Home Forums Shops Trade Avatar Inbox Games Donate
  
Not Logged In
Reply
 
Thread Tools
johnny johnny is offline
writing machine in bad repair
Default Suspension of disbelief (for writers and readers, I guess?)   #1  
Okay, so I have a bit of a worldbuilding question for anyone with an opinion on said question:

If someone writes a story that involves a world completely unrelated to Earth -- as in, not an alternative history or speculative fiction piece that takes place on any version of Earth -- what's the limit to the suspension of disbelief for language, customs, societies, etc.?

In other words, if I were to write a story involving a fantasy planet that takes a lot of aesthetic cues from, say, the Regency era, where do you draw the line on what's believable? Can I use words that would be reasonably used in such a historically-inspired setting, like "pianoforte" or "chemise" -- if there's no Italy or France? At what point does a reader lose their willingness to accept words as impossible or illogical in a non-Earth setting?

I've never liked the sort of fantasy or sci-fi stories that made up ridiculous words for everyday things in order to avoid these questions, but I suppose those writers never got stymied by a quagmire of etymology...

Old Posted 04-17-2017, 10:24 PM Reply With Quote  
Default   #2   Espy Espy is offline
Wanderer
Don't have a serious answer for this as of right now, considering my mental state's not exactly intact, but (-snickers-) the first thing that came to mind is, you're writing a story in an existing language; there's no way to escape the inevitable use of words like that. Least, that's what I think.

And if you do end up using words like "pianoforte" or "chemise", well, you're writing for an audience that's a stranger to the world you've built, and those words are just a means by which to make it easier for /them/ to understand things.

A made-up word here or there in a scifi setting, IMO, is fine. But a whole plethora of made-up words becomes jarring and just sounds...abrasive.

Tangent to your question: For settings in which there's still some resemblance to Earth or humanity, I prefer using words that are based off real languages -- Latin roots, Greek prefixes, etc. Sounds realistic and relatable enough, yet still has a foreign, not-quite-earthly ring to it.

EDIT: I have more thoughts pertaining to this, but, ironically, words are difficult.
Old Posted 04-17-2017, 10:35 PM Reply With Quote  
Gallagher Gallagher is offline
It Won't Stop
Default   #3  
Over explaining ruins my suspension of disbelieve more than any convenient similarities. Whatever rules you set, stick to them right from the start. Don't overthink language unless you're willing to go the whole mile in feeling out all of the differences.

I disagree with the idea of having made-up words here and there just because scifi. If you're going to base it in real language, then make your "made-up" words make sense in those languages, too. People don't name things well or artistically. They name things for practicality and understanding. So if you need a word for something that doesn't actually exist and you're already using real world terms for everything else, keep it simple.







Old Posted 04-17-2017, 10:58 PM Reply With Quote  
Default   #4   Lawtan Lawtan is offline
Dragon Storm
I'd suggest an understanding of language structures somewhat (not as a professional, but enough to give good context clues). I haven't gotten fully to that phase in my writing yet (though mine is speculative fiction, so I am more trying to use languages that are either at risk/dying or dead...slower)

But Galla's right - the world, unless you intentionally are making a joke/breaking the fourth wall, needs to feel like its elements fit, and over-explaination breaks that.
Lawtan: A chaotic dragoness with issues.
__

��s ofer�ode, �isses sw� m�g.

__


Science, horror, folklore, and cuteness incoming!
Last edited by Lawtan; 04-17-2017 at 11:30 PM.
Old Posted 04-17-2017, 11:28 PM Reply With Quote  
Quiet Man Cometh Quiet Man Cometh is offline
We're all mad here.
Default   #5  
Quote:
Originally Posted by Espy View Post
And if you do end up using words like "pianoforte" or "chemise", well, you're writing for an audience that's a stranger to the world you've built, and those words are just a means by which to make it easier for /them/ to understand things.
I disagree with this as far as those are pretty specific words. A pianoforte is a specific type of instrument, and an old way of referring to one. Unless the thing actually is a piano, why not be more general and call it a keyboard?

