1. WriterDude
    Offline

    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2011
    Messages:
    738
    Likes Received:
    37
    Location:
    Icy cold wastes of Hell. Aka Norway.

    Tip: How to create a magic language

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by WriterDude, Aug 14, 2011.

    I'm currently working on a steampunk novel, where the industrial revolution is just about to break out in an old medieval fantasy world. It causes an interesting conflict between those who wants to keep the old ways and stick to magic, and those who embrace the new world and ditches magic for technology. It's coming along great, but gave me a simple problem: How do you create the magic? In a story like this, magic is very important. I wrote some fantasy stories a decade ago where I simply put the magic spells in italic and let the characters say what they were doing (literally saying fireball to throw a fireball, and so on.) It worked, but not good enough.

    Think about Harry Potter. Who wouldn't want to use spells like that? It sounds very magical and poetic, and even better, it sounds like a part of an actual language. That's because it is. Sort of. The language she use is commonly nicknamed "dog Latin". Or in plain English, she use latin as a base and spices it up with English. It's really simple, yet very effective. To prove it, let's take four common magical spells: Fireball, levitate, invisibility, shapeshift. How do you make them better? Easy. Google translate. Simply write the english word and pick a language you want to translate it to. Let's use Latin and Gallic as examples:

    Latin:
    - Fireball: vel augue (or fire ball: globus ignis)
    - Levitate: subvolo
    - Invisibility: Invisibilitate
    - Shapeshift: figura amoveo (or shape change: figura mutationem)

    In Gallic:
    - Fireball: bola de lume
    - Levitate: levitar
    - Teleport: Invisibilidade
    - Shapeshift: cambio de forma (Shape change: cambiar de forma)

    Now if you mix it up a bit and say "throw large fire ball forward", it would end up as "Proin scelerisque magna coniciunt igni" in Latin and "xogar bola de lume grande fronte" in Gallic. Pretty cool, huh. ;)

    And just like that, a "magical" language starts to appear. If you mix in a bit of English, you can have a great, unique magical language in no time at all with very little effort. :)

    (note: I can't say how accurate the translations are as I used Google translate, but it doesn't matter. The important part is it creates "your own" magical language with a few simple steps. And hey, if it worked for Rowling, it could work for you too, right?) ;)
     
  2. Amsterdamatt
    Offline

    Amsterdamatt Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2011
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Amsterdam, NL
    I like how the Gallic invisibility incorporates teleportation - damn French, always have to go one better. ;)
     
  3. proserpine
    Offline

    proserpine Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2011
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    2
    Wouldn't your "magical" language actually be Gallic, or whatever language you're using? Do you mix more than one language together?

    Using other languages is a good way to name things and people, too.

    Have you tried using backwards words for your maigical language? For example, "erif" for fire, or "maerd" for dream.

    Good luck with your writing.
     
  4. Amsterdamatt
    Offline

    Amsterdamatt Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2011
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Amsterdam, NL
    I think his point is that you pick and choose elements from a few languages to come up with something that feels both familiar and brand new.

    For example, for "Fireball" let's take ignis from Latin and lume from Gallic. Throw in fuego (Spanish), and mix it up a bit:

    Readers recognise, whether consciously or no, the common root for ignite - familiar, but new.
     
  5. WriterDude
    Offline

    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2011
    Messages:
    738
    Likes Received:
    37
    Location:
    Icy cold wastes of Hell. Aka Norway.
    Actually the point is if you use an English phrase for the spell and translate it, it can sound very magical already. And not only that, but the language will be very consistent even if you mix it up and improvise spells along the way. I use Latin, so no matter what kind of fire-based spell my characters use, they will use the word "ignis" and so on. I don't have to think about what the spell will sound like, what words to use and all that. It's very simple, and yet very effective. :) If you watch TV-shows like Supernatural, they often chant in Latin when they use magic. It sounds cool, and is very easy to make. It's the same thing. ;)

    And yes, maybe I will use Gallic instead. It will sound more unique right away, and with my method, it's very easy to switch. Not only that, but I can translate some words in one language and others in a second to make it really unique. :)
     
  6. J.P.Clyde
    Offline

    J.P.Clyde Prince of Melancholy Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2011
    Messages:
    979
    Likes Received:
    44
    Location:
    Underground
    I have had a hard time and even strayed from a magical language thanks to the success of Harry Potter.

    But in my current novel of Sydonia, they do not do magical language. Their language is reciting desires and words from their holy text Pelan.

    "Oh sacred Pelan guide me through this darkest hour. Where I reawaken cold stone..."

    The holy book both serves as a Grimoire of sorts as well as a holy book.
     
  7. jwatson
    Offline

    jwatson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    canada
    Nice thread. However, I do not think the language itself has that much importance. The magic itself must have a formula (so to speak) and rules and restrictions. Once readers are familiar with how the characters go about doing their magic, the language will seem natural to them even if it is not in Latin or another old language. It's like people saying "Oh, I need an evil sounding name for my antagonist" actually nope you don't. Once you give a generic name like Jacob to an evil character it will fit just fine.
     
  8. WriterDude
    Offline

    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2011
    Messages:
    738
    Likes Received:
    37
    Location:
    Icy cold wastes of Hell. Aka Norway.
    Well, there you go. Can't think of a magic language? A simple translation might be all you need. ;) You could actually use the same trick to quote from the Grimoire, if you wanted to. ;)

    Edit: To prove it, I put the text I just wrote in the translator and ended up with:

    "Sed non ibis. Non cogitant de magicis verbis? Simplex totum opus translationis salvari possit. Vos could utor idem eadem idem ars ut etiam a quote Grimoire, si vellet."

    Cool, huh. ;) Sure the Latin-back-to-English turns out Engrish, but still. Just blame that on the Grimoire being written in an old-fashioned language or something. :p
     
  9. spklvr
    Offline

    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    Messages:
    734
    Likes Received:
    36
    Location:
    Sarpsborg, Norway
    Doesn't really work with names like Melvin or Bob though. Fear the evil warlock Bob!!!

    I'm spamming. Sorry. :redface:
     

Share This Page