovering quietly at home).

No idea what the unit of measure is for force fields. I think body parts might work best.

As someone who writes fantasy set in a pre-industrial society, I feel your pain with regards to references that are salient both to my pov character and the readers.
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Old 12-09-2012, 07:54 AM   #22
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I suppose the first question you have to ask yourself is this: does golf still exist? If so, in what sort of capacity? Have new games emerged that feature balls of various sizes? Could you reference this without having to stop to give a potted history of the new game?

If in doubt, though, I'd say it's always best to go with something that you know will still exist, like food or body parts. Of course, the problem with food is the same as the one with the golf balls: will this exist in your world? Another thing you could try is keeping it simple and just using various sizes (e.g. a small force-field). If you need it to be more specific, then I would have to agree that body parts may be the best one to go for.
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Old 12-13-2012, 07:28 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slytherin View Post
In one of my sci-fi stories, I have a lot of objects/concepts like force fields and balls of light. When describing the appearance of these things, I usually mention the of the size of them, since that can be vital to the scene. (I.e. sometimes the force field is huge, but other times it's the size of a golf ball.)

However, my story is set in a very futuristic time and place, so the world I am describing is very different from the one we live in. (I don't think a game like golf would exist.) However, I'm having a hard time deciding how to describe the sizes of unusual things like force fields and balls of light without referencing basketballs, beach balls, golf balls -- I find myself using a lot of balls, lol. Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

"She opened her palm and produced a force field the size of a golf ball."

I feel like there should be a better way of doing this, without having to reference earthly objects or create clunkiness by giving specific measurements like: "--a force field that was one inch in diameter."

Do you think it would be okay for me to continue referencing earthly objects in a story that takes place on a futuristic, faraway planet? If there's nothing technically wrong with that approach, I would be willing to continue making those comparisons. If not, does anyone have any suggestions of how I can describe sizes of things? Is the approach of giving specific measurements maybe not a bad idea after all? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much!
I think the important thing is to change it up. Last thing you want is to (something I'm totally guilty of) bog the reader with simile. "one-inch diameter" has worked in things I've read, but I wouldn't want to keep encountering this on every page. Also, "rested in the palm of my hand" is another one. And also, "too small to scare off..." or "stretched over my head and out beyond my waste". Supposedly the options are endless. Never feels that way though.
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:02 AM   #24
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In my current story, I described something as being 'thin as a pool cue'. This led me to decide that not only did pool exist in this setting, but I actually featured pool.
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