Okay, this is in incredibly petty nitpick, but: if you’re writing a fantasy setting with same-sex marriage, a same-sex noble or royal couple typically would not have titles of the same rank – e.g., a prince and a prince, or two queens.
It depends on which system of ranking you use, of course (there are several), but in most systems there’s actually a rule covering this scenario: in the event that a consort’s courtesy title being of the same rank as their spouse’s would potentially create confusion over who holds the title by right and who by courtesy, the consort instead receives the next-highest title on the ladder.
So the husband of a prince would be a duke; the wife of a queen, a princess; and so forth.
(You actually see this rule in practice in the United Kingdom, albeit not in the context of a same-sex marriage; the Queen’s husband is styled a prince because if he were a king, folks might get confused about which of them was the reigning monarch.)
The only common situation where you’d expect to see, for example, two queens in the same marriage is if the reigning monarchs of two different realms married each other – and even then, you’d more likely end up with a complicated arrangement where each party is technically a princess of the other’s realm in addition to being queen of her own.
You’ve gotta keep it nice and unambiguous who’s actually in charge!
Okay, I’ve received a whole lot of asks about this post, so I’m going to cover all of the responses in one go:
1. The system described above is, admittedly, merely one of the most common. Other historically popular alternatives include:
- The consort’s courtesy title is of the same rank as their spouse’s, with “-consort” appended to it: prince and prince-consort, queen and queen-consort, etc. This is how, e.g., present-day Monaco does it.
- The consort is simply styled Lord or Lady So-and-so, and receives no specific title. I can’t think of any country that still does it this way, off the top of my head, but historically it was a thing.
(Naturally, your setting needn’t adhere to any of these, but it would be highly irregular for it to lack some mechanism for clarifying the chain of command.)
2. The reason why the consort of a prince is historically a princess even though those titles are the same rank is basically sexism. This can go a couple of ways:
- In many realms, there was no such thing as being a princess by right; the daughter of a monarch would be styled Lady So-and-so and receive no specific title, so the only way to be a princess was to marry a prince.
- In realms where women could hold titles by right, typically a masculine title was informally presumed to outrank its feminine counterpart. So, e.g., kings outrank queens, princes outrank princesses, etc.
In either case, no ambiguity exists.
(Interestingly, this suggests that in a more egalitarian setting where masculine titles are not presumed to outrank their feminine counterparts, or vice versa, you’d need to explicitly disambiguate rankings even outside the context of same-sex marriages. Food for thought!)
3. It would also be possible to have two kings or two queens in the same marriage without multiple realms being involved in the case of a true co-monarchy. However, true co-monarchies are highly irregular and, from a political standpoint, immensely complicated affairs. If you’re planning on writing one of those, be prepared to do your research!
4. The next rank down from “countess” is either “viscountess” or “baroness”, depending on which peerage system you’re using.
(Yes, that last one actually came up multiple times. Apparently there are a lot of stories about gay countesses out there!)
I’d like to argue with this, but I can’t.
okay so hey let’s talk about something that bugs me in fanfic about artistic characters: not all artists will wistfully draw the dude they have a crush on’s face over and over in their sketchbooks. like, few of them. very few of them.
i went to a visual arts school full of horny, lonely young people ages 18-28 and we were all constantly showing each other our sketchbooks, as is the traditional combat maneuver of the visual artist, and you know how many sketches of anyone’s boyfriend or girlfriend or love interest i saw? several hundred, if you count anime characters. maybe two or three if you only count real life people. mostly we just drew our friends. as anime characters. i’m an illustrator. i live with other illustrators. i know my roommate’s girlfriend’s cute anthro dog oc’s better than i know her face.
so like— is your character an artistic? do they like to draw? do they have a crush on someone? is it unrequited? they’re going to fill their sketchbook up with like, inu yasha covered in blood. or whatever the cool sad anime is for kids these days, but definitely someone sad and covered in blood. or like two faceless dudes fucking a cake, i saw that once. i knew a girl who only drew people fucking cakes, her whole sketchbook. your character also might just draw dragons everywhere, or really bad robots in smudgey pencil. your character is at some point going to draw a really skinny girl with really big boobs, holding a sword.
