1. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    What sort of language for Fantasy

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by DefinitelyMaybe, Nov 12, 2015.

    I've just critiqued a Fantasy work where the dialogue was mostly everyday dialogue.

    "Hey!"

    "You doing something?"

    "uh, no, let's go get something to eat."

    (That's not dialogue from the actual text.)

    What sort of dialogue is expected and/or considered to be ideal for fantasy? I would expect something a bit more elegant/stylised than that.
     
  2. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    Who can say?

    I am one of those crazy writers who believes that genre rules are for chumps, and authors should be allowed encouraged to paint using whatever colors they damn well please.

    Is it modern-flavored dialogue? Yeah. It is.

    So? o_O

    The real question is — does that style of dialogue break the entire mise en scene for the book? I certainly have no clue, since you're only posting the dialogue and no context around it.

    I find all these stencils people are trying to force each other to use quite upsetting. But that's just me.
     
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  3. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    The bollox dialogue in (high) fantasy, where everyone talks like a humongous twat, is part of what I dislike about the genre. Why does it always have to take itself so seriously? Why do the characters have to take themselves so seriously? Why do they speak like every single utterance that escapes their lips has world-altering implications? It is so often a weird genre full of Mary-Sue characters and macho dick-extension warriors, all talking to each other in the dullest most bombastic manner. If you met these vapid, humourless dolts at a party you would be finding any excuse to escape.

    So, in conclusion, I would welcome some natural dialogue.
     
  4. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think there is any sort of fantasy "ideal" out there. Fantasy as a genre is huge. It. Is. Huge. There's A Song of Ice and Fire (more archaic), The Night Angel (all sorts of dialogue depending on the character), The First Law (really quite organic dialogue), and then the urban fantasy genre where the characters are usually like me and you, so they speak like normal people. Yes, they will speak like colossal twats if the character is supposed to be one, of course. Especially high fantasy can be quite guilty of cringe-worthy dialogue, but not necessarily with every character. I like Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher books and at times it gets a bit lofty, but there are more down-to-earth moments too. If your idea of fantasy is, like, I don't know, Eddings, it's understandable you might expect something different and go like "huh, these people don't talk like they learned their ABCs from Beowulf with poles up their butts" when the dialogue doesn't reflect that.
     
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  5. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rules are I think useful. Not in that they are absolutes, but that most of the time they work.

    The above dialogue lacks context but I didn't want to post the actual dialogue or parts of the book as they are someone else's copyrighted material. This is from an online critique group which doesn't put the material up for public reading so that it doesn't become 'published'.

    I'm sure it's possible to have high fantasy with everyday dialogue, and make it interesting through other ways. But, my impression of the text I read is that it would have been more interesting with more sophisticated dialogue.

    There are 'house styles' for different genres. E.g. I've heard that Fantasy books are are likely to have info dumps than some other genres. I was wondering what the default or stereotypical (not the only allowed) form of dialogue was.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There isn't a default style dialogue in fantasy "must" or "should" be. However, it is quite all right that perhaps you as a reader prefer more stylistic dialogue in fantasy. Here is where it would be useful, esp useful to that writer when you give critique, that this is your personal preference.

    It's not wrong for you to have such preference, but don't mistake it for how fantasy dialogue "should" be written.

    As for whether certain writing conventions should be followed, that depends on your experience and your goal. If you're a novice, it's probably ill-advised to write a series of novels with multiple MCs all done in the 2nd person that you aim to publish. But if it's just an experimental piece or you're pretty experienced, then why not give it a shot.
     
  7. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I asked a different question from the one that some of the posts here seem to answer. I didn't ask what the dialogue should or must be, but did ask what people expect, or what is seen as ideal. I think there's a different meaning there. Should or must is prescriptive. What is expected or considered idea has a different meaning. It's the latter that I'm more interested in.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's the point - you're looking for absolutes. eg. if one way of writimg is ideal then it stands to reason that it's a good idea to write that way often, perhaps even only that way. After all, isn't that what "ideal" means? The best?

    And there's no ideal - only whether it works or not in the context of your novel. And then throw in readers' subjective, individual preferences - what's ideal for one reader won't be ideal for another.
     
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  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    to give an example - stylistic dialogue would probably fit LOTR well, whereas in a Terry Prachette novel I remember some elves or fantasy creature of his spoke in a Scottish accent (I think it's Scottish anyway).

    Which is ideal then? Clearly both work, given both authors' success. In the end all that matters is what you want to achieve in the context of your novel, the style and tone you want your book to have.
     
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  10. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll have to go reprise some Pratchett. But, my memory is that his dialogue is very clever, even when it's cleverly non-clever.

