Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writing Wednesdays: Building Languages...

This is an important post regarding fantasy world building. When you think of fantasy worlds, you always think of the creatures, the magic and all that. However, one thing that gets overlooked is the languages.

Sure, you automatically assume there are going to be unique languages associated with different races. Tolkien built on languages for Elves in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The Elven language is copyrighted, despite the fact that Tolkien wanted to share aspects of Middle Earth so others could write from it.

I tried, they said 'No.' Quite firmly I might add...

So what's a girl (or guy) who writes fantasy to do about languages? Make it up as you go along.

Unless you have the time, skills and education Mr. Tolkien had, you have to use what is available to you. Most of it will be your imagination. There are ways to go about it and create something. I have a link here to my translator page. I use Latin for a lot of things. No surprise, look at the titles of my books. But I sort of cheat and mix Latin with Drow or Tolkien's Elvish. I'm not using his work, just using it as a guideline of sorts.

What I do is take a word. Let's use the word 'Sword'. We want another 'name' for Sword in our story, so we think about it a bit and hit the internet. Now in Latin, you can use the word Gladius. In Drow it is Killian. But I can't use Drow and I don't want it to be in Latin, that's sort of boring. I want to be unique. So I would combine the two somehow. Kildius, Kilius, Gladian... you get the idea. But a couple of those look kind of lame. So I just shuffle things about a bit and go for something along the lines of Kildan, Adius or completely away from either of my language choices and try Samas. Does this make sense? I may not get an exact derivative from my two language choices, but it sparked my imagination enough to come up with something else entirely.

There are name generators out there as well to help with the language and naming processes. I know there are sites out there that tell you when naming things in fantasy, don't use an apostrophe. Well. Screw that. Use what you want! I have lots of names, including the name of my world that have an apostrophe. Eir du'Brusai.

People always ask me how I come up with names. I honestly cannot give you a formulaic answer. I don't know. Names and the like just pop up in my head and I use what fits. Languages are the same for me unless I get stuck and then use my tricks up above with the two different languages. I try to be unique but not so unique in everything that people get frustrated reading my work. I try to give the unique name and try to find a way to describe exactly what it is to the reader. Most everyone will get the idea right away that my D'raetus Pastiniir are lethal, elite assassins.

But there is that pesky apostrophe!

Too bad. Fantasy Police don't like it, they can arrest me.

I am always happy to help other writers find unique names for people or items. So if you get stuck, by all means, drop me a line! I'd be happy to help. Most of my name generator links are on my links page of the blog. Check them out.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I decided not to worry about a new language. Coming up with names is fun though. I just go for simple but odd.

Mel Chesley said...

Odd is good in many, many things. Especially people! :D