but like, as a general rule, visual artists don’t casually or absent-mindedly render things that are hard or make them anxious. like, drawing realistically from memory a crush’s face. will your character draw maybe a wolf or a horse or a dragon that somehow symbolically represents the object of their affections? pretty good odds. absentmindedly launching into a whole portrait of their beloved without noticing because they are so romantically forlorn? very unlikely. drawing their crush’s favorite flower or food or animal or character or something? definitely.
anyway, drawing from life is tough. drawing from life from memory is tougher. unless an artistic character is stated in canon to be good at portraiture, they’re really unlikely to fill their sketchbook up with wistful handsome faces.
feel free to reblog this post and add your own opinion, though, if you’re another visual artist.
If I could offer one piece of advice to fanfic authors and fanartists it would be:
Make your work accessible.
Choose a tumblr layout that lets people easily reblog your work. Choose a layout where the links and next page buttons are easily found. Tag all your work properly and then LINK to it from your main page. Link directly to your AO3 or DeviantArt. Don’t make people search your tumblr just to find that fic they liked. Have posts available that link to your work so that people can reblog them. Do the hard work for people and make it easy for them to share your stuff.
The harder it is to find your stuff, the less likely it is people will reblog it and share it around.
do you have any suggestions for themes and layouts and such?
I do! 😀
Personally I use Theme-Hunter to find the themes for all my blogs. They reblog direct from creators and have hundreds of options. Their Tumblr is really easy to navigate and you can go straight to the type of theme you’re looking for: say a two-column theme, or one with a side bar, etc.
Theme-Hunter also has code for pages: about pages, OC pages, Tag pages, and the like. AND they explain how to get them to work on your Tumblr, which is great if you’re not tech and code savvy.
Zelda Themes’ old library of themes also has some great layouts. I use I See Fire and was considering the Borrowers theme for the same reasons.
Tumblr also has some generic themes available for free that are good for writers. I find Easy A to be the best of them as it offers lots of preprogrammed links and options so there’s no need to edit the HTML at all.
Sometimes you’ll find a theme that is almost perfect but it’s just missing one of two elements. Fear not! There are loads of tutorials online and it’s as easy as searching Google to get that search bar on your Tumblr, or include a loading page.
And if you really can’t find something, a lot of theme Tumblrs will gladly help you out, or, feel free to message me and maybe we can look at it together.
If you’re a writer on Tumblr, you will definitely want the following on your blog:
- Like and Reblog buttons attached to each post
- Easily readable text in both size and colour
- a link direct to your AO3 or FF.net account from your main page
- a link from your main page to all your Tumblr only work
- Visible and obvious forward and back buttons
I would suggest a one-column theme with either a sidebar or header with visible links. Turn off endless scrolling as you want people to go far enough back through your work that their browser might crash. Don’t clutter your main page with unnecessary things. If you write for a few pairings or have several series on your Tumblr, consider a search bar or a Tags page.
Also consider people on different platforms. For example, I don’t have a PC. All I have and all I use is an iPad and the amount of themes that just plain don’t work for me is ridiculous. If there is no reblog button, I have to go to another person who reblogged the same thing and try reblog it from them as no reblog/like options show up at the top of the page like they do on PC. Sometimes I haven’t been able to reblog someone’s work, even though I wanted to, all because of their theme not having like/reblog buttons.
You want to make a reader’s experience on your Tumblr as hassle free as possible. Imagine you were visiting someone else’s Tumblr and wanted to find a specific fic of theirs so you could reblog it. How hard is it to find the fic? Is there even a link? Then look at your own Tumblr. Can people find those links? Do ALL the hard work for your readers. Don’t give them any excuse to leave.
