Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Language of Fantasy

First, a warning: I've come down with an obnoxious head-cold, and anything I write is already labouring through DayQuil and the stuff of sinuses. Take it all with two grains of salt, and I'll proof-read it in the morning.

One of the last pieces of editing I did was in response to my editor querying if a line of dialogue, spoken by the leader of a pack of goblins, was still in Goblin, or if he had switched languages. This gave me a bit of difficulty, because while I knew what language the goblin was using, I didn't want to come right out and name it. As I've said before, Stuff of Legends is set in a medieval pseudo-Europe, a place where real dragons and wizards exist alongside the legends of Charlemagne and Atlantis, and the characters are more likely to vacation in the south of Spain (I hear it's lovely) than in the starlit fields of FantasmoriƩn or Ulth (of which I know little). The problem with this is, it's hard to convince people that, if there even is a common language in this pseudo-Europe, it's not English or (Tolkien-forbid) Common. French or Latin, possibly, but what would you think if, halfway through the book, I dropped it on you that everyone had been speaking French this whole time? I don't want anyone to be abruptly pulled out of the story by having to think about the languages.

Because the language the goblin is speaking as he barters with Cyral, the language everyone speaks, is the one you hear in your head. Headish is the universal language of readers, the default for all fantasy speech, and in my opinion, the less attention paid to it, the better.

My trick, in the end, was to tag the goblin's speech as "a passable mimic of Cyral's own voice and dialect", which I think successfully dodges the issue. Now, hopefully, by the time you're reading Stuff of Legends, you'll have forgotten all about this post, and won't get distracted by wondering if that dialect is French.

1 comment:

  1. "Headish" is my favorite new word of the moment.