from bogus to bubbly

THE SCIENCE OF BEAUTY. In ancient Greece it was all about the math. They believed that beauty had a ratio: roughly 1.618 to 1. The Greeks called this ratio phi and used it obsessively in their architecture and art. Temples like the Parthenon and the Acropolis have phi all over them. And so does George Clooney’s face.

-From Bogus to Bubbly: An Insider’s Guide to the World of Uglies (Scott Westerfeld) 

smallbutverydangerous  asked:

- Okay I have tried looking in the tags but couldn't find this, sorry if it's there - How do you handle writing language in the future? I plan to set my next WIP in ~2300 and the language they use is bound to be different. I don't want to make up a whole language or have to radically alter this one. Any ideas for showing that? (I mean, while it would be nice not to have to bother, I think in the interests of realism I must).

That’s something I struggle with too!  And it’s pretty common as well; one of my major pet peeves in sci-fi (written, movie, video game, whatever) is really stilted and artificial-sounding language, especially slang.  It’s hard to strike a balance between getting something that sounds natural to contemporary readers but doesn’t date your sci-fi/future story with 20th/21st century colloquialisms.  Anthony Burgess created Nadsat when writing A Clockwork Orange so as to not date his story with his contemporary language (being a linguist and polyglot helped with that).

For the not making up a whole new language, try Allan Metcalf’s concept of FUDGE from his book Predicting New Words.  Frequency of use; Unobtrusiveness; Diversity of users and situations; Generation of other forms and meanings; Endurance of the concept.  Scott Westerfeld breaks down how he used FUDGE for writing the language in his Uglies series from the chapter on language in Bogus to Bubbly, and what I found most helpful was his use of Euphony: “Euphony means pretty-sounding-ness, and that’s the secret key to slang.  If a made-up word isn’t fun to say, the characters won’t sound believable using it”.  Essentially, what you as the writer are trying to do is make a slang system that will resonate with your contemporary readers.  The trick is to not use contemporary slang or replace it with arbitrary words, but to observe the systems of slang, colloquialisms, neologisms, and work through your language that way.

That’s not easy to do!  One thing to tell yourself to get over worries and frustrations: everything that anyone writes will eventually become dated.  There’s always a lot of waxing romantic on “the timeless nature” of certain stories, themes, and literary conventions, but that timelessness (in my opinion) is very often an imposing or overlaying of present conventions over the past.  There are a lot of conventions that don’t survive the test of time, and the reason you don’t hear about them (while subsequently hearing about the things that “do” survive) is because they don’t!  Anthony Burgess’ use of Russian in the creation of Nadsat might now seem dated because Burgess was writing during the Cold War and political climes and clashes have changed since then.

Try looking through sci-fi or future-set books and other things and note the use of language in them.  Write down what works for you, what doesn’t, and what you notice of the slang systems the authors used.  Good luck!