How can I hint that the main character is a different species (still mostly human shape) without directly telling? I could mention specific traits, but I'm not exactly sure how to incorporate them without info-dumping.


4 Answers 4


Make sure your character has those traits in your mind as you imagine them going around the plot. Moments like,

I couldn't feel the tips of my ears in the freezing wind;

I tripped and would fall if my friend didn't catch me by the tail;

I breathed out a little flame so we could see;

or whatever non-human trait applies shouldn't take too long to make an appearance. Since this is absolutely normal for the character, feel free to mention any such moment casually in passing without any commentary. The reader will get the message quickly.


It would depend on what this species is. Then you just seed a little description here and there while the character is performing acts.

Take the example, if the character is the traditional fantasy elf, you could describe her as lithe or thin. Or she could push a lock of blond hair behind a pointed ear.


I assume that what you write is a novel and that you plan to have it published eventually. What do you imagine the blurb of your book is going to say? I can't quite imagine how the marketing for a book about a non-human protagonist can keep this fact a secret. The readers will want to know who the book is about, otherwise those who like such a story might not pick it up, and those who dislike it will be disappointed and give you bad reviews. The readers of Whatership Down know it's about rabbits, the readers of All Systems Red know it's about an android, the readers of Warm Bodies know the protagonist is a zombie, and so on.

I think, when you write your story, you should therefore assume that your readers will know that its protagonist isn't human when they start reading. Given that knowledge, you can write your protagonist like you would a human one: Would you mention your human character is human? No. The blurb would tell your readers that the book is about Lisa or Jack or whoever. Would you make a special effort to unobtrusively sprinkle some hints here and there? No, because your readers already know. You would rely on that knowledge and work with it.

  • Though this answer could be useful, I think I should focus more on in-book information.
    – value1
    Feb 1 at 15:01

Show don't tell. Maybe the other inhabitants of your world react to your character differently, maybe they comment on specific traits/visuals or maybe they are biased towards him/her. Maybe your character's species is treated in a very distinct way: "Dwarves like me were not allowed here". Even something as cheap as a mirror comes to mind to just get a rough sketch across.

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