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IaNo
November 8th, 2002, 06:24 AM
Hi. I'm working on my first scifi-fantasy book and I have some questions I would love to get some feedback on. They are pretty random so just answer what you want to.

1. My character is on a sort of epic hero quest and comes in contact with populations of beings that do not speak his language. I am trying to write dialogue. This is difficult. I am writing things that I can pronounce but I have no idea how anyone else would read them. Does it even matter? He is supposed to learn things from them and them from him, but i feel like i am writing an essay and not a story at points and know it is bad. i tried to get a translator as well as having them communicate through drawing, etc. any ideas?

2. How important is background to you when you read a story. My story is basically a fantasy type story but science related in the fact that it occurs in a different reality. There is not much science in the plot of the book, but the formation of the world that makes it possible relies heavily on it. I have figured it all out, but it is complex hard science fiction that i dont feel really goes with the rest of the story and a lot of people reading it will just not care at all about it. How much of this should be included in the book, and should it be at the beginning or slowly brought up at different times, although i dont want to write crappy dialogue because of it. any opinions would be great.

3. Is it important to give away all the secrets in the book. Or can you imply some things without saying them if you feel they will not ruin the readers enjoyment depending on if they interpret it correctly or not. In my story, for instance, the character is looking for his father and he meets a character that the reader is supposed to believe is his father. it is never said, so i'm not lying to them. it is actually implied, more subtly, that this character is actually himself from a previous time. im sure this doesnt make any sense outside the context of the story. basically, is it ok to trick the reader intentionally but never let them know they were tricked and save it for the 2% that think they actually figured it out?

4. A very simple (althought not that simple) question. How do you feel about chapters. Should they be roughly the same length? Should they end at definite places (such as every major scene change) or should they have cliffhangers? If you have only a few chapters (10) in a long book (100,000 words), is it better to make the chapters "books" and ad chapters to each book?

Thanks. I'm new on here and I hope I get some responses. ANything at all would be useful to me. Just trying to feel around and pick up some ideas and opinions.

Hereford Eye
November 8th, 2002, 05:10 PM
Originally posted by IaNo

1. My character is on a sort of epic hero quest and comes in contact with populations of beings that do not speak his language. I am trying to write dialogue. This is difficult. I am writing things that I can pronounce but I have no idea how anyone else would read them. Does it even matter? He is supposed to learn things from them and them from him, but i feel like i am writing an essay and not a story at points and know it is bad. i tried to get a translator as well as having them communicate through drawing, etc. any ideas?

Yep, I think it matters a lot. Our language defines and limits us. What we say influences what we do. Trivial example: Holbrook started another thread about what D&D character are you? An entire personality is fashioned by the answers to a series of questions. That isn't a whole lot different than real life. Our answers to our daily questions define us. So, another species way of life will determine and be determined by the communications and the medium they use.
I'm reading Perdido Street Station on the basis of recommendations that fly around this forum. The relationship between a heroine and her people, the Khepri, appears to be central to the plot and this conflict is introduced strongly and early. Unless Melvielle tells us something early on about the characters and their races, the story loses meaning. And the Khepri's form of communication is essential to what happens to the heroine - at least in the first 4 chapters. So dialogue is essential, necessary, and deserving of considerable thought in construction, especially for non-humans.

IaNo
November 13th, 2002, 06:12 PM
thanks hereford. i agree with you completely that having dialogue is important, that's why im trying to write it. I know that it is important in building a character. My character is fairly well built up through dialogue (i'd like to think) but the problem i am really having is with translation between people that dont speak eachothers language. I have alien species that have learned english so they speak with my characters in their own vernacular form of english that mimicks the style and speach pattern of their native language. But what do you do about the one's that dont speak English at all? Like I said, for one society i got a translator who had learned english when he left and had to translate so my main character could speak to the king (the king is who he really needed to speak to in order to progress both his character and the plot). In another one, I had my character talk essentially through a picture book which he learned from and then added drawings of his own to. It would be easier if I could just say they were all speaking other languages, and describe the languages in detail, but that they could understand eachother and then write the dialogues all in normal english so the reader could understand it. Somehow, I can't get myself to do that. I think its cheating.

I don't know how much of this makes sense or if the question is at all answerable. Let me try a more direct questions. This is about pronunciation. Say I have this.

Their shrill screams of, "Ay yiy yiy yiy, Ay yiy yiy ya, Ay yiy, Ay yiy, Ay yiy yiy ya!" followed by low chants of "Chi chi chikitiki. Chi chi chikitika." were foreign to Ano but he thought he understood their circular dance.

