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Writing

Constructed Languages

If constructed languages are required for worldbuilding these days, I'm done for. I've tried on occasion, but it seems to be too much work for too little reward.

Grammar is overwhelming. I mean, I remember the general shape of the declension and conjugation tables back in Latin, and depending how you count it, German has half a dozen or a full dozen of different ways to construct plural forms, and worst of all, when you can speak a language you do not think about grammar much.

But I at least try to have some consistency in the sound of names from the same area (or at least have a reason when I don't... the area Sylvie is from, for instance, is a bit of a melting pot that involved three major langauges, at least), or come up with rough frameworks or little quirks that might inform how someone talks in a second language, or thinks about certain things.

Like, Raaji doesn't have different words for "curse" and "gift"; they are both "qualities bestowed on someone by someone else". There's a contrasting word meaning "inherent trait of a person". Being afraid of cats because as a kid you were accidentally locked in a shed with a cat that got angry and agressive would be the former, as would be being good at embroidery because your grandfather taught you. Being afraid of spiders because you find them just creepy, or being able to get stuff off high shelves because you are tall the latter.

Also, whatever word they use for "yes" starts with R, so when speaking English (or a language I render as English because translation convention) using "right" instead of "yes" seems a likely habit.

Second-language quirks are something I can observe in myself sometimes. For example I don't use "must not". German has the expression "musst nicht". "Musst" alone would be "[you] must", "nicht" would be "not", but put together it means "need not". The English logic is "you must (not-do-that)", the German "you (must-not) do that".

I think scraps and fragments and rough ideas are enough for me. I can't help thinking I should get more systematic about inventing names, when I don't just lift real-world ones.

What's something interesting you noticed when you learned a foreign language? When considering secondary world fiction, what do you think of fantasy names vs names you find in the real world, too?

NaNoWriMo is nearly upon us

...and a lot of people are going to give writing a novel draft in November a shot.

Last year went pretty well for me, with a story I had sort-of plotted out; my ideas are rather more vague this year.

What I remember from last year was that a major stumbling stone were names. The story took place in a constructed world, and I didn't want to use too many real world names for characters... I think that never-touched-again manuscript is still full of people called [insert name here]. Which does bolster the word count a bit, but, well, it was a bit time lost for every character who showed up that made me think, "OK, so what do I call them?" before I gave up.

Therefore this year I'll make up a list of names that sound right for the location, so I can just pick one when a new supporting character shows up.

For names from the real world, I may turn random name generator at behindthename.com. A quick test run chosing only German names makes it look like the generator honours the category choice for last names, too. I wouldn't rely on the site alone for actual real world settings, since there's no telling when a given name was actually used, but it's good enough for my science-fantasy. It should help getting some names that are not from English or German in there.

Other things that might be good to determine in advance:

  • What's a polite way to adress someone?
  • What ranks are there in the police/security force?

I'm sure I'll think of more, once November starts.

I'm Anke at the NaNo website, in case anybody would like to add me as a writing buddy.

What are your last minute preparations?

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