    EDIT: The Scottish dialect dialogue in Terry Pratchett's "The Shepherd's Crown" looks very interesting, varied, and clever to me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
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  11. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I loved Peter Cushing as Dracula, muck like jean Luc picard in star trek. I expect wise, powerful, ruly vampires to have a touch of the Hannibal lectors about him rather than a streetwise, hip-hopping gang banger looking to bitch-slap his next ho. Horse for courses.
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You're going to have to specify the kind of Fantasy work in question. As has been pointed out in many such discussions, Fantasy is a very broad genre that includes High Fantasy, where a sort of pseudo Victorian lingo is de rigueur for many readers, and also Urban Fantasy where the reader's expectation of dialogue is going to be modern, the way we actually speak. So... which is it?
     
  13. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pseudo-victorian for high fantasy and modern dialogue for urban fantasy is an answer to my question.
     
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  14. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    But.... why?

    Why can't high/epic/classic/whatever fantasy use more modern language? Why must they all have pseudo-Victorian dialogue? Is there something inherently wrong with using less stylized speech? Do people find it less interesting or boring?

    I personally would like to break out of that box and see others do so as well. But I guess that's just me.
     
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  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    A lot of readers do seem to find it... jarring. I don't personally think anything needs to have (fill in the whatever), but it does seem that many readers have an expectation of what's to come. An example I often use is Richard K. Morgan's The Steel Remains. It's definitely High Fantasy, swords, elfin baddies, magic, the while 9 yards. It's written with a very modern idiolect and the F-word appears nearly 500 times in the course of the novel in different forms. If you go to Goodreads, you'll find lots of complaints and this face :bigconfused: regarding this... and also the graphic gay sex that appears in the novel. :-D *shrug* Some readers get really invested in the formula. Not all, obviously, but many.
     
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  16. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is just one of the many inherent flaws with the fantasy genre. How does a fictional world that is not based on an extension of ours (science fiction) employ real world linguistics? It's going to feel unnatural however you do it, and the more you employ real world linguistics, the more the story is going to feel like alternative history (or science fiction), than fantasy.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2015
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  17. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Personally I never cared about this, when I read fantasy. In the end, it's the story and the events what you are telling me. The words you use for it aren't that big of a deal and doesn't drop the judgement hammer.

    Do what suits you best. It doesn't make sense to do it against your own will!
     
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  18. Tom13
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    Tom13 Member

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    If the dialogue jarred when you read it, then it was no right for you. Different types of language give different feels. A lot of people read high fantasy because they like the feel of it, if they read a book with a different feel they may not like it. Ie you are giving people something they don't necessarily expect. This doesn't have to be a bad thing, but it can be. In a world with Knights and fair damsels, wise kings and evil elves it could seem somewhat incongruous for Sir Gilliwinks to be greeted with a 'Wassuuuuup!'. That's because it jars and breaks the suspension of disbelief. Of course it could be used to great effect, a la A Knights Tale.

    At the end of the day if it didn't work for you, tell them. You might be the only one who says anything, in which case they will ignore you. But if everyone says the same thing (or even 50% of the readers) then maybe it is something they should address.

    By the by, breaking down stereotypes in fantasy is something I am all for. My current novel has a Knight who drives too fast and drinks and smokes too much.
     
  19. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I think this has a lot to do with it. I would guess that most of us read many genres and develop preferences. I also ready Tolstoy, Elliot, Dostoevsky, Dickens, etc. I don't find any of those works jarring or off-putting, but happen to like the flow of the language and phraseology. I immensely enjoy the writings of Sherman Alexi, who has a very different voice. Samuel Clemens uses many tricks of dialogue to bring his characters to life. The important thing for me as a reader, is that I should be able to hear the characters voice in my head. If the dialogue doesn't work for the character, then it won't work for the reader. That's important no matter what genre you write.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2015
  20. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's kind of lame how you call him Samuel Clemens :meh:
     
  21. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Out-lamed by your need to mention it in that fashion. Do you have no social filter at all?
     
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  22. Sphinx
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    Sphinx New Member

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    It should entirely depend on what time period it's based on and the culture of the setting, along with the subcultures the various characters are part of and their individual personalities.

    For the example given, it'd be very strange to have that kind of dialogue for any character if the story is supposed to take place in, say, the middle ages.
    However, if it's in the spirit of comedy, you can get away with breaking all kinds of rules.
    This doesn't necessarily mean it has to be of that genre strictly either.
    It could, for example, be being retold from another character's perspective or through "translation" for some comical effect. Or maybe it's in another universe entirely, it all depends.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2015
  23. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @KhalieLa
    Wreybies is right. Sorry!
     
  24. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    It's tough to write fantasy or sci-fi without modern stuff trickling in. Especially dialogue. Depending on the story some slack can be cut. On the other hand some of it seems deliberately half-assed. Reminds me of Lost in Space - the mother was built up as having all these credentials yet never did much but the intergalactic wash.

    I tried doing pidgin for one of my fantasy stories. Not a complete failure but sometimes stuff would slip in and I'd groan - they shouldn't know that word.
     

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