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Foreign Words

REP

I just started reading a story this evening. Around a quarter of the way through the first chapter, the author included the following Note:

Author's note: I will try to include both the French, Russian, German and English dialogue for more clarity in the first chapter only.


I have started several stories in the past where the Author expected his readers to learn a string of foreign words and phrases in order to understand the story's narrative and dialog. One story in particular required the reader to learn a forty word vocabulary of a made up language.

Personally, I get angry when I discover I am reading such a story, and exit it as soon as I can. I also try to remember the author's name so I can avoid everything he writes.

What do the rest of you think about this practice?

StarFleet Carl

It's mierda, kak, sranje, govno and cachu.

If it's a common thing, like the singular word repeated above, it's no big deal - it's just simple cursing. I could see a few made up words, like in Gateway - What Lies Beyond, that don't distract from the story in the least.

I guess I'd have to see the story itself. My story has some things that are 'made-up' in it, but it's the dragon tongue, and you're not expected to actually speak the language yourself. (Unless you're sort of odd like me, and at least used to speak a completely made up language. Qa'Plah!)

Michael Loucks
Updated:

I had to really think about how to handle that in my story. There's quite a bit of Swedish and some Russian. I ended up putting the translation in () at the end of the sentence. I haven't had any complaints. E.g.

"Fan ta dig ('God damn it') Steve! What did I just say? Jävla idiot! ('You fucking idiot!)' Do you think I'm a virgin? If that's what got you all worried, I'm not! I haven't been for quite some time - more than a year, in fact!"

Or I gave the translation, like this:

"Dmitry taught me a phrase while I was in Russia that applies here. It's Что у трезвого на уме, то у пьяного на языке."

"Which means?"

"It's a long way of saying In vino veritas. Basically, it means 'What a sober man has on his mind, the drunk man has on his tongue'."

Replies:   REP
Dominions Son

@REP

One story in particular required the reader to learn a forty word vocabulary of a made up language.


Clearly you don't read much High Fantasy or Space Science Fiction. Made up languages are common in those contexts.

Replies:   REP  awnlee jawking
REP

@Michael Loucks

When the translation is with the word, no problem.

REP
Updated:

@Dominions Son

I've had my fair share. IIRC a translation was usually provided or the context was included in the response.

"thiyt seok trppsa."

"yes, I would enjoy a glass of milk."

Ernest Bywater

@REP

What do the rest of you think about this practice?


Smeg it! If the intent isn't immediately clear by the context without knowing the language, or it's not commonly used world wide, then they should also show the English meaning beside in brackets or have someone translate it for them.

Most people would understand what is meant when a Mexican character says, "Si, Patron." or when a French character says, "Merde!" but once you move into less common languages or words if you don't tell the reader what it really is, get reader to lose a reader who'll be actively telling people you write crap.

awnlee jawking

@REP

You mean like 'iHOP' and 'sophomore'? ;)

AJ

Replies:   REP
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Agreed.

Scientific advances are always accompanied by a proliferation of jargon. I've invented some new terms to incorporate in my current WIP. However they look like English, with recognisable English roots, and readers don't need to know their precise meaning.

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

As Ernest mentioned, you should be able to read any story without knowing the foreign languages in question. Often, different languages are show simply for their shock value (i.e. to emphasize that a foreign language is being spoken, and that most people in the story have no clue what it means either). However, the story needs to spell it out.

Also, as I've pointed out in the past, the use of brackets for translations isn't widely used in fiction, as that's primarily a non-fiction usage. In fiction, it's more common to fold it into dialogue, or have the narrator say "which means 'xxx'".

However, I'm writing a story now with various different species of aliens. While I introduce and explain each term as it's used, I don't keep harping on the definition each time it's used. If the term is a basic curse, or simply a way of saying "HEY MFer!", then there's really little need.

Or, in another instance, if told from the point-of-view of someone who doesn't speak the other languages, if one character rattles off a bunch of nonsensical words, the character is not supposed to understand it, just as the character in question doesn't.

Different purposes for using the language, different rules for how to include it.

Replies:   REP
REP

@awnlee jawking

"thiyt seok trppsa."


Nah, like - thiyt seok trppsa :)

REP
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


if told from the point-of-view of someone who doesn't speak the other languages, if one character rattles off a bunch of nonsensical words, the character is not supposed to understand it, just as the character in question doesn't.


