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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How Much World Building Is Too Much? [World Building]

You can plan your novel through and through. But when you get the editing stage, you nit-pick every gritty detail and what happens? Most of it gets taken out.

So what do you do with all this extra information you have on your world building? How do you decide if it’s worth it for your readers to know?

Build What You Need | World Building | Fantasy | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Questions To Ask Yourself

1. Does this advance the plot?

If you throw in certain information about the world you’ve built or a certain location, ask yourself if it has anything to do with the plot. While it may be useful information, it may be something your reader doesn’t necessarily need to know.

2. Does this have to do with a character?

Is this place important to a character? Did something happen there in the past with a certain character? If it aids in the character development, then you could probably keep it in. Otherwise, it may not be needed.

3. Is this too specific?

Don’t hand all the information to your readers. Allow them to infer what the world is like for themselves. Allow them to explore the world through your general writing. If you lay it all out for them it may be too much information and seem like an info-dump.

Build As You Write

You don’t need to figure everything out all at once. You can have a general idea, sure, but for the most part, your writing and characters will help carry you along. If you’re not sure if something should go in your story, just keep writing. If it comes up, it comes up. If not, then you may need to keep that bit to yourself.

How do you decide when your world building is too much? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to chat! Also, if you enjoyed this post, please share it around.

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How To Create A Map For Your Fantasy World [World Building]

Map making is an art in itself. It’s fun, yes, but it’s not as easy as it seems. Creating a map is like writing the first draft of a novel. You’ll most likely have to do it over a couple of times until you get this right and every place has a special spot.

Mapping Your Fictional World | World Building | Fantasy | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Do You Need A Map?

Depending on your story, you may not need a map. If your story remains in one location, maybe two or three, then you most likely don’t need a map.

However, if you’re writing a series, if your characters are traveling a lot throughout the world, or even if you just mention a lot of names and certain characters live in different areas, then you may need a map.

How To Create A Map

1. Make a list of people and places.

Think about the countries, the cities inside them, and the people who reside in each city. If you have different races of people, like Lord of the Rings, for example, they may live in certain areas of the world.

2. Create a general shape and size of your world.

Draw an outline of the world and then you can start forming smaller shapes on the inside. Then you plug in the names of the countries and cities.

3. Think of the terrain.

Where are the oceans, rivers, and lakes? What about the mountains? Are there any rainforests or deserts? Draw those in. Keep in mind the weather and the seasons.

Tips For Creating Your Map

1. Decide what kind of map you want.

There are different kinds of maps such as physical maps (the one you’d most likely use), topographic maps, road maps, climate maps, and a lot more. What information do you want your readers to get out of looking at the map?

2. Study geography

There are plenty of map making tools on the internet, but if you draw your map, you want it to look as realistic as possible. Take a look at real maps and get a feel for how they show mountains and more.

How do you create maps for your worlds? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to chat! If you enjoyed this post, please share it around.

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Writing The History Of Your World [World Building]

We all have a history, a background story. Every character has a background story, whether your readers discover it all or not. This goes for your fictional world as well.

We all have history classes in our school learning about our country, world, and its geography. Whether your characters attend school or not, there should be a few history lessons poking through your words for both them and your readers.

Writing The History of Your World | Creative Writing | World Building | Fantasy | RachelPoli.com

History Questions

  • Have there been any wars in the past? Who fought, who won, and why were they fighting?
  • Have there been any significant natural disasters? Have they changed certain areas of the world, is it a big part of a character’s past?
  • Are there any rulers? Is there a government? How did they come to be and what’s their purpose?
  • How were certain areas of your world built? Who built them and why?
  • Are there different countries? Are there borders? Why were they put up?
  • Are there any myths or legends that float around in your world?
  • How did your world come to be in the first place? (For example, do your characters believe a God create it?) Do they all believe the same religion? Maybe no one knows how the world came to be.

The Big Question

Ask yourself:

What would my characters learn in a history class?

The questions listed above should be in your answer. I’m sure there are other questions I’ve missed.

How do you create a history for your world? What are some other things you think about? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to chat! If you enjoyed this post, please share it around.

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5 Tips To Name Your World [World Building]

Just like naming your characters, naming your world and the places inside it can be difficult. You should give it some thought, but you might be able to just write down whatever comes into your head first.

Naming Your World | World Building | Fantasy | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

1. Have names your readers will remember

Everyone knows Hogwarts. We all know Mt. Doom. They’re not fancy names. Hogwarts is out of this world while the word “Doom” is simple and common. Names don’t have to be simple but they should be memorable.

2. Avoid names that can’t be pronounced easily

Short names are good, long names are fun, a mixture of the two is great. However, when it comes to any name, you should be able to pronounce it easily. Even if your readers have to stop to sound it out, they should be able to make some sort of sense of it.

