Introducing the object

Without getting into the complex details, or thinking about how it works, the simple form and feel of a thing can tell you it is unusual. This should be enough to generate curiosity about it so that the characters are compelled to continue investigating it.

It was a thick black disc, blacker than black, like a chunk of outer space. It was made from some kind of metal that looked like it had fallen from the sky. It felt cool to the touch, and though it was as big as both his hands cupped together, it was very comfortable to hold.

Notice the expansions on the basic details of the object using out-of-this-world language (and also note Said’s use of repetition for effect):

  • It’s not just black, it’s blacker than black like a chunk of space itself.
  • It’s not just metal, it looks like metal that has fallen from the sky.

Here the object is described with a look at shape, material, colour, and temperature.

Weight, texture, motion, hardness, size

The Astrolabe in Phoenix sounds amazing and alien and cool and everything, but it’s actually not that different from a real historical astrolabe:

Image of an astrolabe

The writer is just making it sound cool by hyping its qualities: blacker than black, like space metal, mysterious, precise.

You can do the same thing: take something from the real world and just exaggerate it into alienness. Or describe it as if you’ve never encountered anything like it before. (What would Airpods look like to a caveman?)

It looked like a formless lump, wobbling in front Biff like an alien dessert. It was like a jelly he might have served in the cafeteria, but with a high-tech core which pulsed lights and emitted a dull mechanical throb. It even felt gelatinous when Biff picked it up; firm enough to stay together, but slimy enough that he worried it might slip from his grasp.

It was a cloak of shimmering particles, radiant and soft, like a cloud of tiny jewels. Each particle was a nanobot, invisible to the eye and too tiny to touch. It felt strangely soft, and although it was basically a gas, it draped around her like cotton.

The machine the humans left behind was within a large translucent box fixed firmly to the ground. Like all human devices, it seemed like it wasn’t grown; it was made from substances either inorganic or not-of-the-sea. It felt as smooth as a worn stone but not curved like one, with unnaturally straight edges and sides. Distinctly alien, Jola thought.

Write your own variation here, introducing your object by describing its form and feel.