Language and Worldbuilding — A Writer’s Path

by Pekoeblaze

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take a very quick look at one of the more basic rules for making fictional “worlds” seem more immersive and realistic. This is because I happened to see an absolutely perfect example of this rule in action fairly recently.

So, what is this particular rule? Well, the rule is that the language in your story or comic should reflect the area that it has developed in. Whilst your story or comic itself should obviously be written in your own native language, a lot of linguistic changes can be shown through things like expressions and idioms.

A good example of this can be seen in the ninth episode (“Civilization”) of the first season of “Star Trek: Enterprise”. In this particular episode, the crew of the Enterprise visit a long-lost human colony on another planet. For a variety of environmental reasons, the inhabitants of the planet have ended up living in a vast network of underground tunnels and caves.

Although these characters speak a slightly more basic version of English, their language has still evolved slightly to reflect the fact that they’ve lived underground for several generations.

For example, when they want to emphatically point out that something is untrue, they’ll use the word “shale” in pretty much the same way as we would use the expression “bullshit” and/or “bollocks”. The word is said with exactly the same tone and emphasis and it still somehow carries the same dramatic weight.

But, you might ask, why does this work so well? It works because it actually seems like an expression that the characters would have developed of their own accord. After all, shale is a fairly weak type of rock that is prone to breaking and splintering. So, in the context of spending your entire life around rocks, it makes sense that it would be used as a synonym for falsehood.

In other words, it’s a perfect example of language reflecting the world that the story is set in. With this one simple expression, the fact that these characters have lived in rocky caverns for their entire lives is emphasised to the viewer.

This mirrors how real languages develop. For example, the verb “to Google” didn’t exist twenty or thirty years ago. The only reason why it has entered the English language is because Google happens to be one of the most popular (if not the most popular) search engines in the present day. In the times before the web became popular and before Google was started, the verb “to Google” probably wouldn’t make sense.

So, when creating fictional worlds, it’s often a good idea to come up with expressions that have evolved from everyday life within the world you’ve created.

Guest post contributed by Pekoeblaze. Pekoeblaze is an artist and writer, who has produced many drawings and online comics.


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via Language and Worldbuilding — A Writer’s Path

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