1. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    A Question of Expression

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by GuardianWynn, Apr 14, 2015.

    Okay this is sort of a deep question. lol like I need to point that out. You guys are usually good at in depth responses.

    The concept I wonder can be asked in one simple question. "When do we as writers need to invent or change names to express something correctly?"

    Now let me explain what I mean;
    Like for example. In one piece of work I did. A character was from another planet. She lived in what was like a pre-industrial Earth with few physical differences. It had water and trees and plants. It had snakes too! Now place a snake from this world and a our world next to each other? I bet someone would find something different about them. Maybe a lot different. Yet I still called it a snake because it is more snake like.
    Do you think that is lazy?
    Another example. Same world. The girl, she gets married. I call it that. Thing is. I am not suggesting this random planet developed our customs on accident. I am really saying "She did what is equal to our marriage" and I may even show differences in the ritual and stuff. The question is she likely calls it something different. Yet I don't. I have a defense too. After all. I feel it is wasting a page to explain this to a reader. To say she is "X" which is like Earth's Marriage seems dumb to me. Just saying she is married sounds well easier to both of us.

    I see this issue is sort of like a line in the sand. Because after all her language is probably different too but I don't invent a new language for her and ask a reader to translate and if you are like me. You probably find the idea of that kind of silly.

    Okay same question different context.
    My work takes place in "The Order" as I call the universe. My main story takes place in a post world war 3 Earth after a magical revolution. So it is like 200 years later from now. The first major change is that well 100s of nations become like 4-6 nations(yeah not 100%). The war drew new lines in the sand. Culture, and lots of other things have changed. Which I am no expert on culture. It would do me good to work with people that remind me that. @Mckk ;)
    But the question is how to express the idea properly without being insulting. One idea is to change names which implants the idea very firmly that this is different but at the same point changing the names I think distances readers from the idea. How do you handle issue like this if you have?

    To add more effect. In one work I am doing right now, "The Order: Tarvoss Tide" the main character is from present day China. The area is now about of the nation that is present day Asia. I describe the place as harsh, difficult to live in. A place only for the strong. I don't want to insult people of Chinese or Asian Culture but is changing names the way to do that? If I do, then do people disconnect from what is happening? That sounds worse?

    Last example. A character dies, a child. The childs family after the funeral wears a cloth around there arm to grieve. Which from what I gather a real Chinese custom.(Correct me if I am wrong anyone)but it is a custom that never was held for a child. So the theme would be that in my futurist China when people came over from World War 3. People saw this tradition but yet didn't fully understand it. Now 200 years later the misunderstood version had become the new custom. Is this a middle finger to China?

    Thanks for reading.

    Tagging people I think are awesome / might like this thread.
    @Cogito
    @jannert
    @jaebird
    @Lea`Brooks
    @ChickenFreak
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2015
  2. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, it's sensible. I doubt many readers want to be working out what you mean.

    Some writers adapt words and customs as a way of showing a culture shift, or sometimes as a way of connecting what could be a fantastic world to our current one - a more subtle version of the wrecked Statue of Liberty in Planet Of The Apes.

    Adapting language is less common than customs, I think, because it's harder to pull off well. It can be done, me droogs, can be done real horrorshow, but it's not easy. Doing it badly just causes the reader to stumble and makes a tough read. I usually love Neal Stephenson, but I couldn't get through Anathem for just that reason.

    It's after world war 3 and a magical revolution. I don't think your setting would necessarily insult China any more than a novel about living through plague-ridden 1665 London would insult me.
     
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  3. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    First, thank you for thinking I'm awesome (because I am :p). I'm flattered. :love:

    To whether or not you should change words... It depends. How different is the snake from a traditional snake? How different is the marriage?

    If the snake has legs, it's not really a snake and should have the name changed. But if it's legless and still slithers, you can really do whatever you want. If you decide to change the name, all it takes is a brief description of the animal to let people know what you're talking about. "The veratta slithered between the rocks, flicking its tongue in search of food." Without even knowing the word, that description alone should give people the image of a snake. If you decide to keep the name, again, a brief description would do the trick. "The snake slithered through the grass, the green feathers on its body a near perfect camouflage." What name you give doesn't nearly matter as much as what description you give.

