How to Invent Fantasy Words

This post is similar to one that I wrote a while back for Mythic Scribes. But I wanted to write another post with some tips for inventing words and names for fantasy, and next week I’m planning to do a similar post about how to write technobabble for sci-fi.

So here are some of my tips for creating convincing words for your fantasy stories:

Use a real language as your base.

J.K. Rowling is famous for using Latin and Latin-esque-sounding words. How about the spells of “lumos” and “nox” to create light or make it dark? “Lumi” is Latin for “light,” so “lumos” isn’t much of a stretch; and “nox” means “night.”

Especially if your fantasy world is inspired by or reflective of a real culture, then go ahead and use the language for inspiration. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien based the people of Rohan on ancient Viking culture. Many of the words used were either Old Norse words, or based on that language. Continue reading

Advertisements

Questions for Readers

This post is a poll of sorts, and I really would love your feedback! (It’s only three questions, and you don’t have to answer them all, so don’t panic). These are few things that I’ve been mulling over lately as I’ve been working on my fantasy stories, and I’d really like to know what other people think about these things. My questions are directed mainly at readers of fantasy and related genres. I welcome feedback from readers (and writers!) of any genre, but fans of fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal would probably understand these questions best.

So, here we go:

Do you prefer one-shots, duology/trilogy, or series?

I’m not trying to find the “best” or even the most currently “marketable” length – I’m just genuinely curious what other people are reading. And I’m honestly not sure which one is my favorite. So what’s your preference?

Do you like to have foreign languages translated in the text, or just have it left up to the reader to figure out words from the context?

This isn’t really about conlangs (constructed languages, like Elvish or Klingon), although that could be a subject for a blog post all on its own. When a character is speaking in another language (one different from the point of view character’s primary language) I’ve seen several different methods used:

The writer puts the character’s dialogue in brackets instead of quotes – [I bring you my sword], said Vlen – to indicate the language change. Or—

The writer simply states the language switch: “I bring you my sword,” said Vlen in Elvish. Or—

The writer has constructed at least the basics of the language, and uses it, with or without a translation as part of the narrative: “Mdash nii hwena,” said Vlen. I bring you my sword.

Have you read books – or written books – using one of these methods? Or a different method? Do you have a favorite? What method of inserting other languages seems the most awkward or interrupts the flow of the story?

Do you love or hate a book with a glossary or appendix?

Many fantasy books have landscape maps or genealogical maps, often at the beginning of a book. But what about other stuff that might come at the end of a book, like a glossary of conlang terms, a pronunciation guide, or an appendix explaining a cultural history or technological specs? Do glossaries and appendices get you excited about learning “behind the scenes” stuff about the world of the book, or do you get bogged down because it feels like a textbook?

 

Thanks! I truly want to know what others think about these storytelling elements. I look forward to reading everyone’s answers!