How To Create Your Own Fantasy Language [Guest Post]

It’s my pleasure to welcome Carin Marais to my blog!

Guest Post: How To Create Your Own Fantasy Language by Carin Marais | Blogging | Creative Writing | Fantasy | Fantasy Writing | RachelPoli.com

You’ve probably heard of Sindarin and Quenya even if you don’t know a word of either language. These two constructed languages which J.R.R. Tolkien created have, for many, become the benchmarks of languages used in fantasy and for science fiction, there is Klingon from the Star Trek universe.

Writing in a secondary world means creating not only peoples and cultures but also the world’s languages – or at least parts of the languages. The problem with creating these is where to actually start.

This is also the question I came to stand before when starting to write fantasy, and I hope some of these tips and resources will come in handy when you start to create your own language(s).

Take your time

You might not want to tinker with a language more than is absolutely necessary for the story or novel you are writing. Perhaps you only need a greeting, a blessing or a curse. However, if you’re planning on writing a series, you will need to have a much better grasp of the language you’ve created and build on the vocabulary as well. This takes time – you cannot build a whole language in a day.

Get some help, aka, resources are your friends

I came across some very helpful books (which also don’t cost the world, as most of the linguistics textbooks are quite if not extremely expensive to buy…) in my search for language building resources – The Conlanger Lexipedia and The Language Construction Kit, both by Mark Rosenfelder.

Quite a small crash course in linguistics, these volumes show you how languages of differing complexities can be created.

Bilingual dictionaries – especially, I find, of dead languages – are very good to have at your side when you are in need of vocabulary inspiration.

University departments often have available niche dictionaries that can either be searched or downloaded. Then there are also sites like Wulfila.be that goes into the minutia of the Gothic fragments still available to us.

Archive.org is also a fascinating site on which to find these kinds of dictionaries and they also often go for a steal in the Kindle store, just saying.

Listen to languages

Honestly, though. Listen to other languages being spoken even if you don’t understand them. (She says, living in a country with 11 official languages…)

If you’re living somewhere where mostly one language is spoken, go onto YouTube and listen to videos in other languages to get the feel of their sound, their rhythm, etc. You can then use some of these characteristics in your own language(s).

There may even be a language you love the sound of. Then all you do is incorporate those sounds into your language if you don’t want to or can’t use the actual language.

Start with what you need right now

Although you can start building your language by making lists and lists (and lists) of words, it’s important to keep in mind the type of words you’re actually going to use. For instance, if you’re writing a fantasy epic set somewhere in 400 BC, you probably won’t need a word for “spaceship” or “laptop”.

How I go about building languages

The way in which I build my languages is by first seeing what I will need to write or name in those languages. For instance, while building a chant for The Ruon Chronicles, I first wrote it in English and then translated it:

English: Show yourself, servant of the deepest Darkness. One who has turned from the path to follow the Betrayer, show yourself.

 

Fantasy language: Khalla sah s’elaras verdun nakhan han sah.

Agr elstanbrahta se tellaria na Lewjan nakhan han sah.

 

In this case, the word that actually needed the most work was “deepest”.

The word for deep/deepest was constructed ‘backwards’, working from the word for “valley” (elir), which was already in place. I decided that the word for deep would, therefore, be “elara”, which would mean that “elaras” would mean deepest.

Have fun

Most of all, remember that you’re supposed to have fun while creating the language. Choose sounds you like (cellar door, anyone), make the grammar as easy or difficult as you want, and let your imagination run wild. It’s your world, so you get to choose!

