This is the third of a 3-part blog post about building rich fantasy worlds to immerse your readers. In part 1 we looked at two “big picture” elements: maps and politics. Part 2 was a “medium” view about wimpy food and eavesdropping.
This time we’ll talk about a couple of “detail” topics: the decorative apostrophe, and why it’s no fun for wizards to just wave their wands and rule the world.
5. Pesky Punctuation
What is it with the apostrophe and names in F/SF worlds? Sometimes an otherwise fine story leaves me with a mental jaw-ache trying to sound out names like Kr’stben’lok’zmrz’lorr. What do the apostrophes mean? Do they represent guttural stops (like tongue clicks), pauses to breathe during long names, or are they decoration because F/SF names are exotic?
Maybe you’re using two English language rules for the apostrophe: possessive (usually with an s added), or contractions (deleting letters like in can’t). Good ‘ole Kr’stben’lok’zmrz’lorr doesn’t seem to use apostrophes for those reasons. Must be for decoration.
In the Sye world for Wrath and Tredan’s Bane, the apostrophe creates a contraction–it shows omitted letters or spaces. For example, the formal name of Lanith’s dragonette is Seri Drracon’el Arnl’jhott Vatter’sang. Literally translated, it means: Seri (Sir or Mister), Drracon (dragon), ‘el (shortened form of mel, meaning “diminutive” or more precisely, a dragonette or small dracon), Arnl (frightens), jhott (eagles), vatter (water), and sang (song). So in Sye’s vernacular, her dragonette’s full name is Water Song Who Frightens Eagles. The first time you meet him, use his formal name. After that, you can call him Arnl’jhott.
6. Length of the Wand
Wizards, magicians, and Sith Lords have an annoying stereotype. How realistic is it for them to wave their wands and have magic spout from their fingers like lightning? Really? If I could wave my wand and blast anything just by really wanting it, then there would be lots of burned-out cars littering my road to work (taking the One Ring to Mordor would be easier than my morning commute).
Where do these magic workers get the willpower? I can more readily believe in the Loch Ness Monster than I can a wizard who keeps his tempter and doesn’t create flash-fried steak from a stubborn apprentice.
Please, let’s make magic real. At least have it make sense and give the all-powerful magic workers some limitations. I’ve tried to do so in my own novels. In Sye, the Enchanters are the most powerful of magic workers because they create the magical essence that everyone else uses. As a new Enchanter’s ability to create essence increases, he/she also becomes less able to defend against magical attack.
Enchanters also have their delightful side. Just cuddle up get an essence kiss from one of them. Their magic tastes like chocolate-cinnamon-peppery spice (see part 2). Be sure to ask before you touch, otherwise you risk becoming flash-fried steak. A warning–you’ll be tempted, but don’t bite.
Who knows? They might think you can control yourself well enough to become an Enchanter’s Consent. Then you can get all the kisses and magical essence you want.