Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Creativity and Originality

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Does it really exist?

It seems like the wrong category to put with this title, but it really fits. I have several half-baked ideas for stories, but they’re all set in fictional worlds filled with people and places that don’t have names. Why don’t they have names? Because, I want to make their names new, original and not quite like anything that already exists. I want to, at least partially, dislocate the reader from their usual preconceptions about fantasy literature. So, I invented a continent that is in the Southern hemisphere. That inverts the standard Euro-centric notions of hot and cold, not to mention civilization and barbarism. But, that’s still not enough. So, names…
I want names that sound like they come from an asiatic land of some kind, but not one that can be easily identified. Not quite China or Japan, or even India, but close to all three. Now, I could just use names from each of those cultures and sort of mash them around to get something “new”, but that seems too much like cheating. The alternative I came up with, though, is so much harder: a set of invented languages. In fact, a whole set of interrelated and interdependant created languages. Yes, yes, “just like Tolkien”. Except, of course, I’m not a linguist and I don’t know Welsh.
And, therein lies the rub, I am, in fact, not a linguist. I don’t know hardly a thing about linguistic rules for sound change or grammar or morphology or phonology. Frankly, the whole process is so intimidating that I’m just about at a loss for where to begin. I tried using several different language creation programs, but they never quite produced good enough results. Close, but not quite as good as a natural language. I tried using software that just created words from source data of various kinds, but that fell short, too. The words came out okay, but how should I use them? How should they be related? Eventually, I stopped trying to make a whole language and focused only on enough words to make some meaningfull names. But, even that seemed to get bogged down in the manipulation of the software and data, ultimately producing no results.
So, in a way, I’ve come full circle. I’m back to simply not knowing how to start. I’ve been reading the various e-mail lists for ConLanging and come to the conclusion that a hybrid method might suit me. Generating series of words to choose from, but determining my own relationship between them, if any. And, I can use a spreadsheet to track them all. Or, perhaps, a simple database. But, of course, that puts the work back on me.
Now, I have to figure out how to be creative and original. I have to hear the language and the names people call each other in my head. I have to not only see the destinations that my characters are headed toward, but what they’re named on a map.
Can it be done? Yes. Can I do it? Maybe.

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