- Sticking a landing will royally fuck up your joints and possibly shatter your ankles, depending on how high you’re jumping/falling from. There’s a very good reason free-runners dive and roll.
- Hand-to-hand fights usually only last a matter of seconds, sometimes a few minutes. It’s exhausting work and unless you have a lot of training and history with hand-to-hand combat, you’re going to tire out really fast.
- Arrows are very effective and you can’t just yank them out without doing a lot of damage. Most of the time the head of the arrow will break off inside the body if you try pulling it out, and arrows are built to pierce deep. An arrow wound demands medical attention.
- Throwing your opponent across the room is really not all that smart. You’re giving them the chance to get up and run away. Unless you’re trying to put distance between you so you can shoot them or something, don’t throw them.
- Everyone has something called a “flinch response” when they fight. This is pretty much the brain’s way of telling you “get the fuck out of here or we’re gonna die.” Experienced fighters have trained to suppress this. Think about how long your character has been fighting. A character in a fist fight for the first time is going to take a few hits before their survival instinct kicks in and they start hitting back. A character in a fist fight for the eighth time that week is going to respond a little differently.
- ADRENALINE WORKS AGAINST YOU WHEN YOU FIGHT. THIS IS IMPORTANT. A lot of times people think that adrenaline will kick in and give you some badass fighting skills, but it’s actually the opposite. Adrenaline is what tires you out in a battle and it also affects the fighter’s efficacy – meaning it makes them shaky and inaccurate, and overall they lose about 60% of their fighting skill because their brain is focusing on not dying. Adrenaline keeps you alive, it doesn’t give you the skill to pull off a perfect roundhouse kick to the opponent’s face.
- Swords WILL bend or break if you hit something hard enough. They also dull easily and take a lot of maintenance. In reality, someone who fights with a sword would have to have to repair or replace it constantly.
- Fights get messy. There’s blood and sweat everywhere, and that will make it hard to hold your weapon or get a good grip on someone.
- A serious battle also smells horrible. There’s lots of sweat, but also the smell of urine and feces. After someone dies, their bowels and bladder empty. There might also be some questionable things on the ground which can be very psychologically traumatizing. Remember to think about all of the character’s senses when they’re in a fight. Everything WILL affect them in some way.
- If your sword is sharpened down to a fine edge, the rest of the blade can’t go through the cut you make. You’ll just end up putting a tiny, shallow scratch in the surface of whatever you strike, and you could probably break your sword.
- ARCHERS ARE STRONG TOO. Have you ever drawn a bow? It takes a lot of strength, especially when you’re shooting a bow with a higher draw weight. Draw weight basically means “the amount of force you have to use to pull this sucker back enough to fire it.” To give you an idea of how that works, here’s a helpful link to tell you about finding bow sizes and draw weights for your characters. (CLICK ME)
- If an archer has to use a bow they’re not used to, it will probably throw them off a little until they’ve done a few practice shots with it and figured out its draw weight and stability.
- People bleed. If they get punched in the face, they’ll probably get a bloody nose. If they get stabbed or cut somehow, they’ll bleed accordingly. And if they’ve been fighting for a while, they’ve got a LOT of blood rushing around to provide them with oxygen. They’re going to bleed a lot.
Hopefully this helps someone out there. If you reblog, feel free to add more tips for writers or correct anything I’ve gotten wrong here.
How to apply Writing techniques for action scenes:
– Short sentences. Choppy. One action, then another. When there’s a lull in the fight, take a moment, using longer phrases to analyze the situation–then dive back in. Snap, snap, snap.
– Same thing with words – short, simple, and strong in the thick of battle. Save the longer syllables for elsewhere.
– Characters do not dwell on things when they are in the heat of the moment. They will get punched in the face. Focus on actions, not thoughts.
– Go back and cut out as many adverbs as possible.
– No seriously, if there’s ever a time to use the strongest verbs in your vocabulary – Bellow, thrash, heave, shriek, snarl, splinter, bolt, hurtle, crumble, shatter, charge, raze – it’s now.
