Thursday, April 21, 2011

R: Runes

Languages in fantasy and science fiction can be a tricky thing.  Most of us are not JRR Tolkien and willing and able to invent our own.  It's easier to invent a world if everyone speaks the same language and of course, for most of us, the words spoken are English.  An author can call the language something else, Hoochamochocha, if they want, but the words on the page are still English.

Sometimes, though, a writer can invent words and the new language is a device to convey something in the story.  For instance, in my book, Beyond the Gate, the hero, Cage Stone, has struggled all his life to learn writing and reading.  But on his journey through the mysterious caves beneath the mountain, he encounters words carved into the stones offering warnings.  The words are written in runes, a language unknown to humans.  But Cage is half elf.  After years of being embarrassed by his inability to read, he easily interprets the words written in the language of the elves.  During this time in the story, Cage is struggling with accepting his heritage for reasons you'll have to read the book to understand, and the relief he experiences in finally understanding written words in one more nudge down the path of acknowledging his mother's people.

Why other ways can an author use language as a device or plot point in a book?  Have you invented words or even more for something you're written? Do you enjoy reading books with invented words in and when does it become distracting to you?


  1. I have no problem with invented words (I do it all the time) so long as they aren't impossible to pronounce!

  2. Only invented words as names for people and items. I like that twist in your book, Susan!

  3. I love it when authors get creative, so I say- go for it!

  4. It depends on the words and how many. I think it takes a very good writer to use many without losing the reader. Rowling does it well in the Harry Potter series.

    Of course, with fantasy books it is often impossible to NOT make up new words. It is part of the adventure, part of a new world.

  5. Almost forgot! Yours is the featured blog for S on Friday. And I just downloaded your book from the iBookstore.

  6. Great post. I write for kids mostly, so I like to stretch the vocabulary for them, while making sure unusual or tricky words are put in a clear context or explained.
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers