Science Fiction, an alien language

I’m two thirds the way through my Camp Nano science fiction novel and have just passed my nano goal of 50k words, so I’ve officially ‘won’ although the book isn’t yet finished.  I’m aiming to get it to around 75k or thereabouts.

I’m doing two things in this book that I’ve never done before and it’s both interesting and good discipline.  I like to challenge myself and see how far I can achieve something.

I’m doing this book from 3rd person POV but, unlike my preferred style, I’m not doing it as omnipresent.  The story is told in 3rd person but only from one character’s POV.  I like 3rd omni but this book just demanded it be in one character’s POV, so who am I to argue with my muse?

This makes it slower to write and I’m finding, as I did when I wrote in 1st person for the first time for Floxham Island, that the book is growing a little slower and I’m having to go deeper into my main character’s personality.  This is good practice in character development.  I can’t hop POV to ‘pad it out’ any more, I have to let this main character lead the story all the way through.

I’m also inventing an alien language for this book, which is something I never imagined I would ever do.  I must admit, when it became obvious that this was necessary for the story, I was dumbfounded and scared.  The only other person I know of who has done this is Tolkien and he was a language expert and spent ten years building his languages.  I’m not prepared to spend that long, so I had to find a quicker way to do it.

Without boring you with the minutiae of building a language, what I did first was to decide upon my verb conjugations and tenses.  I copied the Spanish language for this, inasmuch as I decided to have three standard verb endings – AN, AKSI and IEL.  I then decided how many tenses I was going to have, and I chose just 3, present, past and future and then worked out how to change the endings for each conjugation.  It was just a case then of inventing the verbs, making sure they had one of my three chosen endings and giving them the appropriate conjugation for the tense in which they are used.  I toyed with the idea of having a preterit tense, but for simplification I decided to use the full, unconjugated verb for the preterit.

After that, with nouns, pronouns etc, I just invented them and made sure the language has a common sound that runs through it.  I also decided upon a rule for pluralisation, which in this case is achieved by adding ISI at the end of the noun.  I’m not bothering with silent letters or anything like that, I’ve done mine so it is pronounced as it’s written, which will make it easier for the reader to follow.

I wasn’t sure about the correct way to display this alien language with its translation and I worried about it for a while, until asking around and settling on having the alien language in italics, with the translation directly after.  I feel this is likely to be the easiest way for the reader to follow and understand it.

There isn’t a lot of the new language in the book, just short snippets of conversation here and there between the three characters who speak it, so it shouldn’t be an overload.  I’ll be interested to see how the book is received and whether people like the language or not.  Have you ever invented a new language?  I’d be interested in hearing how you approached it.

This book should be out in the new year 2014, hopefully February.

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4 comments

  1. There’s a fear that the language would make the novel sound a tad corny…. I mean, you do say there will be only snippets, but I’d keep it as minimal as possible.

  2. I’ve never even thought about inventing a language for a story. You all that. I’ll be interested to see how this pans out. The best to you as you finish your project.

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