The Fictional Lexicon [Video]

In reading or writing fiction you come across the interesting issue of how the words used by the author can fall into several different realms. Most the reader is familiar with due to being a base part of the language, or those that the reader can be expected to be familiar with after having reached a certain level of academia either basic or advanced. Some are a more specialized subset of language, such as those based on geographic, technological, religious, professional, etc, however they are all words that exist in our shared world.

Fictional stories are however in many ways in the unique position of being able to invent new words and new definitions in order to set something apart from all that we can know in our own shared existence. This is not the modification or abbreviation most prevalent in the world around us, but the conscious decision on the part of the author to place this word beyond the pale of any known lexicon of man.

This has been used to great effect by many authors, in situations from the comedic, whimsical, and puny, but also in more serious works. At issue is the ability of any strange word the reader does not understand to cause confusion, misunderstanding, and even irritation on the part of the reader. It takes a master to introduce a new word to the reader in such a gentle manner that it is immediately apparent to all comers what its definition is without throwing them out of their suspension of disbelief.

At issue is the dangers versus the benefits of introducing a new word, it is a decision not to be made lightly, even in the least serious of works. If your fiction is so high concept that it requires you to create a new language, you’d damn well be prepared for the task. If your aim is to create cool new terms for existing concepts or concrete objects you are going to run into a wall of inertia from the existing lexicon. People will rebel against learning a new word for an existing word as they won’t against learning a completely new word for a new concept or physical object.

It does not make sense to overcome the inertia in order to introduce a new word, or especially replace an existing word with a new translation, for little effect as Zelazny does in the isolated passages of the massive Chronicles of Amber series I am reading from in the video above. In a few short pages, he introduces several new words for weapons and their use, something he hadn’t done during or after in the rest of the series to such an extent. And while I quip in the video that I don’t understand it, the truth is each time I read that passage I have to re-decipher the new words down into the well of previous memory and reading comprehension based on surrounding material. Each time and variation (Fand, Fandon, etc) causes a jarring mental break with the fiction I had willfully given up my suspension of belief to. It has to be one of my least favorite pieces of one who I consider a master craftsman in one of the greatest complete series I have ever read.

So if you are thinking of adding new words to your writing, really think about both how and why you are going to introduce it to the reader. If it is at all possible to use an existing word or concept, do so. If you can modify or even bastardize an existing word or concept, do so. If all else fails and you are prepared to take the criticism, then create your new word and may heaven have mercy upon your soul.

About HEX

Speak Your Mind

*

Visitor Statistics - - www.HEX.xxx
Best CDN