|Snow Leopard Trust|
Fine. BUT I want to get more out of the description than "blue like the depths of the ocean - that you could get lost in, yada, yada...", if you know what I mean. So I started thinking in terms of animals, which somehow people automatically characterize.
For green, if I say: "sharp as a snow leopard's", you get a picture of stealth and strength. Yes? I hope you do.
Anyway, my internal editor had to think on that detail for a moment.
"Big cats have yellow eyes - don't they?
No. The leopard has green eyes. I'm sure.
Why am I so sure?
Better Google it. -
Yes. Unlike most big cats, Snow Leopards do have green eyes."
This descriptor may sound off to you in a contemporary fiction, but I write fantasy, and it works for me. Snow leopard eyes also bring in another detail of my setting. My main character lives in the mountains, where people respect the animal, and may occassionally see one. The snow leopard is also known as a "ghost cat" because of it's coloring and it's reclusive nature - another detail that I apply directly to my character. He isn't with the "in" crowd, but he is independent and capable.
Here are some interesting myths from the Snow Leopard Conservancy:
In the northerly societies of Nepal many indigenous beliefs and shamanistic practices, reflecting local pre-Buddhist traditions, were incorporated and subsequently reworked into the Buddhist pantheon and ritual system. One such ritual in Manang connected to the snow leopard and its depredation forbids alpine herders to roast meat, for otherwise the mountain god will send its “dog”, (i.e. snow leopard) and one has to suffer livestock losses.
Local inhabitants still believe that snow leopards (and domestic cats) are considered to have taken birth particularly to remove the sins of their past lives, and killing these animals means having their sins transferred to your own life.
In Mustang, killing a snow leopard is considered to be more sinful than its prey species (for instance blue sheep), because all sins it has committed during its lifetime by killing its prey will then be transferred to you.
A ha! This info is appropriate for my main character too, because he IS atoning for something.
Even if I never mention the myths to my readers, all these implied attributes solidify Taner's character in my head.
I went through this process with Haydon in BURNT AMBER too, but he was a Red-Footed Falcon.
Now, if you write contemporary, or historical, or any sort of fiction other than fantasy, I think this fun exercise can also work for you. The trick might be to get as specific (and indigenous) as possible, because the additional facts make a difference. And find something other than a Red-Footed Falcon, or Snow Leopard, because someone's already done that. ;)