1. MythMachine

    MythMachine Active Member

    Aug 3, 2017
    Likes Received:
    Arizona, US

    The Babel Dilemma

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MythMachine, Sep 12, 2017.

    This may very well be the most important thread I post for questions in regards to the first graphic novel in the series I'm writing. Essentially the topic boils down to this: How do you accurately portray the inability to communicate between two or more characters? How can I portray it in a way that has great impact on the beginning of my story?

    Now to apply more detail to the situation:
    My main character and her brother, Treilin and Koalin, respectively, are members of a deep-water aquatic race that has had virtually no contact with any of the tribes living on the surface world, therefore they have no knowledge of the languages or means of communication used by those tribes. In addition, their race features an underdeveloped larynx, which is capable of only sharp "chirps" and "cries", and they communicate through altering patterns of these sounds. Basic speech was never an option in the first place, with how sound travels differently in water.

    Now, in the beginning of the first book, Trei and Koa have already left the refuge of their deep-sea home in search of a cure for an illness that has threatened their people, who already live incredibly short lives. They are very aware that there are other races living on the surface, but they don't know how chaotic the surface actually is until they get there. Not only is the environment hostile and ever changing, but it's also plagued by a tribal war and bands of rogue mercenaries and slavers taking advantage of the discord. They are almost immediately confronted by one of the major slaving groups who take fervent interest in capturing them, but are saved by a forest sage named Ombo who, quite spectacularly, slaughters the entire troupe of slavers on his own. He eventually decides to serve as their guide on the surface, and then plot.

    I really want to address the gap in the ability to communicate between the two siblings and the sage, and implement it as an adequate challenge during their journey's progression. Seeing as it's a graphic novel I know I can pull a lot of this off through visuals and expressions of the characters, but I personally don't want it to be that simple. Having the language barrier as a major obstacle is very important. In which ways can I present this dilemma to the reader so that it has the most impact on both the story and the reader?

    Thank you for the help =)
  2. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

    Aug 27, 2017
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    I'd say you could have most of the communication happen non-verbally. Many species have very similar signs for very similar things. Showing teeth in a certain way could be a sign of anger or threat, hopping around playfully could be happiness, through those means you can already have basic communication. They could also start with some basic gestures, like bringing a hand to their mouth to signal food or eating.

    As the plot continues, you could maybe have them learn basic words in eachother's languages. Trei and Koa might have a certain pattern of sounds to signal food or water, if Ombo could learn what they mean, he could understand what they are saying. They don't even have to speak the other's language, as long as they understand it.
    Simpson17866 and MythMachine like this.

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