First Drafts & Swear Words

Hello all,

Welcome to the weekly update! So, only one week later than I’d intended (an impromptu week off work and holiday, so technically it was on time) I’ve finished the first draft of Lost & Found, which is making me pretty happy right now. I think that scene six (the final scene, aka act 2 scene 3) is probably the best scene of the play, but that’s just my opinion. You’ll have to come and watch it to find out.

In other news, thanks to some inspiration from the members of Fellow Writers on Facebook, I’ve started writing a fantasy novel. I’ve been holding the idea for a while now and developing the setting by using the world in a roleplaying game, but now I’ve finished a draft of the first chapter. I’m very excited about this. Very excited indeed. I’m going to be keeping the cards pretty close to my chest on this one, but it has got me thinking about world building.

For a start, the best fantasy fiction books (in my opinion) are those which set up a world you can believe in, and which is so thought out to the tiniest details that it’s indistinguishable from a world that actually exists. Just as the best stories are ones where you feel present in the action, so too the best fantasy worlds are those that feel real. Tolkien was, of course, a master of this and Robert Jordan also does it with style. Quite a lot of what makes these such good fantasy fiction worlds is that there are languages or modes of speaking that are specific to certain groups of people, and that they have their own forms of slang as well. Jordan is especially good at this – with his exclamation “Light!” and curse “the Light burn you” finding their way into my everyday vocabulary (though that could be just because I’m a massive geek).

The problems, though, in trying to emulate this idea of language and modes of speaking are many. Firstly, inventing languages requires a great degree of skill and knowledge in the field of philology. Tolkien was able to achieve this simply because he had studied languages for so long, and was able to construct new languages on the roots of old ones. Jordan’s Old Tongue is only small phrases and words, rather than an entire language. I’m not overall concerned with languages, though, since I’m not planning an attempt at building a language for the world. Modes of speaking, on the other hand, are paramount – society is revealed through the slang words, phrases, and non-verbal communications it uses. Think about how much of our language is based on Biblical proverbs or how our exclamations are often faith based. Similarly, the residue of Victorian mores can be found in the use of scataogical and sexual swear words – these words became taboo.

The problem then is picking up on things that the society cares about and turning them on their heads. I think that I will restrict swearing in my fantasy fiction, since some words (like the f-word) sound too modern. Joe Abercrombie uses it a lot in his First Law trilogy, but it doesn’t ever quite hit me right. It sounds like it shouldn’t be there. Historically, as I mentioned, medieval societies were not so concerned with sexual swear words, but were by blasphemies. In a world without gods, though, it becomes difficult to include blasphemies, and where you have them it seems contrived. I’ve created some slang and swear words, and no doubt I’ll get more when I become comfortable with them in the context of the story. But I’m retaining some of the swear words we use today (where they have a good precedent for use in our medieval world) since created swear words and insults often lack the punch of shock which is the point of swearing really.

Anyway, musing over.

Cheers,
Nick

Comments
One Response to “First Drafts & Swear Words”
  1. James says:

    J.K.Rowling does this too!

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