True and perfectly acceptable if the writer explains to the reader what is being said. Leaving the reader in the dark or forcing the reader to refer to some dictionary of XYZ terms interferes with the flow of the story, and in my opinion, is a big no-no.

sejintenej
Updated:

This is a subject which has been aired at length. I have a love/hate relationship with foreign languages in general but after exposure to Egyptian Arabic and Japanese (I didn't learn much of either but I had to pretend to keep customers happy) anything like Что у трезвого на уме, то у пьяного на языке really brings out the phobia.

Even in English phrases can be apparently wrong; I have just read "She couldn't pass the pencil test any longer" which, in context, is opposite to the understanding over here. However we are told enough to discount the difference in meaning - context is important

Writers like Penguintopia give translations and if western letters are used one learns the shape of a phrase fairly quickly. I'm not sure about Ernest's suggestion that most people understand merde or perdonome but there are other common ones not so well known in parts of Appalachian USA.

A few phonetic examples might be schlobberdosk, undeshuldig, fotsek, takk (Penguintopia alone may spot some of those which exist in three languages whilst the third comes from the 25th largest country in the world) but an exclamation mark clarifies that the first and third are / are close to swearwords.

Conclusion; avoid non-western characters and give translations either as part of the story or in parentheses.

CW writes


if one character rattles off a bunch of nonsensical words, the character is not supposed to understand it, just as the character in question doesn't.


In such a case the subsequent text is very likely to show that the words are not understood and the reader will quickly pick up such phrases subsequently.

Even in English there can be room for misunderstanding. I have just found the following; "She couldn't pass the pencil test any longer" which, in context, has the opposite meaning to UK understanding. The context makes the phrase forgettable.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

Scientific advances are always accompanied by a proliferation of jargon.


Actually, I was referring to alien languages.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Oops, my bad!

I cheat. I usually have my alien species all speaking a common language, which is a really big cheat considering how many languages we still have on earth. The exception is when a lack of understanding is a plot requirement.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@REP

What do the rest of you think about this practice?


I would not like an Author's Note right in the middle of the chapter, but that's not what you're asking.

Sometimes what the character says in a foreign language doesn't have to be understood by the reader. It's simply for color.

Or sometimes the POV character doesn't understand the language so doesn't know what is being said.

Did you see the movie "Lion?" The entire beginning was not in English. And no subtitles. I was not pleased, but got the gist of what was going on.

Replies:   REP  Ava G
REP

@Switch Blayde

but got the gist of what was going on.


I can understand that. Although I have to wonder, if the beginning was important to the rest of the movie and the viewer did not get the gist of the beginning, how would that might impact their understanding of the rest of the movie.

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

I'm not sure about Ernest's suggestion that most people understand merde or perdonome but there are other common ones not so well known in parts of Appalachian USA.


True, but where I've seen it used in a story the context made it clear it was some sort of expletive, and that's sufficient information for the reader to get the benefit of what's said. Just like the way I started the post with 'Oh, Smeg.' I'm sure you all took to be an expletive like 'Oh, hell' etc. but had no idea what it really meant.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

I'm sure you all took to be an expletive like 'Oh, hell' etc. but had no idea what it really meant.


And that may be all a reader needs to understand if you have a character in a story swearing in a foreign language.

sejintenej
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


True, but where I've seen it used in a story the context made it clear it was some sort of expletive,

DS wrote;

And that may be all a reader needs to understand if you have a character in a story swearing in a foreign language

.

Absolutely. Usually works easily for one or two words but phrases might need more; context again

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

I cheat. I usually have my alien species all speaking a common language, which is a really big cheat considering how many languages we still have on earth. The exception is when a lack of understanding is a plot requirement.


A common cheat is to have some kind of automated tech based translation, like the universal translator in Star Trek.

The problem with a common "galactic language" is that if you are going for diverse aliens (not all primate based humanoids) it isn't all that plausible that they would all have compatible vocal organs.

For example, how could a primate based species and an insectoid species possibly speak the same language?

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Survival of the fittest and parallel evolution.

Since I've only one planet and one technological species on which to base my assumptions, aliens all tend to have similar features to humans, whatever their origins.

At least that's slightly more plausible than Dr Who's tardis doing the translating ;)

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
AmigaClone

I have seen a story where some species would wear a device that would change their voice into something primate based species could hear.

REP
Updated:

@Dominions Son


it isn't all that plausible that they would all have compatible vocal organs.