Resources:

Here are some resources that I use (or plan to use in the future…)

Websites:

Archive.org (Basically anything your heart desires)

Wulfila (Gothic)

Grammar, etc. of Afrikaans (I’m biased as it’s my mother tongue…), Dutch, and Frisian (written in English)

Septentrionalia

The University of Texas at Austin: Linguistics Research Centre

Books:

A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins

Advanced Language Construction by Mark Rosenfelder

Linguistics: A Very Short Introduction by P.H. Matthews

The Conlanger’s Lexipedia by Mark Rosenfelder

The Language Construction Kit by Mark Rosenfelder

About Carin Marais

Carin Marais | Author | How To Create Your Own Fantasy Language | Guest Post | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.comCarin Marais is a South African fantasy author whose fiction and articles have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Jozi Flash (2016, 2017), Dim Mirrors (2016), Speculative Grammarian, Inkspraak and, most recently, Vrouekeur. She is also a contributor to The Mighty.

Website/Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Patreon | Instagram

What are your thoughts on creating your own fantasy language? Let Carin know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around. Also, if you’d like to be a guest on my blog, check out my Guest Posting Guidelines!

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8 Tips For Writing A Fantasy Novel

I’m no expert on writing fantasy. But I have written my fair share of the fantasy genre. I’ve written a couple of (totally not flushed out) short stories and I have written a novel or two with a few other ideas.

And when I say fantasy I mean I’ve written about mages. I’ve written about wizards and elves. I’ve written about superheroes. I’m all over the place with it.

I’m giving these tips because this is what I’ve learned along the way (and we can pretend I’m some sort of expert on writing fantasy), but also because I’m writing fantasy for NaNoWriMo.

So, here we go!

8 Tips to writing Fantasy

1. Keep it “real”

Fiction is fake, fantasy is out of this world. Still, there’s a little bit of truth in everything we write. Sometimes we base characters off of ourselves or someone we know. Sometimes we take places and warp them just a little bit to fit in a fictional land or some stories are based on real-life places.

You can always create and base elements of your story on real-life people or places. Take a myth or lore into your hands and add a twist to it. Research is your friend.

2. Mythical creatures

Like I said in the above point, you can do a lot with real-life people or places or even creatures. Unicorns and dragons don’t exist, but they can in the fantasy world. Dragons especially usually have big parts in the fantasy world. However, while you can make them your own in your world, you can also do research on them.

It took me a long time to realize that mermaids are not in fact like Ariel in The Little Mermaid. They are, supposedly, not nice creatures. It shattered my childhood, but I used that information to my advantage in one of my fantasy novels.

3. Magic

J.K. Rowling created the spells in Harry Potter using the Latin language. It’s not Latin exactly, but she twisted it around so that the spells were her own and they could kind of be “translated.”

I’m not saying you have to create a magic system just like Rowling did, but it should still make a little bit of sense.

4. Know your world inside and out

If you’re writing the kind of fantasy where you need your own Middle Earth area, you have to know the world as though you’ve been there in real life… as though you’ve lived there all your life.

Create a map. Do they speak another language? Do they have a different currency? What kinds of food do they eat? What are the seasons like? You may not need to know all of that, but it’s helpful to know anyway.

5. Use a map

Maps are important. Your fantasy novel may not need a map necessarily, unless it’s Middle Earth, but creating a map for yourself won’t hurt. It’ll help you keep track of all the areas which in turn will help you write it and allow your readers to understand.

6. Create character names that can be easily read and pronounced

Yeah. I don’t know what Flbergsted is. There are plenty of fantasy name generators out there on the Internet. Use your vowels wisely.

Sometimes I take names of people I know and spell them backward. For example, Rachel would be Lehcar. Even then you still have to mix some letters around to make them comprehensible, but most names work backward.

7. Do your research

There’s no wrong way to write a book, but research never hurts. There are so many sub-genres of fantasy. Some are way more complicated than others.

There’s a lot on the Internet and there is so many fantasy writing craft books out there. Not to mention fantasy novels in general that you can read. Just brush up on your fantasy knowledge.

8. Know your fantasy genre and subgenre

This kind of goes along with the point above. Fantasy is a vast genre and there are so many sub-genres to it. Like I said earlier in the post I’ve written many different kinds of fantasy. I go from Lord of the Rings style to X-Men style. Both are fantasy, but that’s just about all they have in common.

Do you write fantasy? If so, what sub-genre of fantasy do you typically write in? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!