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  • Writer's pictureG R Matthews

What did they say?

I am coming to the belief that writing blog posts and newsletters is just another form of procrastination - ever the enemy! However, in this case I know the root cause. I've hit a problem with "The Silencing of the North". Not a big problem, but one I knew was coming down the line when I made certain decisions in the planning and thinking of the characters and plot. To explain it better, I probably need to go back a little - have a chat about something, try and make it clear. Right, here goes;

In many fantasy novels everyone one speaks the same language - or suddenly everyone speaks more than one language. Now, don't get me wrong; I am sure that amongst the heroes and groups that tramp the wilderness there are some who would speak many languages, just not... everyone. Also, if you think about some well-known fantasy worlds - take Middle Earth - there is an idea that one language is main form of communication (I'll wait to be proved wrong by Scholars of the Ring). Sure there are other languages, more local, but most default to Westron / Common (DnD! Yay!). It makes the reading a lot easier and no one gets bogged down in worries about who can talk to who.

However, sticking to Middle Earth for a moment, not every dwarf, every elf, or every hobbit would speak 'common' - across the whole world? Is everyone bilingual? And what is the natural language of the hobbits? A people unknown, secluded, hidden, who surely must have, through natural evolution have a language of their own that would confuse and confuddle everyone else (apart from Gandalf). Where are these languages?

Now, I know those few who read this will comeback with "what about..." and have a thousand good examples of books which deal with the idea of language differences, miscommunication, misunderstanding all the way through. I can't particularly think of one, but my memory isn't the best. So, what I have is a language of the Empire - which everyone in the Empire speaks as a common language. So far, so just what I said above. I also have countries which border the Empire (and are being invaded - not really a spoiler as Chp 1, in fact the first paragraph, of Seven Deaths of an Empire pretty much tells you that) and do not speak the language of the Empire. Sure, there are a few souls, traders and merchants, especially close to the borders who do, but further in it is fewer and fewer (maybe one in a few thousand - and with good reason).

What this has led to is... hold that thought, must go collect daughter from school...

Back... where was I? Oh yes!

What this has led to is a character lost amongst those other countries who does not speak the language and running only into one other who can translate a bit. This means that free flowing dialogue is becoming an issue (for a chapter or so, so far) and therefore getting on with the story is slower than I want it to be. Actually, what I should say is it makes the writing of this bit of the story slower than I want it to be.

I've considered:

1. McGuffin; there is an amulet, ring, bracelet which allows communication - but while we have magic, it doesn't work like that, it would not fit the world I've built and needs to remain consistent.

2. A fluent speaker, a translator; this makes some sense and once introduced I can miss out the "translation" bit and the readers will know what's going on, but it also removes some agency and struggle from the character. I don't want that. I want her to struggle, to be awkward and confused, to have piece together any puzzles.

3. Magic (again, but different); perhaps, somehow, they speak in dreams and she learns the language quicker than normal - seems a bit like a "cheat" but it is fantasy!

4. Immersion; with no one to help, with perhaps other characters knowing only a few words of Empire, she has to learn, it is all she hears and listens to. Meaning comes across, and in conversations I just relay her best understanding - she stitching sentences together as are those she talks to? How long will it take her to learn enough? A week, a few weeks, months, years?

I am leaning towards 4 - thinking around it, worrying about it, taking to Blog posts to get my thoughts down. It has concerned me a bit... it has slowed down the writing of these chapters and scenes and I need to deal with it soon. I can't procrastinate this much...

... oh look, No Man's Sky is on xBox Game Pass...

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