I had that problem in my story Time Scope 2 (i.e. an alien race, Altairians, communicating with people who speak the English language). I went with a translator program that uses a dedicated English-Altairian translation database.

Of course, I avoided the technical characteristics, database size, and implementation problems inherent in such an approach. I relied on my reader accepting that an alien race might have such a device and they had resolved the issues that our technology would have in creating such a device.

Edit to add: The story is currently being posted and I don't think posted chapters have addressed that issue.

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

The problem with a common "galactic language" is that if you are going for diverse aliens (not all primate based humanoids) it isn't all that plausible that they would all have compatible vocal organs.

But surely if they are several millenia more advanced than Homo Sapiens they may have developed an ability to read minds

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
MarissaHorne

Babel fish

Ernest Bywater

@MarissaHorne

Babel fish


Most of them get elected to political positions.

Ava G

@Switch Blayde

Or sometimes the POV character doesn't understand the language so doesn't know what is being said.


Which is why The Third Man didn't have subtitles. Holly Martins, who doesn't know German, isn't supposed to know what's being said. Since Holly is the main character, the lack of subtitles just reinforces how out of his depth he is.

Did you see the movie "Lion?" The entire beginning was not in English. And no subtitles. I was not pleased, but got the gist of what was going on.


The main character is a five-year-old Hindi speaker when the movie begins. He finds himself in Kolkata, where the main language is Bengali (Bangla). He didn't know what was going on.

In order to depict Saroo's POV, there couldn't be any subtitles. Translating Bengali would have been dishonest. [Since Saroo would grow up to forget Hindi, not translating that language was also justified.]

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ava G

Which is why The Third Man didn't have subtitles. Holly Martins, who doesn't know German, isn't supposed to know what's being said. Since Holly is the main character, the lack of subtitles just reinforces how out of his depth he is.


German speakers in the audience would know what was being said, which would ruin the effect for them.

How could the film be shown in Germany without ruining it? They couldn't dub the actors or use subtitles.

I'm not a fan of the technique.

AJ

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

How could the film be shown in Germany without ruining it?


Dub over the German with French?

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Dominions Son

Dub over the German with French?

To quote REP:
Tem's fighten words!

docholladay

As long as the writer includes the translation for the section I can live with it. This is very important since some words will have many different definitions.

The writer should avoid over doing the different languages as they can be a problem for readers. Problems for readers mean they stop reading the story and possibly avoid the writer if its a habit of usage. Its all in how that knowledge is presented. One method will both entertain and educate the reader, while others will show them how ignorant they are. Both methods will have an effect on readers depending on the method used.

For the story used as an illustration I would probably stop reading it as soon as I ran across multiple languages unless a good translation was also provided. Then I would check a couple of other stories by that writer to see if it was a habit. If it was a habit, I would ignore any other stories by that writer.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I cheat. I usually have my alien species all speaking a common language, which is a really big cheat considering how many languages we still have on earth. The exception is when a lack of understanding is a plot requirement.

That's usually the point in showing foreign languages. If everyone understands what's said, you just state in English, since the characters are performing their own internal translations.

If a writer shows the actual foreign language phrase, that's supposed to show that most, if not all of the characters don't understand it as well.

In my latest book (which won't show up here for some time), I introduce several foreign (alien) language curses, with translations, but then reuse the phrases in conversations later—where readers may not remember the context any longer. :(

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Just like the way I started the post with 'Oh, Smeg.' I'm sure you all took to be an expletive like 'Oh, hell' etc. but had no idea what it really meant.

I'm old school, and know the exact definition of "Smeg" (it's much filthier than "Oh, hell!", in a literal sense).

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

A common cheat is to have some kind of automated tech based translation, like the universal translator in Star Trek.

The problem with a common "galactic language" is that if you are going for diverse aliens (not all primate based humanoids) it isn't all that plausible that they would all have compatible vocal organs.

What's more, that won't always sidestep the issue. If every alien species speaks the same common galactic language, then if one is going to curse, they'll do it in their own language, precisely so the listener won't realize just how vile the insult is! It's the same thing as a Korean muttering something in Korean on a crowded bus.

However, in that case, a handy way of handling it is to have someone who speaks Korean, but who isn't Korean themselves, challenge them over what they said, thus translating it for readers who realize the extent of the actual insult.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


Since I've only one planet and one technological species on which to base my assumptions, aliens all tend to have similar features to humans, whatever their origins.