– Don’t forget your other senses. People might not even be sure what they saw during a fight, but they always know how they felt.
– Taste: Dry mouth, salt from sweat, copper tang from blood, etc
– Smell: OP nailed it
– Touch: Headache, sore muscles, tense muscles, exhaustion, blood pounding. Bruised knuckles/bowstring fingers. Injuries that ache and pulse, sting and flare white hot with pain.
– Pain will stay with a character. Even if it’s minor.
– Sound and sight might blur or sharpen depending on the character and their experience/exhaustion. Colors and quick movements will catch the eye. Loud sounds or noises from behind may serve as a fighter’s only alert before an attack.
– If something unexpected happens, shifting the character’s whole attention to that thing will shift the Audience’s attention, too.
– Aftermath. This is where the details resurface, the characters pick up things they cast aside during the fight, both literally and metaphorically. Fights are chaotic, fast paced, and self-centered. Characters know only their self, their goals, what’s in their way, and the quickest way around those threats. The aftermath is when people can regain their emotions, their relationships, their rationality/introspection, and anything else they couldn’t afford to think or feel while their lives were on the line.
Do everything you can to keep the fight here and now. Maximize the physical, minimize the theoretical. Keep things immediate – no theories or what ifs.
If writing a strategist, who needs to think ahead, try this: keep strategy to before-and-after fights. Lay out plans in calm periods, try to guess what enemies are thinking or what they will do. During combat, however, the character should think about his options, enemies, and terrain in immediate terms; that is, in shapes and direction.
(Large enemy rushing me; dive left, circle around / Scaffolding on fire, pool below me / two foes helping each other, separate them.)
Lastly, after writing, read it aloud. Anyplace your tongue catches up on a fast moving scene, edit. Smooth action scenes rarely come on the first try.
Writing with Color: Description Guide – Words for Skin Tone
We discussed the issue of describing People of Color by means of food in Part I of this guide, which brought rise to even more questions, mostly along the lines of “So, if food’s not an option, what can I use?” Well, I was just getting to that!
This final portion focuses on describing skin tone, with photo and passage examples provided throughout. I hope to cover everything from the use of straight-forward description to the more creatively-inclined, keeping in mind the questions we’ve received on this topic.
So let’s get to it.
S T A N D A R D D E S C R I P T I O N
B a s i c C o l o r s
Pictured above: Black, Brown, Beige, White, Pink.
“She had brown skin.”
- This is a perfectly fine description that, while not providing the most detail, works well and will never become cliché.
- Describing characters’ skin as simply brown or beige works on its own, though it’s not particularly telling just from the range in brown alone.
C o m p l e x C o l o r s
These are more rarely used words that actually “mean” their color. Some of these have multiple meanings, so you’ll want to look into those to determine what other associations a word might have.
Pictured above: Umber, Sepia, Ochre, Russet, Terra-cotta, Gold, Tawny, Taupe, Khaki, Fawn.
Complex colors work well alone, though often pair well with a basic color in regards to narrowing down shade/tone.
For example: Golden brown, russet brown, tawny beige…
- As some of these are on the “rare” side, sliding in a definition of the word within the sentence itself may help readers who are unfamiliar with the term visualize the color without seeking a dictionary.
“He was tall and slim, his skin a russet, reddish-brown.”
- Comparisons to familiar colors or visuals are also helpful:
“His skin was an ochre color, much like the mellow-brown light that bathed the forest.”
M o d i f i e r s
Modifiers, often adjectives, make partial changes to a word.The following words are descriptors in reference to skin tone.
D a r k – D e e p – R i c h – C o o l
W a r m – M e d i u m – T a n
F a i r – L i g h t – P a l e
Rich Black, Dark brown, Warm beige, Pale pink…
If you’re looking to get more specific than “brown,” modifiers narrow down shade further.