    Are you questioning the word "wedding" or "marriage"? Because a wedding is just a marriage ceremony, whereas marriage is... well, being married. I'm assuming you're questioning what to call the actual event, which would be a wedding. And this too can go either way. The term means so many different things to many different people. A wedding in India is completely different than a wedding in the US. But personally, I would call the actual wedding something different, but still refer to it as a marriage. For example, when a Wiccan gets married, they call it a Handfasting. But they're still getting married. I don't think it'd be confusing at all to say, "Are you ready for the Coupling Ceremony? I still can't believe you're getting married." Then maybe give a little description of the ritual. People will get it.


    I agree with NigetheHat regarding China and their customs. If it takes place in the future, I wouldn't worry too much about it insulting people. Things change over time, so it makes sense that your world and their customs would change. I don't have much more to add than that. :bigtongue:
     
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  4. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    The second question isn't really one I can answer, so I'm going to concentrate on the first. As I was reading, I picked up on this:

    And you could well be right. :D So why waste a page, just be succinct. Substitute for something else. Joining. Binding. Union... lol...fusion. (The cheesey Sci-fi alternative. ;)) There's no need to go overboard as presumably there will be context as there would with a marriage.

    And the snake... Yeah, call a spade a spade. Name changing for the sake of it really annoys me. It does nothing for my understanding. It doesn't help me visualise any better.

    Ah... @NigeTheHat just beat me to it. I was about to say that, like the marriage example, the best things to concentrate on are the man made things, politics, religion, customs ect. in order to give the feel of a society alien to our own.

    Edit: Unless, that is, those things have no true counterpart.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with Obsidian here. Call it what makes sense to the reader. If you really go out of your way to overthink it and call it something over-worked like soul-binding or love-cleaving, you're only going to evince audible eyerolls from me. Audible. ;)
     
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  6. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    that animal is clearly called a Gorelap, what the heck is...ssss-nak-e?
     
  7. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you are not going to create whole new languages from other planets, and stick to the unwritten rule that everyone speaks the language the book is written in, than stretching it to be realistic with some words seems a little tropish, lackluster, and can come across as lazy when suddenly they are wondering about who is speaking what language and how outworlders understand them easily.
     
  8. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Crap you do kind of make a point.
    Now I feel stupid. lol

    LOL
    Except it is spell Goralep isn't it? lol

    I am actually not sure what you're saying.
     
  9. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't feel stupid, Wynn. :) It's always good to get feedback from an outsider's POV. Plus everyone does things differently.

    There's actually a book I read.. Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong. It takes place in a fantasy world, and the author made up a lot of characters for it. At first, she just mentioned the animals, let us know they existed. But she didn't actually describe them until they were seen. I wasn't confused. Because in a different world and environment, readers expect there to be different creatures and cultures. You don't have to reference what it SHOULD be. Just tell it as it is. If you describe it right, it doesn't matter what you call it.
     
  10. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well okay, not to make any assumptions about your story, but if a character from a different world interacts with someone from another world, they shouldn't be able to understand each other.(unless you are like Star Trek and try and explain it all away with some convenient and all together unimportant plot device.) So if you make some words that are from a new language, it doesn't rub off well from a book otherwise sticking to the "Unwritten rule about everyone speaking the same language, which happens to be the language the book was written in." Tolkien is an example of a half breaker, although most fantasy has a 'common' language. But even so he used common name descriptions to describe even the more fantastical creatures, Like Giant Spiders, Bear-Man, or Large Eagles. Save the special words for interesting things that don't really exist in our World, but then have some explanation about why everyone speaks the same language in the background(entirely unimportant otherwise if you wish) for your readers sake.
     
  11. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would you mind if I sent you a PM with a question? A long question. lol

    Oh. Okay well actually for that other world concept. No not really the intent of that book wasn't really going to go that route. I meant this more in saying the setting wasn't Earth might have people that expect a lot more difference. Someone might go, they don't get "married" they get "X" and so on and so forth. So that aspect of the question was much more is it lazy not too or stupid to invent words like that?

