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I am writing a extra-terrestrial high fantasy novel. The story is completely set in an alien world. No visits from Earth and no visits to Earth.

My characters are humanoids, who look like elves, but with different skin, eye, and hair colours. They lay eggs rather than give birth to children.

How can I prevent my readers from misunderstanding my race to be bird-like creatures?

I would like to avoid a boring introduction paragraph. The story is in third person view.

In the stories I read about egg laying humanoids, the main character is from Earth. So they can easily compare the humanoid race to humans and can give the reader a better picture.

But in my story, all the characters belong to the same race. So when one character sees another, describing the basic structure seem a bit odd.

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    How much does their alien biology come up in the story? Is it important to the plot? Two references I can think of that might be of help are: Nightfall - Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg, and The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula Le Guin – Arkenstein XII Sep 24 at 20:10
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Establish their winglessness before you establish their method of gestating children.

You're absolutely right that this is an easier task when you have a character who is from the culture of the reader. It's also fairly easy if the narrator takes the reader's perceptive when describing the aliens. You don't want to use your narrator in that way (nor should you). So you're left with a narrator who belongs to the world you portray, who wouldn't see anything here as strange.

Your narration needs to be subtle. Manipulate the order of scenes or the locations or background conversations. Anything that will be business as usual on first glance, but actually clues the reader in.

For example, you could show a character who likes to take a jog around the block before showering and getting ready for work or school. The roads are a bit slippery from last night's rain, so she's going to pick the running shoes with better traction. You might even show the character's frustration with having to wade through a large puddle on the way home because there's no easy way around it.

Totally mundane experience for a modern-day human in most urban/suburban areas, one that a book set on Earth might use as a way to get the character to a location where she sees something important, or bumps into another character, or just a way to establish her daily rhythms.

There is no way your readers will think you are telling them about your characters' anatomy, because it's assumed they're human, until they're not. Yet you've established a terrestrial being.

Showing multiple characters in motion, basic normal boring motion, in the first couple of chapters will solidify it. There is nothing out of the ordinary here. They move just like humans. As you bring in other elements to make it clear they're not humans, or on Earth, the reader will still view them as like humans in every way that you haven't explicitly told them about.

You can also bring in elements that humanoids would have. Smooth skin with hair on their heads and a few other places. Show a character shaving. Have a parent braid a kid's hair or kiss a husband's stubbly cheek. Throw in the weird colors if you like (even on Earth, such coloring is possible, albeit artificial).

By the time the eggs come in, your reader should know these are human-like aliens and not be too surprised at yet another difference. But they already know these aliens aren't birds, that they don't fly. Because you've established them as terrestrial mammals.

  • Terrestrial - yes. Mammals - not unless they breastfeed their young. :) – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Sep 24 at 19:02
  • @Galastel I'm assuming mammals based on the information in the question. They are similar to humans, they look like elves (who are mammals in every version I've seen), and the OP wants to be sure the reader doesn't think they're birds (I assume if they were reptiles, fish, amphibians, or insects, s/he'd have stated that). – Cyn says make Monica whole Sep 24 at 19:07
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We tend to assume whatever we're reading about is humanoid, unless we're told otherwise. (In fact, multiple stories exploit this trope to reveal later in the story, or in the very end, that the character wasn't in fact human.) Which is to say, your readers are going to start with the assumption that the characters are humanoid.

You fear that once your readers receive the "laying eggs" information, they will change their whole perception of your race to "bird-like". To prevent that, you would need to provide enough information to make it clear that they aren't.

If you never ever mention wings or flying, that's a good indication that your characters don't have wings. Then, I'm sure at some point you will mention a character walking or running, holding something in one's hands, etc.? That's indication that your characters have arms and legs, similar to humans. Those day-to-day actions and the way they are performed are all the indication that is needed of the character's body. You don't need an explicit description of someone having two arms and two legs. In fact, if they have three legs, for instance, you wouldn't want an explicit description either, but give the information through a description of such day-to-day actions.

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