- Keep in mind that these modifiers are not exactly colors.
- As an already brown-skinned person, I get tan from a lot of sun and resultingly become a darker, deeper brown. I turn a pale, more yellow-brown in the winter.
- While best used in combination with a color, I suppose words like “tan” “fair” and “light” do work alone; I’d just note that tan is less likely to be taken for “naturally tan” and much more likely a tanned white person.
- Calling someone “dark” as description on its own is offensive to some and also ambiguous. (See: Describing Skin as Dark)
U n d e r t o n e s
Undertones are the colors beneath the skin, seeing as skin isn’t just one even color but has more subdued tones within the dominating palette.
- Mentioning the undertones within a character’s skin is an even more precise way to denote skin tone.
- As shown, there’s a difference between say, brown skin with warm orange-red undertones (Kelly Rowland) and brown skin with cool, jewel undertones (Rutina Wesley).
“A dazzling smile revealed the bronze glow at her cheeks.”
“He always looked as if he’d ran a mile, a constant tinge of pink under his tawny skin.”
Standard Description Passage
“Farah’s skin, always fawn, had burned and freckled under the summer’s sun. Even at the cusp of autumn, an uneven tan clung to her skin like burrs. So unlike the smooth, red-brown ochre of her mother, which the sun had richened to a blessing.”
-From my story “Where Summer Ends” featured in Strange Little Girls
- Here the state of skin also gives insight on character.
- Note my use of “fawn” in regards to multiple meaning and association. While fawn is a color, it’s also a small, timid deer, which describes this very traumatized character of mine perfectly.
Though I use standard descriptions of skin tone more in my writing, at the same time I’m no stranger to creative descriptions, and do enjoy the occasional artsy detail of a character.
C R E A T I V E D E S C R I P T I O N
Whether compared to night-cast rivers or day’s first light…I actually enjoy seeing Characters of Colors dressed in artful detail.
I’ve read loads of descriptions in my day of white characters and their “smooth rose-tinged ivory skin”, while the PoC, if there, are reduced to something from a candy bowl or a Starbucks drink, so to actually read of PoC described in lavish detail can be somewhat of a treat.
Still, be mindful when you get creative with your character descriptions. Too many frills can become purple-prose–like, so do what feels right for your writing when and where.
Not every character or scene warrants a creative description, either. Especially if they’re not even a secondary character.
Using a combination of color descriptions from standard to creative is probably a better method than straight-up creative. But again, do what’s good for your tale.
N A T U R AL S E T T I N G S – S K Y
Pictured above: Harvest Moon -Twilight, Fall/Autumn Leaves, Clay, Desert/Sahara, Sunlight – Sunrise – Sunset – Afterglow – Dawn- Day- Daybreak, Field – Prairie – Wheat, Mountain/Cliff, Beach/Sand/Straw/Hay.
- Now before you run off to compare your heroine’s skin to the harvest moon or a cliff side, think about the associations to your words.
- When I think cliff, I think of jagged, perilous, rough. I hear sand and picture grainy, yet smooth. Calm. mellow.
- So consider your character and what you see fit to compare them to.
- Also consider whose perspective you’re describing them from. Someone describing a person they revere or admire may have a more pleasant, loftier description than someone who can’t stand said person.
“Her face was like the fire-gold glow of dawn, lifting my gaze, drawing me in.”
“She had a sandy complexion, smooth and tawny.”
- Even creative descriptions tend to draw help from your standard words.
F L O W E R S
Pictured above: Calla lilies, Western Coneflower, Hazel Fay, Hibiscus, Freesia, Rose
- It was a bit difficult to find flowers to my liking that didn’t have a 20 character name or wasn’t called something like “chocolate silk” so these are the finalists.
- You’ll definitely want to avoid purple-prose here.
- Also be aware of flowers that most might’ve never heard of. Roses are easy, as most know the look and coloring(s) of this plant. But Western coneflowers? Calla lilies? Maybe not so much.
