Bestselling Author Delilah Devlin
HomeMeet Delilah
BookshelfBlogExtrasEditorial ServicesContactDelilah's Collections

Blog



Guest Blogger: Kimber Vale
Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Does Anyone Here Speak Artani?

How tough is it to come up with an otherworldly language?  For me, it definitely had its challenges when I wrote my book “Star Catcher.”  Authors of sci-fi, or high fantasy that takes place on an alternate Earth, are obligated to dose their writing with a fair amount of made-up language. A book with a non-Earth setting would understandably contain a number of foreign words.  Some words may label objects or creatures that are indigenous to the alien world, while others may be the translations of familiar Earth terms.

Let’s begin with creating the basis for an entire language.  Do you need a dictionary filled with alien words before you start writing?  No, but consistency is the key.  Keep a cheat-sheet of your alien words so you don’t end up changing the spelling of your memory-erasing medicine Tristayl partway through your manuscript.  Spell check won’t help you there.  You also have to be careful about different tenses if you happen to use alien verbs.  I had the darnedest time hammering out that my alien planet was called Artanos, its people were called Artanians, and their language was Artani. I had to check over my finished piece multiple times to make sure I hadn’t flubbed it anywhere.

I recently saw a question posed by a sci-fi author on a group I’m in. She was looking for a good way to come up with alien names after her editor asked her to make some changes. It seemed her aliens sounded…well, too alien.

Too alien? Well, not in the sense that they couldn’t be pronounced—another potential problem—but too cliché-sounding.  Think of Beldar and Prymatt from The Coneheads, and you get my drift.  This author was asking how others come up with their alternate language.

When I began writing “Star Catcher,” I stumbled upon this website (http://www.ralph.nuoj.com/alien.php), which uses a system of vowel and consonant patterns to develop alien names.  I read through, noting the construction of each pattern, saying them out loud, and generally getting a feel for each “type” of name.  It’s almost like each word bank is a key to its own language.  I noticed which ones “felt” right, what common letters and sounds were used, and which were easier to pronounce, and then I started playing around with them.

After you make your decisions, you need to run them by some test readers.  About two-thirds of the words I originally came up with remained after my beta readers looked over my book.  No matter how you formulate your language, if a word causes the reader to stumble, pause, read, and reread each time they see it, it’s no good.  You don’t want to take the reader out of your world and punch them in the face, you just want a gentle reminder that they are in another world or time—preferably an easy-to-read reminder that flows off the tongue.

I consulted a number of real Earth languages while forming my “system.” Did my aliens have a soft, pleasant Romance-based language?  Were they a warring species with a guttural and explosive tongue?  Tweaking other languages, like Spanish or German, is another possibility, especially if the author is already familiar with these.  Why not make your life easier?  And why not make your reader’s life easier?  Odds are they will recognize the meaning of your words if they are similar to something known, even if they are taken out of context.

That brings up my final point about language building: if the word calls to mind, in some way, what it is tagging, that can help the reader carry a mental picture while continuing through the book.  As an example, my wild-boar-slash-wolf-beasts (animals with three eyes and tusks curling up from their bottom jaws) were originally called xoovs.  My betas didn’t know how to say it in their heads each time it came up (and they do come up a fair amount).  Someone suggested subtly making their name sound more like earth animals they resemble.  I changed their name to wrovs, hoping for a slight wolf connotation and an easier pronunciation.

What do you think? Any sci-fi authors out there have a strict system for language-building? Any readers have a preference when it comes to alien language? Do you feel it adds authentic alien flavor, or do unfamiliar words distract you from your reading?

Star Catcher

Lust flares hot and bright when Stella Aims’ world collides with the gorgeous and mysterious Noth Zobor. The tall dark stranger doesn’t speak a word of English, but Stella is happy to teach him everything she knows, including a crash course in the universal language of love. Their passion burns down to sweet and smoldering before Stella’s reality is completely spun around.

People aren’t always what they seem—but what if they aren’t even human?