3. Take names from the things around you

Pay attention to the current world we live in. Graffiti is on the walls, names are in the credits of movies, you can easily take common names and turn it into something else. Some names you can probably use in your world as is. Not everything needs to be made up.

4. Play around with places that already exist

Scramble the letters in your hometown’s name. Spell it backward. Spell it backward and then scramble the letters around. The possibilities are endless.

5. Let names come to you

You don’t always have to sit and brainstorm name ideas. If your characters are going to a new town, you don’t have to know that town’s name right away. Refer to it as “Town A” and bold it so you can easily see it stick out when you’re editing later on. You can always think of a name later. A name may come to you when you least expect it.

How do you typically come up with names for your worlds and places? Let me know in the comments below!

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World Building Checklist

A lot comes with world building. There’s so much to think about. Will it all be needed? Maybe, maybe not. However, it’s best for you to know absolutely everything just in case something comes up.

World Building Checklist | Fantasy | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

World Building: Things To Think About

  • Type of world
  • Geography
  • Climate
  • History
  • Rules (of the world and magic, if magic exists)
  • Magic
  • Technology
  • People/Races
  • Religion
  • Food, habits, gestures
  • Language
  • Government
  • Laws
  • Education
  • Calendar
  • Clothing
  • Transportation
  • Creatures
  • Currency
  • Time
  • Housing
  • Leisure/Activities

What are some other things you would add to your world building? Let me know in the comments below!

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3 Types Of Worlds [World Building]

It’s one thing to create a new world when you’re world building for a story, but did you know there are a few ways to go about it?

Sure, you can find a checklist online and create everything one by one – races, religion, towns and cities, weather, etc. But do you know what kind of world you’re creating?

3 Types of Worlds | World Building | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Alternate Reality

Alternate reality is re-imagining the world we already live in. You can take your hometown and twist it around so it would fit your story’s needs. For example, if you’re writing science fiction you can turn your world into a futuristic one.

You can change history that actually happened, alter it, or pretend it never happened at all. Maybe the world is dirtier than it already is, or cleaner? Maybe humans never inhabited the earth in the first place and they’re going to now. So who lives here now?

Imaginative Worlds

Imaginary worlds are worlds that you completely make up yourself. They’re brand new from your mind and are totally fictional. This is typically used for fantasy. Entire maps are created with brand new, made up places. There may be new races of people along with religion, food, currency, and more.

I feel like this is the most difficult world to create because you’re starting everything completely from scratch. I also believe it’s the most fun, though.

Real Locations

Just what it sounds like, real locations are based off real-life locations. There’s no alternate reality from the first point above, everything is just as it is. This is typically used in basic fiction with no fantastical elements.

This requires a lot of research on the place you’re characters are living. If it’s not where you grew up, it helps to travel there and explore. Why not get a vacation out of it, huh? Or you can buy tour guys, Google is a great resource, the possibilities are endless.

What’s your favorite kind of world to create? Do you mix and match the types? Is there a type I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

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Why World Building Is Important [World Building]

One of my favorite aspects of fiction is having the ability to be as imaginative as possible. Cars are important to get around in, yes, but what if they could do more? Maybe they can hover or drive themselves (yes, I know we’re on our way to that anyway, but play along) or maybe they can float in water (now I want to watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

You’re able to play around with real life things and turn them into something else. Make them your own and have it fit into your story allowing your characters to treat it as a normal everyday thing for them.

World building is one of those things, as broad as it is.

Why World Building is Important | World Building | Creative Writing | Fiction Writing | RachelPoli.com

What is world building?

World building is exactly how it sounds. You’re building a fictional world, a brand new setting that’s all your own. It’s an imaginative setting for your fictional novel (or whatever you’re creating) that includes various places and terrains, a thorough backstory, people and their history, and so much more.

Is world building just for fantasy?

While world building is the most common in fantasy as people create their own maps and races, I don’t think it has to be limited to fantasy only. As long as you’re writing fiction, I think you can throw in some world building.

You don’t even have to create something brand new either. You can make a city based off of your hometown but alter it to cater more to your characters and story. That doesn’t necessarily have to be fantasy.

Why is world building so important?

1. Imagination

In order for your readers to get the full effect of your story, you need to paint a realistic picture for them. How much time passes between your characters’ going from their house to their work? Or to the park? What kind of people do they meet along the way? What landmarks do they pass by?

2. Time

Speaking of time, establishing the setting is important for the time period. Time period shows how people dress, how they speak, where they work, etc. It also, as stated before, shows how much time has passed between one point in the story to another.

3. Make It Real

I know I made the first point to be “imagination,” but, at the same time, you want it to be as real as you can make it. You want to make your readers want to live there themselves. Or maybe you want your reader to not want to live there. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to live in the Harry Potter world but the Hunger Games? No, thank you.

Why is world building important to you? What are your thoughts on it in general? Let me know in the comments below!

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