Modern Language In A Fantasy Setting

Sometimes I think critiques can be more detrimental than helpful. I appreciate the time people put into my work and I appreciate their aid. Every single critique I’ve ever received is helpful in its own way. I’m not here to get angry at that. What gets to me is that I constantly get the same complaint/comment and it’s really starting to wear thin on me.

What’s that complaint? Modern language in a fantasy setting.

Where in the fantasy molding does it say that I’m not allowed to use language we use today in my own fantasy worlds? Maybe I don’t want to be another boring, stuffy, hard to understand fantasy. I could, arguably, write more modern fantasy but what if I want to play around in a new setting or world? Apparently, you can’t have the best of both worlds, because I get the feeling that very few fantasy fans would pick up my work based on the modern language I tend to use. It’s not hard to come to that conclusion when practically every reader of my work has to point out to me that my modern language is jarring.

A good rule of thumb in writing: when you get the same comments, you’re obviously doing it wrong, but this is something that I really don’t want to budge on. I don’t want to write fantasy the way everybody else does. I love fantasy settings, I love new and alien worlds with different concepts and characters. What I don’t love is all the archaic lingo.

I try to compare my work to a video game. When you play Tales of the Abyss, clearly a fantasy, in a fantasy setting with fantastical characters, you don’t get all up in arms about their language not being right, that it sounds too modern, do you? This is why I market myself as “light fantasy” because it’s not Medieval and it’s not meant to be heavy and hard to follow. It’s supposed to be a fun romp through a new world, like a fantasy style video game is.

But I can’t seem to get people to see it the way I see it.

Dusty Old Writing Rules

When I wrote my first Nano story, one of the girls harped on me because she had this huge pet peeve against people who started sentences with conjunctions. But (har har) it wasn’t conjunctions, namely it was starting a sentence with the words “And” or “But” — which she said was the mark of a bad writer. Why? Because it’s bad grammar. If you look around, many best selling authors are selling books that make use of conjunctions at the beginning of a sentence. Personally, I think it packs more of a punch sometimes.

Now, I can see why one might not want to use “And” or “But” at the beginning of a sentence in an official document. I do believe it’s actually accepted to use conjunctions on non-formal writing. I also believe novels, short stories, and roleplay posts would count as non formal. Especially the latter. I mean, come on. It’s a roleplay post. What are you going to do, grade me on it?

It’s all about personal preference. Some writers genuinely don’t like it. I have my own personal preferences. While reading, if there is too much telling, it reads like a book aimed at the very young. I don’t like my writing to be overly simplistic. At the same time, I despise purple prose and I think if you’re abusing a thesaurus just to sound smart, all you really end up doing is looking pretentious. It comes across as if you want everybody to think “Wow, what an extensive vocabulary!” There’s a time and a place for those five dollar words and I can tell you that it’s not in every single sentence you write.

I don’t believe in a lot of dusty old writing rules. Adverbs are brilliant when used correctly and one of my favorite authors in the world, Diana Wynne Jones, uses them. A sentence in one of her novels that had me rolling happened to make good use of an adverb. To be quite honest, I don’t even think that sentence would have read as humorously if it hadn’t used an adverb. I’ll agree that too many of them tend to make a story or passage look lazy; there are times where you can get the same feeling across without using an adverb. But not to use them at all? Pfft.

Some of my favorite authors (Stephen King, for one) have even cited these rules as rubbish in their non fiction books on writing. Should I take the advice of these best-selling authors, or some no-name girl at a Nano event? Hm… <–That right there is another thing. Ellipses. My English teacher in college berated me mercilessly for its usage. I’ll tell you right now; I love ellipses. Love ’em, love ’em, love ’em — and I’ll continue to use them.

I think when you’re writing, you need to write organically. Write using your character’s voice. Don’t be afraid to think outside those old rules.

If you don’t believe me, then check these links out for more information!

Grammar Rules to Break


Coordinating Conjunctions