Writing Tips Round Up: Conlanging4 min read
A weekly round of writing advice and inspiration
“This use of invented languages to enhance world-building, often shaping the history or cultural characteristics of its speakers, has become a hallmark of modern fantasy worlds.”
The Times Literary Supplement gives you a crash course in how to invent a language, touching upon not only the fantasy tongues of Elvish and Dothraki, but Orwellian Newspeak and de Foigny’s philosophical languages.
“Unfortunately, it’s safe to say that when people are aware of writing, there is a sense that a language isn’t truly a “language” unless it’s written down. One of the things that most frustrates a linguist is this idea that anything not written is a “dialect.” More often than not, unwritten languages are much more grammatically complicated than ones that are written.”
Lit Hub airs an insightful conversation between a celebrated linguist and prize-winning author on languages traditionally ignored or rejected.
“I started to think about what kind of language might sound right. The first thing I knew was that it wasn’t enough to drop in a few invented slang words here and there. Whenever I see writers doing that, it comes across as fake and a little ridiculous. No, I wanted it to feel like a genuine patois; something with its own flavour.”
I couldn’t compile a post on fictional languages without mentioning the beautiful dialect of recent novel The Country Of Ice Cream Star. In this Bookanista article, author Sandra Newman describes the thought process behind a fictional patois.
“I started trying to describe the language textually in the script, but I was dissatisfied with my own descriptions. So I drew a circular symbol to connote the nonlinear orthography of the heptapods, and I added some accents and circles around the symbols. It was the first time I put visual things in a screenplay.”
Last year’s cinematic hit Arrival‘s entire narrative revolved around the power of language. In this Inverse article, the film’s screenwriter describes the pains of the language creation process.
“Say you want to convert “Stay away from that control panel!” to a new language. You come up with: “Blarg koy dor men kep ban!” It was easy – you just replaced every English word with gibberish. There’s your first mistake: copying English syntax. (Now blarg in the corner and think about what you’ve done.)”
The creators of Dothraki and Na’vi recount a day in the life of a language creator via Cracked. They discuss the what you can expect from the job in Hollywood, making mistakes, and the ownership you have the language when it’s all over.
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