Xlibris Writing Tips| Fantasy Words

There is a freedom in writing fantasy fiction found in few other genres save for science-fiction. In both Fantasy and Science Fiction the author is free to create and wield terms and concepts nonexistent in modern usage, more so the former than the latter. But within that freedom lays a trap. Too often fantasy writers have found themselves so excited, so caught up in the wondrous world they have created, they succumb to temptation and create whole new words and terms beyond any reader’s prior experience. There is nothing wrong with original concepts, terms, or phrases, as these can better shape an author’s world, but problems can occur when they are too alien or insufficiently introduced to the readers. Xlibris Publishing offers some advice at creating and implementing Fantasy Words.


Part of the joy in writing fantasy fiction is introducing readers to the world you, the author, created. This world can be as familiar or as foreign to readers as you want it to be. You can create worlds incorporating recognizable elements from human history or strive to be wholesale original with societies and realms unlike anything in human experience. It can be fun and exciting to create a world that is yours, that is uniquely of your imagination. But when creating your fantasy world you will need words, terms, and names to identify the people, places, cultures, and practices within it.


Be extremely careful in making up words wholesale. Overdoing it when it comes to naming a concept or practice that will be foreign to your reader has been known to drive readers away, threaten your book with the label of being impenetrable. This is especially the case when the concept using your word is itself unique to your story and setting.


When you create Fantasy Words consider the following:

  • Is a whole new word necessary? Unless a concept is sufficiently different from anything in common parlance as to warrant its own word, then consider whether having a brand new word is worth possibly alienating readers.
  • How often will the word be used? The more often or more important a word the more you need it to easily stick in a reader’s head. If a word is too strange or alien to a reader, even when it is important, they might not recognize the word or its meaning at the most vital points in a story.
  • Can you use existing words instead of completely made up ones? Instead of using completely made up words beyond any reader’s prior experience, you can use more recognizable words, just not in the conventional manner. For example: instead of coming up with an entirely made up name for a poisonous flower you could call it ‘banelily,’ identifying it as a flower with ‘lily’ but also implying something malignant or harmful with ‘bane.’
  • Can you use context to express a word’s meaning? Even if you do use entirely original words to identify or name something, a reader should be able to parse out its meaning from the context. For example, indicate a word refers to someone’s title or rank by capitalizing the word in conjunction with the person’s name, by depicting the respect and obedience to the person bearing the rank all the while emphasizing said rank. If you need a paragraph of exposition to get a single word’s meaning across then you should strongly reconsider the word you plan to use.


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