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.


He’s never been much. He doesn’t like sticking out in a crowd and he never meets the gaze of another person unless bidden to. Even then, the contact is brief, fluttery, such that one probably wonders if their eyes are playing tricks on them. His master has always said that he will never amount to anything. He is the Sacrifice to his Destroyer. He will never be anything else.

He doesn’t say much. Nobody wants to hear him. When somebody speaks to him, he wonders why and he can’t help thinking there must be an ulterior motive. Years of being cuffed on the back of the head and flicked on the temple have taught him to stay on his toes. He can’t say the wrong thing, he thinks. If he does, pain will be inflicted. It’s not the pain that bothers him, though. It’s the rosy color that creeps up his neck and over his cheeks, that feeling of the lowly dog being caught in the act of sneaking scraps from the table. He feels impudent. He feels foolish and stupid.

He doesn’t do much, insofar as outsiders know. They see only the meek servant of the Destroyer, always walking three paces behind, bowing, and avoiding eye contact. He doesn’t act human, so they don’t think to treat him like one. Is that a robot, they think to themselves. He looks so real, but there’s something very mechanical about him. In truth, he does all of the housework. He cooks and cleans, on top of all the lessons heaped upon him in order to achieve what his master likes to call a “classical education.” This means he reads classic literature, he is forced to sit in front of a piano two times a week, and he probably knows more about etiquette than Miss Manners.

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

His master quotes this to him on a daily basis. It has been drummed into him, a mantra, his life’s philosophy. He is nothing, or he strives to be. With fulfillment, will he finally escape his master’s tormenting words? Will he no longer feel the heavy hand of his punishment against the back of his head? He longs to be nothing, he longs to truly embrace this philosophy.

It is only when he looks at him that he believes there is something more than settling for nothing. He is afraid to say so, even to himself, but sometimes, he wants more than nothing. He feels greedy, ungrateful, but if he is nothing, then that one will not see him. Nobody does. He tells himself he is content to sit in the library and watch him, but he knows he’s not. He wants more. For once in his life, he wants.

His master would laugh at him, if he knew. His master doesn’t believe in other people. He tells him they’re all tools, a means to an end. Even when he takes a woman to his quarters, it’s not out of love, but only to alleviate his own needs. Does his master think of his Sacrifice’s needs? He thinks he doesn’t–and why should he? A Sacrifice lives and dies for his Destroyer. His life will be short and brutal. It has always been this way for the people of his village. The ways haven’t changed just because they have moved. His master is old fashioned. He will never give up the traditions ground into him from infancy.

He contemplates this. If he was a Destroyer, would he, too, be content with his lot in life? He often thinks being a Sacrifice wouldn’t be so bad, if only he had a kinder, gentler Destroyer. But it is not in their nature to be kind, nor gentle. A Destroyer destroys. A Creator creates. And a Sacrifice sacrifices.

So he will sacrifice his own thoughts, his own feelings. He will not think of kind eyes that strip the walls from him with one look alone. He will not imagine what it would feel like to have fingertips caress his skin. And he will not pretend, for one second, of how his life would be if he was not bound to his master and if he could instead be bound to him.

He will do nothing. He will say nothing. He will be nothing.

He is nothing and he will stay that way.

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

Getting The Mojo To Write

Sometimes, I think the most difficult part of being a writer is getting the mojo–the get up and go, the inspiration–to actually sit down and write. I don’t know how many times I’ve poured myself a soda, positioned myself nice and comfy, turned on the “mood” music for the next chapter or post, and then found myself simply staring at the screen. Don’t we all have that problem? The worst part is, you then forget what it was that you were doing! You see all the pretty bookmarks you’ve managed to collect over the years and think “Ooh, maybe I’ll just check on so-and-so place, my facebook, my email, this forum…” and before you know it, a couple of hours have passed and you still haven’t written a damn thing.

I still haven’t found that magic bullet to cure writer’s block. Many writers say you need to power through it, write through the block. While that does work, what makes you write the first word on the page? And the second? The third? Admittedly, once I begin, it doesn’t seem so daunting a task. I’ve surprised myself by what I can accomplish within a scant hour or two of writing. That doesn’t stop the blocks from coming.

So, other than powering through, what else do you do? I find taking a step back also helps. (I know, conflicting advice FTW, right? Power through, take a step back.) It helps to move away from the computer and go watch a movie that inspires, listen to music that tells a story, or just plain take a long car drive. I don’t know how many brilliant ideas have popped into my head while driving out to Bakersfield. The drive combined with music is the best inspiration for me. Gives me time to actually listen to the music, rather than use it as mere background filler while I’m writing.

I also find that it helps to keep a notebook near the bed. My ideas love to strike when I’m drifting into sleep–or sometimes my dreams give me ideas that get my mojo running again!

There’s no getting around the fact that there are just days when nothing wants to be written, but don’t waste the time you’re not using to write. Observe what happens around you, ask questions while watching movies or television like “What would have happened if she wasn’t saved at the last second?” Ask yourself what the story might have been like told from a different perspective. Alter the ending of the movie!

So power through, take a step back, get inspired. There are so many stories waiting to be told; you have only to look for them. Decide how you want to tell the story, choose your protagonist carefully. Nobody said a story written in the perspective of the murderer’s cat would be boring.