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Story through Dialogue, Part 6: Science Fiction and Fantasy

Dialogue in science fiction stories generally include very specialized scientific or technological terms and reference alien or scientifically altered/created creatures. Technological weapons and ships have specific names like “light sabers” or the “Death Star”. Similar to the special language that is used in the conversations between science fiction characters, characters in fantasy stories also have specialized language that is particular to the world in which the story is set. In the J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry discuss magical spells, items, and powers which they are learning or using. There are certain words used to refer to non-magical people (Muggles), magical creatures (Dementors), and magical sports (Quidditch) in Harry Potter’s world that do not exist in our world.

In some instances, writers will write characters who speak a language which the writer has invented. J.R.R. Tolkien, for example, created the Elvish language (Tengwar) which appears in his novels The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In Star Trek, the science fiction television series and movie franchise, writers contributed to the creation of the Klingon language, which is spoken by the warrior alien race, the Klingons. Both of these languages were based, in part, on the Tibetan writing system.

Activity: Create Your Own Language

Now, create a language of your own. Imagine what your alien or magical characters might say that helps to reveal the characteristics of that alien culture or magical world. How would the language sound?

Then think about when you would have characters saying in this special language. Are they speaking the special language because they are trying to keep what they want to say a secret from someone else who may be listening? Are they speaking it to each other because they want to show brotherhood or kinship? Or are they speaking it for some other reason. You decide!

Name of your language:

Name of the people who speak the language:

Write a dialogue between someone speaking your new language and a person or creature speaking English. Do the two people need a translator? If they both can understand one another, what kind of clues can you give the reader about what the person speaking your created language is saying? The response in English by the English speaker should suggest to the reader what the other character said.

Next Tuesday, we’ll address writing dialogue for Mystery genres.

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