I agree that consistent language use is important, and more so than individual words, but I do find it jarring when I'm reading something that's not supposed to be Earth set and suddenly a very "Earthian" term shows up. A violin an exist in fantasy just fine, but if someone pulls out a Stradivarius I'm going to blink a few times and wonder what happened.
Old Posted 04-18-2017, 12:29 AM Reply With Quote  
Default   #6   Espy Espy is offline
Wanderer
Whoops, I was thinking of "pianoforte" as the music dynamic...thing. My bad. In the other case, you have a point.
Old Posted 04-18-2017, 12:35 AM Reply With Quote  
Quiet Man Cometh Quiet Man Cometh is offline
We're all mad here.
Default   #7  
On a general world building note, I find that it's the little details that might get to me more than the big ones. The tiny things that don't make a lot of logical sense, or things that just show up and don't come back again will make me rethink the story.

For example, I was reading a story about a guy who was just fighting a group of people with his badass wolverine gauntlets, but then goes to shake hands with another guy after the fight. No mention is made of those gauntlets when he shakes hands, even though they are sticking out several inches and do not retract (as far as we've been told.)

I can handle the king of the world being a cephalopodal dinosaur with a pink hat, but if people against this domineering king are hiding out in other countries, where are they hiding? Like, Dinoctohatus Pinkus is king of the world, where in this world are they hiding? There ought to be some explanation for that, like an underground resistance movement or something.

From the same story where I encountered the King of the World with his enemies hiding out in areas that were apparently not in his world, the three rebels were travelling together via different modes of transportation. They are travelling through a forest. One guy is flying on a big thing. Another guy is flying on a smaller thing. The last guy is on foot.

One guy...on foot.

Explain!
Old Posted 04-18-2017, 02:19 AM Reply With Quote  
Default   #8   johnny johnny is offline
writing machine in bad repair
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quiet Man Cometh View Post
I disagree with this as far as those are pretty specific words. A pianoforte is a specific type of instrument, and an old way of referring to one. Unless the thing actually is a piano, why not be more general and call it a keyboard?
I think the issue with that is the idea of how the terminology is associated in the minds of the reader. I used pianoforte as an example because of the setting I threw out there: a Regency-inspired fantasy, set on a non-Earth world. Pianoforte is the sort of thing they would say in a Regency story, so it fits with the "era" of the world. Words have different connotations that could help reinforce a story or take a reader right out of it. The word "keyboard," even though it's the simplest way to describe something like a piano, is more readily associated with the electric type, so I'm not sure would fit in with a history-inspired setting.

That's along the same lines of my dilemma: at what point when worldbuilding do you have to value "scene setting" over etymology and logic?

Your later comment does help a lot, though. As does Gallagher's about setting rules first and then adhering to them. This is just something I struggle with while in the planning stages of writing. See also: "Do all my characters have to have made-up names if they're in a world where the origins of Earth names don't exist?"

Old Posted 04-18-2017, 08:00 AM Reply With Quote  
Gallagher Gallagher is offline
It Won't Stop
Default   #9  
To me, having the world be inspired by a certain place/time/language when those origins wouldn't logically exist is no stranger than worlds (scifi or general fantasy) where all sorts of races conveniently have one "common" language.

Like... there's no such thing as a "common" language. That's stupid. More realistically, you would have a handful of widespread languages and, if you're lucky, they might have shared roots to make communication easier. But "common" makes the story work and when you're really into it, can be such a small detail that it doesn't matter.

If you're using Regency language, use Regency style names. If you're using made-up scifi words, use made-up names. It's all about making the terms and language match, not whether they make sense or not. That's what crafts a believable world.







Old Posted 04-18-2017, 09:32 AM Reply With Quote  
Default   #10   johnny johnny is offline
writing machine in bad repair
So basically, use the language the reinforces the world (or society) created in the story?

I always over-think myself and my writing by assuming what readers might think or have problems with, but the consensus seems to be that, if I prioritize the society I've created and the rules of that world (even the rules borrowed from real Earth history) then readers should be able to overlook stuff that doesn't quite make sense -- so long as the stuff that doesn't make sense compared to our world does make sense within the boundaries of the fictional world.

Old Posted 04-18-2017, 10:08 AM Reply With Quote  
Gallagher Gallagher is offline
It Won't Stop
Default   #11  
Yeah, the disbelief comes in when the story itself, or the characters within it, start breaking the rules that have been set so far. When something suddenly happens that the rest of the story has been telling us shouldn't happen. That's when you get into dangerous territory where things need to be explained in a way that makes sense.

And generally, when it comes to language or settings, it really is as simple as being consistent. People want to enjoy stories. Most of them aren't gonna pick out the language choices unless something stands out as blatantly unfitting or incorrect.







Old Posted 04-18-2017, 10:19 AM Reply With Quote  
Default   #12   johnny johnny is offline
writing machine in bad repair
That mindset does make a lot of sense.

I guess I've just read too many critiques of stories in which people nitpick things like the etymology of names or words, how maps are laid out, stuff like that. The criticism exists somewhere in the back of my mind and makes me second guess everything from the perspective of those critics.

Old Posted 04-18-2017, 01:35 PM Reply With Quote  
Quiet Man Cometh Quiet Man Cometh is offline
We're all mad here.
Default   #13  
I'm a nit-picker, but it can be of use if only to make a writer aware of something a as potential issue. Since, ultimate, everything write will be earth relative in some way, as it's our own frame of reference. A good thought might be to ask yourself "how much period language can I get away with?" before the setting becomes that period and may as well be on Earth anyway.

One of my pics about Fantasy and sci-fi is that there should be something that makes them sci-fi and fantasy and not something that would fit seamlessly into another category is you took some funny names out.
Old Posted 04-18-2017, 02:24 PM Reply With Quote  
Default   #14   Suzerain of Sheol Suzerain of Sheol is offline
Desolation Denizen
I'm reminded of playing Final Fantasy Tactics as a child, and being rather thrown-off when a character refers to a castle's housing conditions as "Spartan", which even at such a young age struck me as very incongruous. I eventually attributed it to the overall poor quality of the translation.

Now, though, while I think my first inclination on seeing things like that is to be annoyed, the more erudite part of my brain is quick to remind that all manner of seemingly-common words have their roots in very specific cultural references that have been all but forgotten in modern language use. 'Sinister' is one that always sticks out in my mind, but likewise, 'Dexterity' as well. There's no particular reason a secondary world would have the same superstitions and cultural biases of the Romans (though such beliefs were hardly exclusive to them, obviously, but we're talking about the words themselves), I'd hazard not even 1% of readers would give words like that a second glance in fantasy or sci-fi.

In terms of words that are straight-up anachronistic, though, the line might be a little harsher. I'd think such references should be used to characterize the setting. If you want it to feel Regency-Era-ish, then use words that reinforce that. If not, then maybe think twice before doing so. I'm currently writing a military fantasy novel in a late-Medieval-era world, and I have little to no restraint throwing around onerous French terms for armor components, much to the dismay of some people in this thread. :P

...which on that note, I'm not sure what it says that our RP group comprises the sum total of responses in this thread.
Cold silence has a tendency
to atrophy any sense of compassion
between supposed lovers.
Between supposed brothers.
Old Posted 04-18-2017, 03:53 PM Reply With Quote  
Gallagher Gallagher is offline
It Won't Stop
Default   #15  
I think it says that we're the bunch that care about the quality of our work maybe a tad too much.







Old Posted 04-18-2017, 04:12 PM Reply With Quote  
Default   #16   Quiet Man Cometh Quiet Man Cometh is offline
We're all mad here.
I guess it matters how much you care about the separation of a new setting versus history. If you don't care that readers assume you are writing an alternate Renaissance (even if you don't use the names of countries or significant people,) then don't worry about the language and connotations. If the setting in quest must absolutely be separated from our history and planet, then more care needs to be put in for word choice.
Old Posted 04-18-2017, 04:45 PM Reply With Quote  
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All content is copyright © 2010 - 2019 Trisphee.com
FAQ | E-Mail | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Forum Rules
Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr
Return to top
Powered by vBulletin®