“He entered the cottage in a huff, cheeks a blushing brown like the flowers Nana planted right under my window. Hazel Fay she called them, was it?”
A S S O R T E D P L A N T S & N A T U R E
Pictured above: Cattails, Seashell, Driftwood, Pinecone, Acorn, Amber
- These ones are kinda odd. Perhaps because I’ve never seen these in comparison to skin tone, With the exception of amber.
- At least they’re common enough that most may have an idea what you’re talking about at the mention of “pinecone.“
- I suggest reading out your sentences aloud to get a better feel of how it’ll sounds.
“Auburn hair swept past pointed ears, set around a face like an acorn both in shape and shade.”
- I pictured some tree-dwelling being or person from a fantasy world in this example, which makes the comparison more appropriate.
- I don’t suggest using a comparison just “’cuz you can” but actually being thoughtful about what you’re comparing your character to and how it applies to your character and/or setting.
W O O D
Pictured above: Mahogany, Walnut, Chestnut, Golden Oak, Ash
- Wood is definitely an iffy description for skin tone. Not only due to several of them having “foody” terminology within their names, but again, associations.
- Some people would prefer not to compare/be compared to wood at all, so get opinions, try it aloud, and make sure it’s appropriate to the character if you do use it.
“The old warlock’s skin was a deep shade of mahogany, his stare serious and firm as it held mine.”
M E T A L S
Pictured above: Platinum, Copper, Brass, Gold, Bronze
- Copper skin, brass-colored skin, golden skin…
- I’ve even heard variations of these used before by comparison to an object of the same properties/coloring, such as penny for copper.
- These also work well with modifiers.
“The dress of fine white silks popped against the deep bronze of her skin.”
G E M S T O N E S – M I N E R A LS
Pictured above: Onyx, Obsidian, Sard, Topaz, Carnelian, Smoky Quartz, Rutile, Pyrite, Citrine, Gypsum
- These are trickier to use. As with some complex colors, the writer will have to get us to understand what most of these look like.
- If you use these, or any more rare description, consider if it actually “fits” the book or scene.
- Even if you’re able to get us to picture what “rutile” looks like, why are you using this description as opposed to something else? Have that answer for yourself.
“His skin reminded her of the topaz ring her father wore at his finger, a gleaming stone of brown, mellow facades.”
P H Y S I C A L D E S C R I P T I ON
- Physical character description can be more than skin tone.
- Show us hair, eyes, noses, mouth, hands…body posture, body shape, skin texture… though not necessarily all of those nor at once.
- Describing features also helps indicate race, especially if your character has some traits common within the race they are, such as Afro hair to a Black character.
- How comprehensive you decide to get is up to you. I wouldn’t overdo it and get specific to every mole and birthmark. Noting defining characteristics is good, though, like slightly spaced front teeth, curls that stay flopping in their face, hands freckled with sunspots…
G E N E R A L T I P S
Indicate Race Early: I suggest indicators of race be made at the earliest convenience within the writing, with more hints threaded throughout here and there.
- Get Creative All On Your Own: Obviously, I couldn’t cover every proper color or comparison in which has been “approved” to use for your characters’ skin color, so it’s up to you to use discretion when seeking other ways and shades to describe skin tone.
- Skin Color May Not Be Enough: Describing skin tone isn’t always enough to indicate someone’s ethnicity. As timeless cases with readers equating brown to “dark white” or something, more indicators of race may be needed.
Describe White characters and PoC Alike: You should describe the race and/or skin tone of your White characters just as you do your Characters of Color. If you don’t, you risk implying that White is the default human being and PoC are the “Other”).
- PSA: Don’t use “Colored.” Based on some asks we’ve received using this word, I’d like to say that unless you or your character is a racist grandmama from the 1960s, do not call People of Color “colored” please.
- Not Sure Where to Start? You really can’t go wrong using basic colors for your skin descriptions. It’s actually what many people prefer and works best for most writing. Personally, I tend to describe my characters using a combo of basic colors + modifiers, with mentions of undertones at times. I do like to veer into more creative descriptions on occasion.