To give a specific example, here's an unedited passage from my newest story:


"I recorded each phrase, so you can practice them on your return flight, though I suggest you listen to them quietly, rather than attract the attention of every creature on your flight."

"Do I get one?" Meg demanded, pouting slightly.

Phil chuckled. "Not now, since we'll be practicing on the ride back, but I'll give you one so you can listen to it at night—a recognized form of becoming familiar with foreign pronunciations."

"As long as I get one," she answered, smiling sweetly, winking at him. "And Silsk you too!"

"Meg!" Abe cautioned. "That's incredibly rude."

"I don't object to that, but she's not using the term correctly. The proper term—in that context—is Sslaussen!"

"Please, she already knows enough four letter words, she doesn't need any lisping nine-letter ones."

"How do you know the precise meaning of these phrases?" Toni demanded again. "It's not like you have a dragon-English translation book."

"It comes from the context and how it's delivered. You figure out the meaning more from the non-verbal clues than you do from a formal definition, the same way you know when an Italian is cursing you even if you don't know precisely what they're saying."

"Silsk" Toni said quietly, testing the phrase.

"Sslaussen!" Meg said a bit more emphatically, though keeping her voice pitched lower.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

But surely if they are several millenia more advanced than Homo Sapiens they may have developed an ability to read minds

Even if they've learned to read each others' mind, that doesn't mean they can read human minds, or that humans can necessarily read theirs. :(

Crumbly Writer

@MarissaHorne

Babel fish

Just a word of warning, it you use actual foreign languages, you can't reply on tools like Babelfish or Google Translate, as they often produce nonsensical translations (i.e. the native speaks won't have a clue what they're actually saying).

I've learned, after many mistakes, that it's worth investing $5 on Fivrr to get exact translations from native speakers. That way, you look like less of an idiot when people from other countries read your stories. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

German speakers in the audience would know what was being said, which would ruin the effect for them.

How could the film be shown in Germany without ruining it? They couldn't dub the actors or use subtitles.

Not really, since they're familiar with the situation as they're likely to have encountered it many times from both sides. Instead, they read it from a different perspectives, which actually makes the story more interesting (and reinforces the need to properly research your stories).

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I'm old school, and know the exact definition of "Smeg" (it's much filthier than "Oh, hell!", in a literal sense).


Watch it, or I'll ask Lister to call on you.

Replies:   Grant
Wheezer

One of my favorite dead tree authors uses a lot of Irish Gaelic names for people, places & things. It drives me a little nuts, but he always includes a pronunciation guide in the front of the book. Gaelic CANNOT be pronounced by English speakers by sounding out a syllable at a time. Example, one of the easiest Gaelic names to remember how to pronounce IF you learn how first is Siobhan, which is pronounced Shaw-vahn.

Crumbly Writer

My newest story, with the extract above, might be getting a bit extreme, as I have a variety of alien races which don't communicate with each other (i.e. no 'galactic' common tongue, other than English which they don't speak well, and they all have unique, hard to remember names, there are a LOT of tertiary alien characters, and they speak up at the oddest times, and only one human can hear a word of what they're saying.

Guess I'll have to see how the story turns out, but I'm actively working to keep it reasonable. However, I'm guessing fans will appreciate it, as I'm finally returning to my infamous long, protracted rambling plots!

Replies:   REP
Grant
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Watch it, or I'll ask Lister to call on you.

or Rimmer if you really want to make him suffer.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Grant

or Rimmer if you really want to make him suffer.


Nah, never happen, because I couldn't stand to be in Arnold's presence long enough to arrange it. Nor do I have his email to do it that way.

BlinkReader

Just for fun - imagine that english is your fifth, or even tenth language. What would you think if someone who comes to your country find his/hers prima donna self insulted that you are mixing his english with your native language and couple of others?

docholladay
Updated:

I like the way Ernest does it for foreign languages. He might have a paragraph or so in that language (with translation as needed), but then he will state the rest will be written in English with the understanding that most if not all conversations will actually be in Japanese for those stories which include Japan. Enough of the applicable language is used while its stated early on that the rest will be written in English.

This method probably appeals to a wide range of readers. Both those who can understand the foreign language and those who can not understand it either as an oral or as a written form.

edited to add: Names and Locations are different however those will probably remain in the regional language formats.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
StarFleet Carl

@Wheezer

Gaelic CANNOT be pronounced by English speakers by sounding out a syllable at a time.


Hukt on fonix wurkt for me?