    In a story I do have that event come up. Originally I told myself I wasn't even going to try and come up with a reason and just go with it but now. I think I may have accidently stumbled across the reason. I am not sure though if I can fit it to work. lol Wanna hear my idea?
     
  12. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can be useful to invent your own words for similar customs and creatures. But always have a reason for it. Like if their is a stark difference between marriages on Earth and marriages in your setting, then a new more appropriate word probably exists. Especially if it is part of the themes in your book.

    Sure, lay it on me. Haha
     
  13. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Feel free. :)
     
  14. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Magic! Not generically. I am sort of... bad. See I never read a fantasy book before(Unless Ella Enchanted counts?) and a bunch of friends played D&D. I kind of walked into this with sort of like. "So I want to do creative writing with Magic. What are the rules?" Oh which as you can imagine my D&D friends were glad to tell, until they had a disagreement and well.... things got heated.

    On my own. No direction I developed my own system(To me anyhow. I am sure it has been done. I don't think I recreated the wheel or anything.)

    My system goes like this;
    There is a sea of magic all around us(In space too). This magic is not really supernatural it is just beyond our ability to measure currently. Unknown to us our very souls are made of magic at a higher compression of this energy. As we grow and evolve we become stronger and our souls reach a point that allow our senses to see magic or sense magic. With access to this power we suddenly have powers and things never before thought possible. Also it I imply that legends were rare jumps. King Aurther and his excalibur for example was a rare instance when one person became magical aware in a culture that didn't know it.

    In my world a magical revolution has happened. Suddenly the rate of magic birth is off the charts. 1/100 over night and a decade later 1/50 and so far and so forth. Oh wait. No more history is needed. Sorry. I get distracted....

    So magical energy in souls spouts three arts.
    1. Psychic
    2. Enchanting
    3. Sensory
    Okay for working titles those three are a bit crude but the point is psychic is an art of magic and one of its schools is to allow souls to speak to each other. Yeah I know what you have to be thinking at this second. "Psychic? Mph, easy! But how dear sir do you explain those who aren't not psychic able to do this?"

    Well I kind of got an answer. Which is EVERYONE is psychic but not the way you think it. Sort of like. There is no 0. Even people unable to do magic were had a soul that comprised of those elements. So when a soul became strong enough you gained those. There are plenty of people whose magic in my world finds its roots in what I call psychic but they don't call themselves that or aren't called it. Because while there magic is high enough to influence them it is not high enough to traditional psychic stuff.

    Notable to mention. I take a position that the brain connects to the soul. So for speech. Ear to Brain to Soul. And since souls can speak to each other through psychic magic. Maybe even someone not blessed with enough magic to be called psychic can still understand all language. If I use this idea I can explain all aliens being able to communicate with this means or most. To be fair. I can use this as much as little as I want. Meaning I could play it up with the rare child not able to use this function. Which might be a really bad handicap. A child born unable to speak the universal language of magic that everyone starts using? Or maybe this handicap only applies if both children lack it? Making it really rare and yet interesting when it happens?

    It is an idea in its beginnings stages.

    What do you think?
     
  15. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I wasn't tagged but I'm going to give my two cents. :)

    I feel like when you are talking about things from other worlds you should use other names, but at the same time you can say something like this: "Jane Doe trekked her way through the forest when she came across an odd creature slithering on the ground. She remembered stories from elders to be weary of these trillers, as they are very poisonous."

    Just by using the word 'slither', which is often associated with what we say a snake does, you automatically start to envision this alien creature as snake-like. Does that make sense? I just feel if you are going to build another world you need to do the work to build the world, and that means creating all new creatures, races, and places.

    As far as worrying about offending different races based on the things you mentioned, I think you are just over thinking things and you should just write what comes to mind.

    Hope anything I said helps.
     
  16. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for your two cents. Now if only I could get the other 6 billion people on this world to offer two up. My penny cannon would be ready!

    So you think using snake is then lazy?

