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Worldbuilding 7 – Language August 16, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in Worldbuilding.
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Many different languages are spoken in Erde.  The ‘official’ language of the Empire is Court Anglich.  There is a court version and common versions.  The common versions are replete with words specific to the olde languages of each Rejoinder and may or may not be recognized in other  Rejoinders.  Of course the various native tribes all speak their own languages which makes things difficult for the author but the reader needn’t be concerned with translation.  Since the Vigroth tribe is the focus of the story, their language is more the center of attention than the others.

It’s not so much the languages that I want to discuss but how the languages are used in my novels.  What would life be like without poetry, music and the sounds of different languages?  Can you even imagine?  Yet, how many novels (especially fantasy) have you read where these elements of language were excluded?

One of the reasons books such as Lord of the Rings or The Once and Future King are so popular is because they contain these three elements of language.  (To me, music is indeed an element of language.)  Including poetry, song, and language immediately brings the reader into an environment that the reader can relate to.  Music and poetry fill our waking lives.  Why shouldn’t they also fill the lives of our characters?  As for language differences, walk down a street in any New York City neighborhood and listen to the people speaking.  Now try to imagine what the experience would be like if they all spoke one tongue and all with the same accent.  Not nearly as colorful, eh? Yet we do this to our readers all the time.

Tolkien was a linguist so creating new languages both written and spoken wasn’t as difficult for him as it might be for you and I.  But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it should be excluded from our work.  Allow me to give an example.  Here is a poem written by my protagonist.  I’ll give it to you first in her native Vigroth tongue:


Now here it is in the Common Anglich spoken in the village of Selga:


I can translate any English writing into Vigroth.  It is spelled phonetically, the way it is spoken or sung.  Again, it’s just something that adds a bit of color to a story and, perhaps, a bit more enjoyment for the reader.

Music in books presents its own problems.  Face it – books don’t have a soundtrack.  Blend music with poetry and you have a song.  People sing.  They sing when they’re happy, sad, bored – for many reasons.  They sing in concerts, at sporting games, in pubs, or even just in their own shower or car.  People enjoy singing and so should your characters.  It makes for a more life-like work.

The same goes for poetry.  Some form of poetry invades almost every language spoken or written.  This is especially true if you are writing about a time before our age of technology.  Who has never attempted to write so much as one poem in their life?  Few, I should think.  Again, you want your characters to be realistic?  Slip in a bit of poetry or song here or there.


Worldbuilding 1 – Creating a Fantasy World July 16, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in Worldbuilding.
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You want to write a series of stories based on a fantasy world large enough to allow you to write about any time period during its history.  This is a huge task.  You’ll need good maps, languages, and most important of all – a world history complete enough that your characters will not stumble over historical time lines involving people, places, and things.  This requires an incredible amount of reference and back-story.

This is the task I set upon in late 1989.  First, I needed a foundation, something that would connect our real world with my fantasy world.  I wanted the premise to be both practical and realistic.  I had long been a student of the various legends concerning the Bermuda Triangle.  The one thing I noticed about all of them was the Triangle appeared to be a one-way street.  Writers wrote about ships and aircraft disappearing but wrote nothing about where the people in those vessels ended up.  Nor did anyone ever write a story about the people from ‘there’ (wherever ‘there’ was)  coming here to Earth.  I felt addressing this situation would make an excellent premise for my books.

I knew this wasn’t much to hang my hat on, but it was a start.  I realized I had a lot of work in front of me.  I understood that this fantasy world needed to be created before I could populate it with people.  This was necessary to give the consistency to my writing that would be required.  You know, there are people out there with nothing more to do in life than to find inconsistencies in published novels.  Any character I plopped into this world had to know where they lived, who they were, what they did and why they did it.  They would need to know families and friends names, place names, local landmarks and the history of the area (on some level) where they lived.

Questions became obvious to me.  “Does everyone speak the same language?”  “What level of technology existed there and who/how were people trained to use it?” “How long did people live in this world?”  “If people came from our world to theirs, do they age at the same rate?”  “Was this new fantasy world going to be a bizarre place or would it be very similar to our own world?”

This gave me a place to begin.  Things started to flesh out and I answered question after question for myself.  I called my new world “Erde.”  I know this is the German word for “Earth,” but I had reasons for using this word.  I gave considerable thought to what the first people from our world (whom I called “OutSiders”) would be like.  Little by little their history became outlined in my mind.  I could see how these people interacted with the native people.  I reckoned the first OutSiders would obviously be Vikings.  I came up with two names for areas of Erde that they began to inhabit, “Uppsala” and “Sigtuna.”  I figured people coming from here would use place names that were the same or similar to place names in our World.

It was a start.