World Building – What did you say?


Determining what language(s) will be spoken in your world. This can be tricky.  Will each of your individual countries speak a different language? And if so how will you convey that to the reader.


Look beautiful but I don't have a clue to what it says...

Look beautiful but I don’t have a clue to what it says…

JRR Tolkien created languages for his books that he used mainly for names and an occasional poem.  This brought an element of ‘reality’ to the world he created.  But here is where the slippery slope comes into play.  Many years ago, I read a book where the author had gone to great lengths to create a language for his book.  He had entire conversations written in the ‘native’ tongue and I had to keep flipping to be back glossary to translate it…for ME this drastically took away from the book.


Now this doesn’t mean you can’t use a created language but do it to add to the story NOT to impress the reader with your ability to create words. For example, if two characters are having a conversation in their ‘native’ tongue and the heroine can’t understand it but knows they are discussing something important this could add to the element of suspense. AGAIN a warning – in my opinion this should be used only occasionally. Twenty overheard conversations that no one understands may cross the line from interesting to annoying. And no writer wants to annoy his reader.


In most cases making up a word for river isn’t going to benefit your story or add dimension to your world.  As in the following…

Jilla stood at the river’s edge. The water shimmered in the moonlight. It seemed so peaceful, an illusion she knew to be wrong.

Jilla stood at the xicev’s edge. The water shimmered ….

Calling a river a xicev doesn’t enhance anything and would probably confuse my reader unless I introduced the term earlier. But why?


So in my opinion in world building languages can and are often better left to a minimum.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on made up languages as a writer and a reader.


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