Concerned that Noth’s been lying to her, Stella searches for him and walks into a trap straight out of a nightmare. When she wakes, she finds the real deception was far worse than she ever suspected, and her lover is not at all what he seems. Forgiving him might be the easiest thing Stella has to do, because getting out alive and saving her fellow humans from captivity and experimentation will be the toughest challenge of her life.

Can lovers from two different planets overcome forces that push them galaxies apart? When the fate of two species hangs in the balance, love may be the only thing strong enough to save them all and give hope for a new future.

Star Catcher releases on June 3rd, 2013 from Liquid Silver Books, and will be available at all major e-book retailers.

Author Bio:

Kimber Vale writes erotic romance of all stripes. Come for the sex. Stay for the story. Find her M/M work published under K. Vale. Stalk her on Facebook and Twitter @KimberVale, and check her site for updates and new releases at www.kimbervale.com.

11 comments to “Guest Blogger: Kimber Vale”

  1. Eva Lefoy
    Comment
    1
      · June 3rd, 2013 at 8:47 am · Link

    oh this looks great! languages can be hard. What about swear words? do your aliens sweat in their language?



  2. Kimber Vale
    Comment
    2
      · June 3rd, 2013 at 9:06 am · Link

    It does come up, Eva. There’s a deity name that’s used in a number of ways. ;-) Thanks for stopping over, chica!



  3. ronnie cornett
    Comment
    3
      · June 3rd, 2013 at 11:03 am · Link

    I always love coming on Delilah’s blog to find new authors to read!!! This book sounds good! :wink:



  4. sharon chalk
    Comment
    4
      · June 3rd, 2013 at 11:45 am · Link

    I love paranormal,but I also love sci-fi and of course being an avid Delilah Devlin and her sister Elle James I love erotica and your book Star Catcher comes out today and seemed to fit in all my catagories–I wish I knew in advance if it is a stand-alone or a series but I guess I will find out when it hits Amazon.com today,I haven’t checked to see if its there yet but I will as soon as I sign off here,you are a new author to me so I hope its as good as the snippet is because that will give me another author to follow yea zanarigrandma@gmail.com



  5. Amber H
    Comment
    5
      · June 3rd, 2013 at 2:48 pm · Link

    I always wondered how authors came up with the languages. I love, “You don’t want to take the reader out of your world and punch them in the face”. That made me laugh. I always figured if I had to make up a language, I’d just go by what my nephew says. He’s 5 but in his lifetime he’s made up some creative words. :)



  6. Becky Ward
    Comment
    6
      · June 3rd, 2013 at 5:17 pm · Link

    Great post! I found it interesting how authors come up with the alien languages . I think having the alien language in the story makes it seem more authentic. I never had any problems with the unfamiliar words distracting me from my reading.



  7. Layne Macadam
    Comment
    7
      · June 3rd, 2013 at 7:35 pm · Link

    An excellent post! How clever to create your very own alien language. It sounds so intriguing! :-D



  8. Kimber Vale
    Comment
    8
      · June 3rd, 2013 at 8:54 pm · Link

    Thanks for all the responses! Sharon, it’s a stand-alone, but if you really want another after you read it, I’m willing to pull something out of my hat! ;-) I have plans for another sci-fi, and could definitively intersect worlds next time around. :lol:



  9. Kimber Vale
    Comment
    9
      · June 3rd, 2013 at 9:56 pm · Link

    definitely–damn you auto-correct! :twisted:



  10. Cynthia Sax
    Comment
    10
      · June 4th, 2013 at 4:38 pm · Link

    Cool beans! I love hearing how writers build their worlds.

    For my SciFi erotic romances, I use existing Earth languages (for my Warlord series, I use Mongolian). I adhere to the common ancestry theory. I figure if two races are genetically similar enough to produce fertile offspring, they likely came from a common place. It makes sense to me that their languages have a common origin also.

    Plus I figure Mongolian might be useful for readers to know. (grins) Who knows!



  11. Kimber Vale
    Comment
    11
      · June 5th, 2013 at 8:21 am · Link

    Cynthia–makes perfect sense to me! Thanks for sharing!