I am trying to open this story that deals with an alien race as well as humans of our common variety sort. I have been unable to figure out a way to describe the typical lysiscan in even the first page. It seems to me the most elegant (as opposed to "ham-handed) way to accomplish this is to 1) skip ahead to a scene that is currently in the opening of chapter 5 or to 2) start off with a kind of Encyclopedia Galactica (italicized) quote describing the lysiscan race.
What are your opinions/comments on this problem?
Catherine had her husband, John, home and to herself. Just the two of them. They were sitting side by side at the kitchen table talking in low voices when footsteps crossed the porch. The front door opened, letting in a blast of cold air.
John’s hand tightened around Catherine’s arm. A neighbor would have knocked first. “I’ll see what’s wanted.”
“I’m coming with you,” she told him.
In the living room the fireplace embers glowed, leaving dark shadows beyond the sofa and the three overstuffed chairs. Catherine saw the two Guardians near the door. Their dead white skin showed up eerily. The one on the left raised his head. His eyes caught the faint firelight and reflected it all silver-like. Catherine recognized him by the blue-grey line on his throat: Scar.
the other possibility is 2) (all in italics and standing before the opening of chapter one with Thwelin and the supervisor)
lysiscan: a humanoid race standing between seven feet to seven and a half feet tall. All lysiscans have white skin that greys slightly under exposure to the light of certain suns. Hair is confined to the top of the head and is black except when living in cold climates such as Mars or the more extreme northern regions of Earth. There it turns white. The two hands and two feet sport retractable claws which can range in color from black or yellowish to clear. Both eyes appear slightly tilted toward the bridge of the nose which is narrow. The eyes have expandable irises which can change color from black through shades of grey all the way to pure white depending on the mood of the individual.
Have you thought about maybe combining the two methods? Personally I am more drawn in by option 1) but I think that it would read very well if you were to put option 2) at the heading of the chapter and then open the chapter with option 1). Though I"m unsure if you want to open with option 1) as you said that it is at the beginning of chapter 5 so I'm unsure if you want to get into the action as quickly as my thought would force you to do so, maybe a flashback? (for how much we love those haha)
Anyway food for thought, I am kind of inexperienced, but I hope it helps turn your brain a little on the dilemma. Good luck.
If you posted another version of this, I have not read it. It's been a while since I've been on here for more than a quick post or two. Having said that, #1 makes me want to read more, #2 made my eyes glaze over. I've read other work of yours, and I would have faith in you to bring me what's needed when it's needed. If Catherine and John are not Lysiscan(s?), you might mention Scar's size (or indicate his height). Other than that, I would read on.
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If you use the description. Slip in something spooky in the middle. Like: 'They are often used to... kill people... collect debts...' 'Their presence means someone will die, or wish they had.' Drop much of the detail. Who cares if their hair turns color or their nails range? 'His name was Scar; that reveiled parts of their history. She had put it there.' Carl
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I could see #2 working if the description related closely to the plot instead of feeling like extraneous detail. For example:
"lysiscan: a humanoid race standing between seven feet to seven and a half feet tall. White skin, susceptible to damage from solar radiation, makes them seek darker climates.
Darker climates where humans have also claimed for protection."
Something like that where the description sets up the dynamics of the plot. Kind of like how Hunger Games opens with the treaty proclamation instead of say . . . tax law. The details change the plot. Retractable claws don't really in any sense that a knife wouldn't.
But my question would be, why do you need to describe them on page one? Until they show up, I'd question that's its necessary. All the relevant details could be put in place before then without describing them.
"We hid the box under the wood stove, lysiscans weren't likely to look that low."
"The sun was merciless today. I could move freely; the lysiscans wouldn't be out in it. Besides their snowy skin would give them away for miles around."
"The doorknob has scratches on the wood around it. Too high for a cat, too inept for a burglar. A lysiscan had been here."
All along you could be shaping a vague image of them so that when they actually showed up, there would be need for only a few concise clarifications.
By the way, prepare for a fight on capitalizing species. You can find the debates, but pick your battles with convention.
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