On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Do “Made Up” Words Add to the Flavor or Detract?

I go back and forth on this as a reader and a writer. Lately I’ve been making up words less and less. Once again, you can get hit from both sides on this issue in my genre. SF/F people may think made up words are too cute, regular romance readers may think them too hard.

I recently shared a forum where another writer (a friendly acquaintance who I thought had read my books but obviously hadn’t) went off on a long post about making up words. If the Powers That Be are “translating” the words for readers, they should also translate MotherDam to Grandmother, etc. She has a point. But I, as a reader AND writer, like to have a little different flavor. Something that makes me feel good and smart when it’s obvious, but I “translate” it myself. I think it should reflect the world, the culture, the story.

I’ve made hideous mistakes in this that I would prefer to correct, and I think I’d open HeartMate and the backstory a little differently with all the GreatHouses etc. But that’s past and not something I can fix now.

On the other hand, I can spell out my swear words. Of COURSE people swear, and I don’t feel right about the four letter “f” word (cats, of course think that’s FOOD), so I made up fligger. Everyone can figure that one out. I occasionally say it myself (I swear all the time and talk to myself, too).

I was thinking back to a very old crit I had of Heart Thief. I used “softchair.” Cut this, a guy said, what else would they be, and a stupid word. Ok. Softchair never made it. Comfortchair (which I think I used in HeartMate) is still there. Now the chair floats (it might have always floated and I never said). To digress, it’s also odd how a person’s perspective colors their world and their words, made up or not. What else would soft chair be? I looked around my house. I do not have one cushioned chair. They are all wood. I now have an exercise ball chair, but that’s it. I have no softchairs.

So make up your mind, and whatever you think you need to add flavor, cut in half or 3/4.

May your writing amuse you today.


Blogger Holly said...

I love made up words. One of the greatest marks of creativity I see in many stories is a single word that completely alters my perspective on an object. It picks up my brain and rotates it several degrees. That one word can completely make a culture. At least for me...but my near-degree is in Anthropology, so I can fill in gaps in the culture really easily. ;)

9:36 AM  
Anonymous a reader said...

Personally I enjoy them most of the time, when not overdone or too frequent; just to add spice, an air of "alien" charm and enhance the fact that it is a different world. So far you have achieved this in Celta! Thanks

1:17 PM  
Blogger Diane P said...

I like some unique words, I think it adds to the world building. Another author that I frequently read was harshly criticized for making people use the glossary too much.

I think it adds to the creativity and it will take me back to that world when I read the next in the series. So keep adding some spice to your worlds.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Robin D Owens said...

Thanks, like I said, I enjoy it too, and find people who read fantasy prefer it...however I have made some glaring mistakes and will try to keep that to a minimum.

OTOH, I think I've pretty much built my vocabulary for Celta.


8:25 AM  

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