- Want some alternatives to “skin” or “skin color”? Try: Appearance, blend, blush, cast, coloring, complexion, flush, glow, hue, overtone, palette, pigmentation, rinse, shade, sheen, spectrum, tinge, tint, tone, undertone, value, wash.
Skin Tone Resources
- List of Color Names
- The Color Thesaurus
- Things that are Brown (blog)
- Skin Undertone & Color Matching
- Tips and Words on Describing Skin
- Photos: Undertones Described (Modifiers included)
- Online Thesaurus (try colors, such as “red” & “brown”)
- Don’t Call me Pastries: Creative Skin Tones w/ pics 3 2 1
Writing & Description Guides
- WWC Guide: Words to Describe Hair
- Writing with Color: Description & Skin Color
- Describing Characters of Color (Passage Examples)
- 7 Offensive Mistakes Well-intentioned Writers Make
I tried to be as comprehensive as possible with this guide, but if you have a question regarding describing skin color that hasn’t been answered within part I or II of this guide, or have more questions after reading this post, feel free to ask!
~ Mod Colette
THAT FIRST SITE IS EVERY WRITER’S DREAM DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY TIMES I’VE TRIED WRITING SOMETHING AND THOUGHT GOD DAMN IS THERE A SPECIFIC WORD FOR WHAT I’M USING TWO SENTENCES TO DESCRIBE AND JUST GETTING A BUNCH OF SHIT GOOGLE RESULTS
Reblogging this again because I just had reason to use it. I needed a word for mild dislike, and all I could think of at the moment were the more extreme forms of dislike like “animosity” and “loathing.” That first link had a TON of good options when I typed in “mild dislike.” Ended up going with reproach.
These links are actually helpful, so yeah.
I treat it like it’s normal.
I know a huge narrative in writing is the Relatable Character, the person the audience can follow along with and “learn” the universe and the culture and the story and so-forth, but uhm…
Why? Why should that be THE archetype in modern fiction?
Fiction used to be about immersion–and there are a few authors who still know this, though they get panned a lot (whether you like horror or not, S. King is a master at immersion). We’d begin a story with characters who were already in that verse, who knew the things, who didn’t NEED to be hand-held.
Obi-Wan Kenobi does not need to be hand-held.
But flamethrower! That’s fanfic, and it’s got an established verse that we know about already!
Yes, but many people still write from the point of view of main characters who have just fallen into the universe six hours ago, and don’t seem to understand how their own lives function.
Harry Potter needed to be fucking hand-held, but JKR specifically set up a story that required that. …Granted, then she continued the hand-holding long-past the point it should have been necessary, but we’ll just ignore that for now.
Too many people pan The Phantom Menace, but you know what it got right? Immersion. We didn’t need to be hand-held on our way through the movie, even if we’d never seen a Star Wars film prior to that. We weren’t introduced to the Republic with this long narrative of its history, we were dumped right into the action and provided the verbal and visual context needed to know exactly what the hell was going on, and what was going on was that Shit Was Breaking The Fuck Down.
Who were the Jedi? Well, apparently they were hooded people having strange conversations, and were fucking TERRIFYING to the Nemoidians, who promptly lost their shit and get orders to make the Jedi dead. Then the Jedi prove that they have weapons that can CUT THROUGH WALLS so maybe the Nemoidians are just a teensy bit correct to be terrified.
There’s no need to hand-hold your reader (or even yourself!) unless the narative requires it. This is what people *really* mean when they say Show, don’t Tell. There are times when a reader needs to be told, but when it comes to cultural elements in a story that someone should already know?
It’s normal. Treat it like it’s normal…and your reader is going to believe it. So will you.
(Also if you don’t understand how something works for humans, research the shit out of it and then decide how that function would work in your non-humans. Basic biology is a wonderful tool.)