How many ways would readers say this? Is there a better way to write such dialogue with no real meaning? That is what I meant by does it really matter? Did I capitalize the right things? They are, after all, not even sentence, or who knows.

ANy insight into my other questions.
ANybody else out there????

Stone
November 13th, 2002, 08:21 PM
jus off the top of my head i think the part bout languages all depends on what point of veiw things might be comin from......it might take a longer intro to everthin but that would solve alot of the problems

milamber_reborn
November 13th, 2002, 11:49 PM
With regard to "Ay yiy yiy yiy, Ay yiy yiy ya, best to describe rather than spell it out. ie. They chanted in harsh guttural tongue.

LeMort
November 14th, 2002, 07:36 AM
Originally posted by IaNo
tTheir shrill screams of, "Ay yiy yiy yiy, Ay yiy yiy ya, Ay yiy, Ay yiy, Ay yiy yiy ya!" followed by low chants of "Chi chi chikitiki. Chi chi chikitika." were foreign to Ano but he thought he understood their circular dance.

I agree with milamber_reborn.

In my opinion, all that "Yi yi yi chi chi chi" stuff looks a bit amaturish, and can be a bit tiring and tedious to read. I'd remove it.

Taking what you wrote, you could just change it to:

Their shrill screams and low chants were foreign to Ano, but he thought he understood their circular dance.

It reads a bit more easily than your original pasage, and it only required minimal alterations.

Just an idea. :)

milamber_reborn
November 15th, 2002, 02:59 AM
It could be interesting if the character tries (succesfully or unsuccessfully) to interpret their language, actions, gestures etc. and tries to find common ground.

Unless you need different cultures with different languages, there is no point in doing it unless it serves a purpose or becomes a highlight or theme (ie. differences).

IaNo
November 15th, 2002, 03:44 AM
Milamber. That is exactly what one of the main themes is. That is also why I wrote out the ay yiy yiy yiy, because the character tries to imitate it in order to communicate with them, basically having the effect of them not trying to kill him right away. I still think it seems wrong so I am going to take it out, I just hope the peope reading have a good imagination and can make up some chanting sounds to stick in their heads when reading it.

I would like to say that this questions seems answered. ANyone have comments on my others? 2,3,4.

kahnovitch
November 15th, 2002, 07:56 AM
Originally posted by IaNo
I would like to say that this questions seems answered. ANyone have comments on my others? 2,3,4.

2. Background info.

You say most of it refers to the “formation of the world”? Is your story set in the time of the formation of the world or has the world been around for aeons already?
If there are aspects of the worlds formation that come into play in the story then bring them in as and when you need them. A big opening page of information dumping will put readers off. REH did it with Conan and I never read it all in one go, I just referred back now and again when certain events or peoples were mentioned in the story.


3. Giving away secrets

Some things are best left unsaid. Keeping the reader guessing, also keeps the reader READING which is always good for your story.

4. Chapter size.

Any damn size you like really. Michael Crichton has a very good approach when it comes to chapters, i.e. he forgoes the usual straight numbering format and merely has headings every time he switches between scenes and sometimes POV.
A lot of his style is first person so a “chapter” may start halfway down the page with just the name of the character it’s about.

E.G.

“Malcolm crouched beneath the wrecked jeep, holding his breath as the Rex scanned the vehicle for movement. He pressed his hands against his wounded thigh desperate to stem the blood for fear or the beast smelling it.


Grant

He looked down in horror as the raptors circled below the High Hide. Periodically jumping at the scaffold to gain purchase on the slippery frame, only to fall and crash back to the floor. They were smart though, too smart and would soon find a way to their prey.”

This technique of cutting from scene to scene is great for keeping several action scenes ticking over simultaneously and is something I use myself instead of the traditional chapter format

Bardos
November 15th, 2002, 08:08 AM
Since everyone is so negative about this, I'll pay Devils Advocate (as estragngehero says ;) ).

I think it can be used to good effect, but you must follow these rules (IMO, at least).

A/ You, the writer, must KNOW the translation, not write gibberish.

B/ It must be of some importance to the story (or else why write it and not just say "they spoke in a strange language <the POV character -- insert name here> didn't understand"?

C/ The language must have some kind of logic: i.e., subject, verb, etc.

There are many writers who use this to good effect, among them Tolkien, Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft.