Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

  • Mood:

Using Constructed Languages in Literature

This article talks about how to use conlangs without getting in the way of a story.  This is fine for one cluster of stories that contain conlangs: the ones that use them as local color.  There, you want a small amount, much as you would if you used dabs of French or Russian or whatever in a story aimed at an English-speaking audience.  So the article makes a decent amount of sense, for as far as it goes.

However, there's another cluster of stories that use conlangs: linguistic speculative fiction.  These stories are ABOUT the conlang.  There are lots of variations, but in all of them, your audience is there to watch you trot that thing around the stage and make it do tricks.  If they can't see enough of it, they will be annoyed.  The audience for these stories is smaller but extremely passionate.  These are people who buttonhole linguists and ask about OVS languages.  You're not going to throw them unless you botch the mechanics of linguistic construction and/or basic storytelling skills.  A closely related subcluster is stories that are primarily about something else, but require a lot of conlang support, such as one about alien genders with unique pronouns or one about time travel with unique tenses.  Effectively, these require guidelines more akin to the linguistic speculative fiction set than the local color set.

What this really means: before you start writing a story with a conlang in it, decide which of those types you want to write.  The guidelines for doing it well are almost entirely opposite.  Walk in the middle of the road, get squished like grape.
Tags: fantasy, how to, linguistics, networking, science fiction
Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 4 comments