    Thanks and I didn't say only the tagged people were awesome rather that but all the tagged people were awesome. :D Know what I mean?
     
  17. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah I think it is lazy and it is almost offensive to the reader because you are teasing them with this new world you are creating. It's a big let down. Think about someone telling you they are going to take you out to dinner at a fine Italian restaurant but when you get there they serve you a bowl of Spaghetti O's. How would you feel?

    I just think with a little work of using the ability to show the reader what something is through using important descriptive words, you can reach your goal of associating the alien object with the real world object.

    Just think of the saying, "If you are going to do something, you might as well do it right."

    :superidea:
     
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  18. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Excellent point.

    Plus, don't underestimate the reader and assume they won't know what you mean. And don't underestimate yourself and assume you won't do it correctly. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a world. Trust me, I know. I can't tell you how long I've been working on my fantasy world and how many times it's changed. But it's so worth it. You'll feel more proud of it in the end for what you've accomplished.
     
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  19. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting, @GuardianWynn seems good enough to work, I'm learning that the most important parts of your magic system are the ones that you come up with at the end of it all. Your format is probably a little more standard then you realize but that is okay. (In my WIP, Magic everywhere isn't a description that's terribly off, so I can't criticize you for doing it.)

    The three sections you split yourself into is where the real 'magic' is. And that is the part you want to make as easy to understand and follow as possible so as to not confuse your readers.(Magic system in 'Mistborn' is a good example.) Their innate abilities, how they use them, and what that means. This starts forming your setting in greater detail, giving you more to chew on as you start getting into the specifics of your story. So it sounds like you are starting to get into it with 'soul speaking.' There is still plenty to think about even just in this one part. Like the distance that people can communicate from, and even format details, like how you will be expressing this 'soul speaking' in your writing. (i.e. dialogue tags, italics, etc.) Keep going, I'd say you can make it work, just keep spending lots of time on plot and world building.
     
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  20. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah. I don't try to reinvent the wheel or anything. Also I am of the opinion a writers goal is to create a beautiful picture not to create a new color. Artists paint with old colors in new ways. As we create our master pieces with concepts not that different.

    Actually this soul speech concept is like the last layer I think. I have a very detail system. A system to which people have read and used to make correct assumptions I did not tell them about. Though incase you misunderstood my meaning. The soul speech concept is sort of innate. Like a child born with this speech. When it activated(Probably certain age when his soul became strong enough) he would no longer need language. Like he would understand Japanese as it were his primary language. That was the idea. Because his soul would no longer need the brain to translate he would have evolved enough to hear the other soul directly.

    Damn now I feel bad. :cry:

    Though in my case I wonder if it makes sense. This WIP is about a girl who died. She never directly says she wasn't from Earth but I think it is understood she wasn't. The scenes with like the snake is a flashback. So I call it a snake. Think my case is still lazy?
     
  21. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    New versions of creatures are discovered every year here on earth but they get new names not the same as all the others. I just think if you are going to have a new planet you are going to have to have new names for things. It's just my opinion, I'm in no way an expert or someone that is a know it all. I just feel as a reader if you are going to take me somewhere new, everything should be new. Expand my vision with your world.
     
  22. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't think lines like;
    "Basically a snake" or wastes of time?
    I mean I know you can write the line better but building it up doesn't seem any better.
    "The beast slithers silently. Its fangs ready, its posion itching to kill. Sometimes I think the damn thing does it for sport. Showing how without arms or legs it can kill me. I hate (X)" I don't see how X being Rache(Yes I just hit letters at random!) or it being Snake really makes it any better.
    Am I missing something? It seems more like a cheap trick to make it seem like your clever. Does that make sense?
     
  23. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I think your reader will not only enjoy it more if you take the time to describe the new creature rather than just calling it a snake, but they will also think you are a better writer.
     
  24. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes but the question is not the lack of description or not. The question is calling it;

    Ra'ke (Which is just MC(Kerrin) planet's name for snake or could be again random letters.)
    or
    Snake
     
  25. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    You just describe it and call it a Ra'ke. That's what I would do. The key is giving a good description where the reader can understand what it is.
     

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