Words That Pull You Out of a Fantasy Setting

Discussion in 'Writing' started by theWallflower, Aug 7, 2012.

  1. goldhawk

    goldhawk aurea plectro

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    And no English. What did the text say in the original language?

    Oh, that's right, it's all made up. Why can't you just assume it was translated into contemporary language and enjoy the story?
     
  2. zachariah

    zachariah Speaks fluent Bawehrf

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    My personal taste-detectors agree that fantasy language is anything in your native tongue that could have been spoken and understood up to sometime in the mid 1800's. Once you start using slang and sentence formations from the modern industrial era, it's instantly jarring.

    Language is shaped by the culture of the day, so words and constructions born from the age of machinery, science and mass-production are anathema to the standard fantasy settings of agrarian economies and feudal politics.
     
  3. zachariah

    zachariah Speaks fluent Bawehrf

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    Adding an important caveat: One of (or both) the author and the reader must be aware of the anachronisms and anatopisms for them to matter. It's a nice discussion for us would-be conscientious authors to fret over use of language, but if your readership doesn't bat an eyelid at a magic fairy princess in standard fantasyland setting saying something like:
    ...Then, really, it doesn't matter.

    Edited to add: New word for the day! Anatopism! Knowledge is power!
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2012
  4. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    Another thing that really drives me up a wall is when I see a real deity's name mentioned in a story not set on Earth.
     
  5. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    Seeing Apollo in Star Trek worked for me the way the story was crafted.

    Also, seeing the Greek gods in Battlestar Galactica worked for me because, here again of the story. We learn at the end of the series the final resting place of Battlestar Galactica is Earth. They are our ancestors. Their culture became our culture.
     
  6. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    That would have to be state up front from the very beginning in order for me not to have an issue with it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012
  7. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    Where is your sense of appreciation for mysteries to unravel in a story?
     
  8. assasin

    assasin Registered User

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    but both of those examples happen in the same universe as earth. I don't see a problem as long as theres a semi-logical link. though the only scifi I realy watch is stargate so I don't know if they're logical or not.




    I disagree. I haven't done much more than thinking that I want to start writing. And I still find stuff like this jarring in something not contemporary.
     
  9. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    I appreciate them so long as you don't mention people on another planet in a different universe worshiping Odin when it would make no sense unless you preface it with at least a brief mention of how at some point in the far future humans spread out among the stars and some of the colonies became disconnected and started their own civilizations.It makes no sense otherwise. I go out of my way to avoid giving a deity in my writings the same name as one humans have worshiped at any point in history unless I explicitly state this is on earth or a colony of earth.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2012
  10. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    That was not done with BSG, but people still loved the series. True fans of the original BSG knew the connection. It was great to see the series end when the crew found a planet they named, Earth after another Earth and laid down the foundations of our history. They worshiped our Greek gods and the one god and brought the Earth their gods.
     
  11. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    Ah,but they don't say that at the start.It just seems like they were being to lazy too come up with their own fictional deities if they do not tell you in even a passing reference. I mean even in Howard's first Conan story he at least had the courtesy to explain this kind of thing by telling you it was an age before human history as we know it. That gives me a logical reason. BSG does not until the end and by then I've decided there is a serious flaw in the social science aspect of the show and I'm not interested.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2012
  12. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    I foreshadow important stuff like that in my own works because I'm old school. I think it is overlooked these days for the video game generation who have short attention spans. All they want.are quick action fixes.
     
  13. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Well that's what they had for the original Battlestar Galactica television show which used the deity names for the characters. The original show had the voice over intro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHD1uPVkyk0

    When they remade the show, they had to keep the names. But, they played with them, making Starbuck a female, etc. They had somewhat the same premise as the original going in -- that's why they are looking for Earth essentially, but when they got around to the last season and had to decide what they were going to end with, they turned it into a fantasy series instead of science fiction and completely flipped it on its head, which a lot of people were not happy about. Television is stew pot storytelling and doesn't have a great deal to do with words in a written narrative.

    If you are doing a flowery formal tone because it's a pre-industrial setting, it's fine. But a contemporary tone doesn't unmatch a pre-industrial setting in a secondary world because the language of that world did not develop as Earth did. You can't say that it's fine for there to be flying monkeys and 19th century English pubs in that setting, but authors can't have certain grammatical expressions because you want them to sound like the faux medievalism that you heard in an old Errol Flynn movie on Robin Hood. Tone is a full palate that is adapted to the invented world, not the invented world to it.

    But collecting words, having a database of historical words that you want to use, as Wallflower was suggesting, is also a workable tool for writers. When I found out what a petard actually was, well that's a fun thing for an author to work with. And since authors are often making up their own word and names, language from English or different languages that's unusual to the ear can be useful in that regard. But there are already medieval culture and language databases out there on the Net that are probably way better than what we could assemble here.
     
  14. Lurker8

    Lurker8 Registered User

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    I was reading some YA novel a couple weeks back (the name escapes me now) that was supposed to be medieval fantasy but the heroine kept saying "as if" and "whatever" in her internal monologue. It really threw me out.
     
  15. theWallflower

    theWallflower Start judging

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    Like where?
     
  16. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Seriously, does no one know how to run searches on our evil overlords Google and other search engines any more? :) Here you go to start, type in medieval life or folklore with the evil overlords, etc. for more:

    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/

    http://www.medieval-life.net/

    http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-life/index.htm

    http://www.learner.org/interactives/middleages/feudal.html/

    http://www.britainexpress.com/History/Townlife.htm

    http://www.csupomona.edu/~plin/ls201/medieval1.html

    http://www.fidnet.com/~weid/medievaleconomics.htm

    http://www.svincent.com/MagicJar/Economics/MedievalOccupations.html

    http://www.castles-of-britain.com/

    http://www.historyonthenet.com/Medieval_Life/medievallifemain.htm

    http://www.localhistories.org/transport.html

    http://pantheon.org/

    http://www.learner.org/interactives/middleages/feudal.html/

    http://www.youtube.com/show?p=s-Gqsjg9y-8

    Books (check the library):

    The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval Life
    Medieval Life (DK Eyewitness Books)
    Life in a Medieval City
    Medieval Life
    Medieval Cuisine
    Life in a Medieval Castle
    Daily Life in the Middle Ages
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2012
  17. R.J.

    R.J. Is Winter Coming?

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    But "heaven" is just another word/translation of "sky"
    (http://www.infidelguy.com/heaven_sky.htm)
     
  18. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess

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    I always take the stance that the book is being translated from the original language anyway, so there is a little latitude. For instance, words that have no direct translation but which refer to a person or a place. I'm not going to stop and describe the thing when I can bring the picture immediately into a reader's mind with one word.

    I used to obsess over words like earth but gave up. Dirt and soil don't have the same feel or the same nuances. Synonyms never mean exactly the same thing, so sometimes it's not appropriate for me to use one for the word I am struggling not to use.

    On the other hand, I avoid modern slang. The big problem with language that is too modern is that language shapes our thoughts and the cultures we live in shape our language. Modern language makes it very easy to make the mistake of giving characters thoughts and attitudes that they simply wouldn't have in the type of culture I have borrowed or created for them. So I try to think what attitudes each word I use betrays.

    I also find that there are some older words that simply don't have any equivalent. To substitute a more familiar word would be to lose a whole system of thought that surrounds the other. So I use the less familiar word, which many readers are going to know anyway, and figure the ones who don't can look it up in the dictionary. I have to use the word that fits, or I'm not telling the story as it should be told.
     
  19. theWallflower

    theWallflower Start judging

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    I find it insulting that whenever someone asks for some resources, the person automatically says "just google it, don't you know how?" Google is not a divine oracle. It is a search engine that indexes and ranks sites based on how many other, "more popular", sites link to it (known as "page authority")*.

    Meaning it doesn't matter if the site's good or bad, just how many links there are to it. That's why "google bombs" work. This algorithm also favors older sites.

    When you go to the library, they don't qualify the books on the shelf either -- they place the poorly researched sources with the bad -- there's no discrimination. So there's no way to tell with an impartial computer what facts are real and what aren't. There's still pages out there that declare that a duck's quack does not echo, or that you only use 10% of your brain.

    So, like in advertising, the most reliable resource is still word of mouth. I'm sure most writers, especially fantasy writers, have a few research sites bookmarked (I already have a few myself), and know the most optimal ones already. It doesn't cost anything to share -- we're all in this together.

    *Also felt it necessary to mention that links in e-mails, sites with "nofollow" tags, or pages that are too similar are not included in google's index crawl.
     
  20. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    You're right and I apologize for being snippy about it. On the bright side, I did actually give you all my bookmarked medieval sites and went out and found you more of them. So you got a free research assistant. :) And if you find a site and you're not sure about it, you can always bring it up here and see if anyone has used it and found it helpful. Generally, anything from a university is probably pretty golden. Also, the Terry Jones video was actually an official one, so it's probably good and fun too.