Oct 18, 2011

Writing Topic: Inventing Words

Every week, one of the writing mailing lists I belong to has a discussion topic. I often respond to the list, so I figured, why not post about it to my blog?  Today's topic is about inventing words.   Most fiction writers invent names for people or places, and most SF/F (science fiction/fantasy) writers also invent jargon or slang for their world.  Famous examples include Quidditch, Jedi knights, Unobtainium, grok, Cthulhu, and elves.

It seems to me that a lot of contemporary writers, particularly in SF, overdo the futuristic jargon and slang, which makes it hard for a new reader to get through.  The universe in which my novels take place is ruled by mind readers, who have no use for slang.  Their jargon is utilitarian rather than slang-like.
  • Hoverchair = a floating chair. 
  • Transport = a flying car. 
  • Adaptive skin = photo-sensor cells that can be programmed to imitate a realistic view, or approximate invisibility. 
  • Plasmic polymer = a super strong and flexible building material. 
They use holograms, antimatter, nuclear weapons, FTL engines, and so forth, but I saw no need to invent new words for things we already have words for.  Other than the aforementioned tech gadgets, and aside from names for people or places (Torth are mind readers), I've only invented two words for use in my Torth series.  A Yeresunsa is someone with powers that go beyond mind reading. I didn't want to use Jedi, wizard, warlock, sorcerer, etc, which come with preconceived notions. The etymology of this word has a history in my series.  And Guaht is someone who only judges him/herself and never judges anyone else. In my Torth series, this can be the equivalent of being a saint, although only some people follow the Code of Guaht (which is akin to a philosophic religion, a la Buddhism).

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