The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly on Language – Fantasy Friday

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So Tolkien was a linguist. In his works (of which there were many) he had developed specialized and peculiar languages to integrate into his world.


Holy shit right? That’s just Elvish, one language, and a brief example of it. A lot of different mediums have now attempted to do the same. For example, Klingon in Star Trek.


Wookiee in Star Wars.


Okay, maybe Wookiee doesn’t count, but who are you to judge? My point here is that some writers have a natural gift for the complexities of linguistics. Other’s, not so much. If you’re an author that is writing about a Sci-Fi or Fantasy setting I think it’s important to know which side of the fence you’re on. You don’t NEED language to make an engaging story, often times by inserting complex and unfamiliar phrases will detract from your tale. If you’re someone that genuinely enjoys creating linguistics (like Tolkien) then you may be able to organically incorporate it into your story successfully.

I bring it up because I think that a lot of writers are intimidated by the success of well known Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors that have some type of linguistic offering. The good news is, you shouldn’t be. An authors job is to tell a story, not invent a new language.

In my personal opinion I think that it IS important to include some type of slang. Something about your world(s) that differs from ours and is used in an organic and simple way. If you write a Fantasy that isn’t based on Earth, don’t ever mention the word Earth. Unless they knew about the planet they wouldn’t define something based on it right? The ground would be dirt, rock, soil, or the name of the planet that they’re on. It wouldn’t be referred to as Earth.

Make sure that people speak in a way that makes sense to your universe, not everyone else’s. What I mean by that is have phrases, profanities, cultures that aren’t defined by Earth Standards. This doesn’t mean you need to completely break the mold, you don’t want to confuse your readers, but make a couple of minor adjustments and you sell the reality of your world. Instead of a character saying ‘Damn it’ maybe they say ‘Zarquon’. I don’t know why I chose Zarquon, it’s what my fingers picked at this very moment.

It’s important that you differentiate your world from others, especially Earth. As long as your tale is based around Earth. It’s not important to completely invent (or reinvent) when it’s not your specialty or prerogative. You can make a perfectly good piece of literature without having to resort to Tolkien-esque Linguistic Creation. Take solace in that.

Tell me how you feel about Fantasy and Sci-Fi languages. Do they intimidate you, bore you, excite you? What are some of your favorites, or least favorites? The Comment’s are waiting.


Have a great Friday!