Making It Up – How Much Is Too Much?

I’ve been deep in my writing cave working on two futuristic stories, one with aliens and one without.  The one with aliens has been especially challenging, mostly because I have a hard enough time coming up with titles and names, much less all the made up words.

Unfortunately, my alien character insisted I write, at least partially, in his point of view, which presented the biggest hurdle.  Part of that challenge is his name.  He shows up in Spice ‘n’ Solace, so I can’t change his name, would that I could.  Just to make life easier, I’m going to use the name Chris as an example.  If Chris owns a truck, this would correctly appear as Chris’s truck.  Visually, I’m not a big fan of the s’s construction, but hey, what can you do, it’s grammar!  So, my alien has a name that ends in s — issue one.

Issue two is that he ALSO has an apostrophe in his name.  Using Chris again, this would look like C’ris.  And that pesky truck?  C’ris’s truck.  Oh, I had no idea how much I would hate that double apostrophe/double s.  I had to do some pretty fancy footwork (which I’m hoping my editor won’t call me on) to avoid possessives wherever possible — and I’ve learned a few things for the future.

But that pales in comparison to the language thing.  I’m not sure you can write from an alien’s point of view and not take a whole new language into consideration.  Unless I choose to be completely anglo-centric, the aliens will have different names for everything, and will more than likely think of those things in their own language, even if they are perfectly fluent in English.  Yet, a lot of made-up words requiring definitions (or even worse, a glossary!) can get a little tiresome for the reader… at least, when the reader is me, and everyone’s like me, right?  😉

To emphasize the ‘alien-ness’ of my hero, I knew I’d need some regularly used words that he’d think of or speak of using his own tongue.  Ones that the readers could, perhaps, easily remember from one chapter to the next, without requiring a cheat sheet.  But… how much is too much?  When is it too intrusive?  What types of words are more likely to throw the reader out of the story?

If only I had the answers.  I used a couple of words (aka pulled random letters out of my ass) related to the different social structure of the aliens, because there aren’t any true equivalents in human culture.  That seemed reasonable enough.

I also chose to use alien vocabulary for my hero’s sexual organ… hey, I write erotic romance… genitalia is referenced a LOT.  To me, even though there are (oh, so many) equivalent words in the human language, I believe an alien would only think of such personal and intimate body parts in his own language.  I just hope the word I made up isn’t completely laughable.  The sex scenes aren’t really supposed to be funny, you know?  I don’t write rom-com!

Can you get an alien perspective to work without making up words?  How much is too much?  I can only hope I’ve struck the right balance, because I also don’t want my alien to be like one of those grease-paint aliens on the original Star Trek.

KC Burn

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4 comments

  1. Hi KC – I’ve had the same problem. It’s a delicate balance. I’ve developed a dictionary so that the more words I invent, the more they relate to each other, base words etc. That makes it even more confusing, but also ads depth I think. I just finished writing Undercover Alliance – book 3 for the Confederacy Treaty series and it is a bit longer than the last 2 novellas, I think because I am trying to put a deeper perspective into the alien personnas. The more I know about these people, the more complicated they become!

    1. Wow I was just looking at some of your language stuff. Very impressive! I may have to do some more in-depth language creation in the future.

  2. Wow – I can’t imagine how much world building that takes. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the English language;-)

    1. Wow I was just looking at some of your language stuff. Very impressive! I may have to do some more in-depth language creation in the future.

      Hey Wynter! Apparently I have to cram all my replies into one – the smartphone is not as smart as I hoped 😦 Anyway, I *thought* it was a lot of world building… Have you seen Lilly’s post?!?

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