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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WIP Wednesday 3 [NaNoWriMo 2017]

Another week has come and gone. That means we’re one week closer to the end of NaNoWriMo. It’s been an interesting week.

WIP Wednesday

What am I working on?

The Scribe. I changed the title again, which I think I’ve already mentioned. The story turned into something much more than I anticipated. When I say that I mean the plot has completely changed from what I originally thought it would be.

What’s the easiest part of writing this novel?

I’m going to cheat and say the same thing I said for my week two update. This first draft started strong and then turned into word vomit. It’s been easy to get the words down and try to figure out how the novel works, but there will be a lot of changes made down the road.

What’s the hardest part of writing this novel?

The fact that the plot has gone off the rails. I’ve started my research and I’ve been doing pretty well with it, but there’s still a lot of loose ends to tie up.

NaNo Stats

Day 15: 2,055
Day 16: 0
Day 17: 0
Day 18: 2,091
Day 19: 5,735
Day 20: 0
Day 21: 0
Total Week Three Words: 9,881
Total Words: 50,061

All done.

As you can see, my word count for this week was a bit all over the place. I skipped a few days, one of those days was for a legit reason. I don’t remember my excuse for the other days.

I reached 50k on Sunday, November 19. I was losing steam and knew if I didn’t sit myself down and write a big chunk, I’d be struggling to reach 50k before Thanksgiving… which is tomorrow. I even wrote two different endings because the story ended before I reached 50k.

So now we’ll see how the editing goes.

How is NaNo treating you so far? Did you reach your word goal yet? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

WIP Wednesday 2 [NaNoWriMo 2017]

We have completed week two of NaNoWriMo! Time flies when you’re having fun… we’re having fun, right?

WIP Wednesday

What am I working on?

I’m still hanging onto The Librarian. The title is definitely going to change, but I’m keeping it as is for now.

What’s the easiest part of writing this novel?

The fact that this is the first draft. That may be a dumb reason to have this be “easy,” but I’m going without an outline here. Each scene I write I realize is going to end up getting cut… but I’m still writing. So there’s that.

What’s the hardest part of writing this novel?

The middle. I need a lot of research. I’m pretty much at the climax of my novel right now and I have to say that it’s pretty anti-climactic because I have no idea what I’m doing… editing this thing is going to be fun.

Also, I reached 10k words on November 10th. According to my NaNo stats, my wordiest day was 10,096 words on November 10, 2016. So I beat my record by getting 10,103 words on November 10, 2017. Yay!

The reason I’m saying this was the hardest because while the 10k was fine, it was the afterward that was hard. The following day I wrote 1,000 out of my 2,000-word goal. Then I skipped a day of writing and then barely made it to 2,000 words the day after. I’m not complaining, I’m happy with my word count. But I clearly burnt myself out after writing for 5+ hours of 10,000 words.

NaNoWriMo Stats

Day 8: 2,043
Day 9: 3,022
Day 10: 10,103
Day 11: 1,087
Day 12: 0
Day 13: 1,535
Day 14: 2,315
Total Week Two Words: 20,105
Total Words: 40,180

Still hanging in there.

I have 10,000 more words left to write to hit 50,000 words. I don’t know if my story is going to end before then or not. Still, I want to complete the story (not just hit the word count) by Thanksgiving. This means I have a week to complete this first draft, to write at least another 10,000 words.

Here’s to week three.

How is NaNo treating you so far? What are you currently working on? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

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!