Watch Your Words

The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme continued today with The Thief Queen’s Daughter, who is exactly the person I predicted.  But that’s not a bad thing.  While I was reading this book, I spent a bit of time tossing quotes to a friend, and that’s always good.

Most importantly, the line saying “there’s cats.  And then there’s everything else.”  It’s a very cat-centered way to view the world which, of course, is how a cat sees things.  Let’s say that while there aren’t nearly as many good lines as a Tanya Huff book, Elizabeth Haydon has done a good job as an author.  I think I’m happier with her writing here than I was in the last few volumes of the Symphony of Ages where she was intentionally being cruder in her terminology than she had been.  Just because you can swear and use foul language doesn’t mean you should, especially if it doesn’t fit the character, scene, book, or series.  And even more so if it doesn’t mesh with how you’ve written the series previously.

The Lost Journals are written differently from the Symphony though, and you can tell that everything, from the dialogue to the description, has been cleaned up for a younger audience.  There’s also a lot more modern phraseology here which is a little out of place, but again it’s understandable as the author wants to connect with the target audience.  Nothing struck me as being wholly out of place though, which I do appreciate.

There’s a book I own which is set in a fantasy world with no relation to our own.  And in the first book of the series, the author uses the phrase “Pyrrhic victory”.  Well, this came into our speech because of a particular part of the Pyrrhic war, in which the King of Epirus defeated the Romans, but at the high cost of most of his soldiers.  It is a common enough term that it’s much easier to use the verbal shortcut than to describe winning at the cost of losing almost everything.  But in a fantasy world, there is no Rome, there is no Pyrrhus, and there is no Pyrrhic war.  So they cannot possibly have this phrase and those words would not have the same meaning.

This is in contrast to a book like The Princess Bride which is a timeless fantasy story that happens to mention blue jeans in the first chapter.  But this is intentional, done twice for emphasis, and helps to cement the idea that this story is humorous and meant to make the reader smile.  It also supports the idea that blue jeans are ubiquitous.

It’s a concept that I try to pay particular attention to when I roleplay.  If I am roleplaying an animal like a lion, then in their dialogue and thoughts I need to remove many of the concepts they wouldn’t have.  For the sake of ease, I’ll assume they can be as intelligent as any two-legger with a culture and society as well.  But the first error I might make would be to use the word “hand.”  Anything that would use the word hand – backhanded, on the other hand, etc. now needs to use the word “paw.”  That’s just the start and while I don’t always succeed, I do try to limit myself to what terminology the character would know based on their environment.


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