Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Some answers, maybe

So I have at least partial answers to the problems I posed myself in the first post.

Problem #1: How to create believable and coherent language fragments for three imaginary languages.

Research, research, research.

I actually already have a fairly good idea what the Ta'arane language sounds like. It's similar to Hawaiian in having a restricted consonant set (a different set, though) and a very complex vowel set, with multiple stress levels and different dipthongs. This creates a small problem in itself, in that the Roman alphabet isn't optimal for such a language; I've seen Hawaiian written with all the diacriticals and it's pretty intimidating.

I know Woneiyal is agglutinative:
won = person, human (lit. a speaker)
Wonei = the Speech
Woneiyal = the Speakers, the humans, the real people

I don't really know what it sounds like, but think it has a larger sound set than either of the other two languages.

Kesseten I know nothing about. There's lots of room for growth here. NB: Any and all character or place names that appear in these excerpts are subject to change...

Problem #2: How to write effective dialogue between characters not fluent in each other's languages.

The character who's going to carry the bulk of the narrative is a Woneiyal drumspeaker. (You met him in the first excerpt.) He has an extremely good ear for sounds and sound patterns. He'll pick up languages quickly and when he reports dialogue, it'll sound fluent. Because I don't want to gloss over the problems of communication, there will be plenty of scenes where he's not present and the other characters have to fight their way through to understanding each other; also, as being from the least materially developed culture around, his vocabulary won't always be up to the task. The trick will be to give readers a sense of real difficulty without making the story just plain hard to read.

Problem #3: Fantasy readers expect to see magic. How can I hold the interest of such readers, given that the magic isn't going to start happening until probably about halfway through?

Flash-back and flash-forward. As I'm envisioning it now, the novel will begin with the first half of the very last scene, and end with the last half of said scene. That my be giving too much away right at the start, though: I may want to start the novel with a flash-forward to some other magic-using scene. I'm not going to worry about it too much for now; once the pieces are written, I'll play around with arranging them.

Plan for the immediate future: Develop some more linguistic background and some more supporting characters. Write up a formal plot outline and maybe character sketches for the main characters. Regard none of it as set in stone.

I expect to spend the next couple of weeks and most of October doing groundwork. After Nov. 1, I want to start serious writing, in keeping with NaNoWriMo. I'll probably post a daily word count.

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