I thought it was an urban legend or myth, but my wife actually had someone apply for a job at her work with the name L-a. That was what was on her application.

Pronounced Ladasha.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@Crumbly Writer

as I'm finally returning to my infamous long, protracted rambling plots!


A good plot is a good plot, regardless of whether it is long/short or rambling/focused.

sejintenej

@BlinkReader

imagine that english is your fifth, or even tenth language. What would you think if someone who comes to your country find his/hers prima donna self insulted that you are mixing his english with your native language and couple of others?

Generally people are thankful that you TRY to help them. I can think of only a few European exceptions.

Ernest Bywater

@REP

A good plot is a good plot, regardless of whether it is long/short or rambling/focused.


True, but a long rambling story can destroy a good plot.

awnlee jawking

@Wheezer

Example, one of the easiest Gaelic names to remember how to pronounce IF you learn how first is Siobhan, which is pronounced Shaw-vahn.


An Irish girl I once worked with insisted her name was pronounced - don't know the phonetic codes but take the word chevron and move the 'r' one place to the right ie chevorn.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@BlinkReader

Just for fun - imagine that english is your fifth, or even tenth language. What would you think if someone who comes to your country find his/hers prima donna self insulted that you are mixing his english with your native language and couple of others?

That's why I run all my translations (I submit the original text and have a native speaker translate it for me) through Fivvr. I don't want to get called on a crappy translation.

With Fivvr, there's no guarantee it's the best translation, but it's ALWAYS better than Bablefish or Google Translate!

Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

I like the way Ernest does it for foreign languages. He might have a paragraph or so in that language (with translation as needed), but then he will state the rest will be written in English with the understanding that most if not all conversations will actually be in Japanese for those stories which include Japan. Enough of the applicable language is used while its stated early on that the rest will be written in English.

That's the same approach that I (and Ernest) use for regional accents or dialects. You use just enough to give readers a feel of what it sounds like, then drop everything but a few key phrases, which serve to remind the reader the character is still speaking with an accent.

There nothing worse than an epic poem you have to translate word for word from 'spoken' pidgin English to 'standard' English.

Crumbly Writer

@StarFleet Carl

Pronounced Ladasha.

Strangely enough, I can see that pronunciation.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

A good plot is a good plot, regardless of whether it is long/short or rambling/focused.

That's what I thought, but ALL of my shorter (under 150,000 word) novels have been trashed on SOL, with each getting lower scores than all my previous stories. Thus I learned my lesson. Since I'm not finding any new readers via Amazon, I'm returning to my ponderous tomes, regardless of how efficiently I can tell the stale.

Part of that, though, is that by not trimming it, you get more of the 'self-reflective' investigation about the nature of things, which helps build a better character portrait of the different characters. If each person takes a slightly different position in those debates, then they all get better fleshed out. So I can appreciate why they're hungry for that kind of story. However, that logic flies in the face of ALL the writing advice I've ever read!

While most readers like short books they can read on a single trip to the beach, SOL readers prefer reading a single chapter at a time, and thus look for the longest single chapters they can get. Thus I'm not sure that tendency translates to more readers anywhere else. :(

Replies:   REP
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

True, but a long rambling story can destroy a good plot.

See my previous comment. But then again, many people have reflected that I make complicated complex sentences seem 'natural', my readers appreciate my complex group discussions and my characters need the time to deconstruct my convoluted premises.

It's not that the extra words make the story harder to read, instead they add value to the story, so given their druthers, my fans prefer I not trim my stories. However, it's been difficult retraining myself to write longer stories after struggling for so long to write concise stories. :(

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

True, but a long rambling story can destroy a good plot.


Only if the plot is too weak or too short for a long rambling story. Long rambling stories need either a very strong plot or a long rambling plot. :)

Ernest Bywater

There are a few major ways to deliver a long story with a good plot:

1. Keep focused on the plot and the story, utilizing sub-plots and auxiliary plots to enhance the main plot and characters well. - - The result is a good story.

2. Ramble on and wander all over the landscape to the extent the plot gets lost in the ramblings and is forgotten about. -- The result is a crappy story.

3. Ramble on and incorporate an excessive amount of auxiliary plots and sub-plots that don't enhance the main plot or the characters to the extent the main plot is eventually seen as a minor sub-plot. - - The result is a crappy story.

The key difference between a good plot resulting a in a good story or a good plot resulting in a crappy story is all about how well you stay focused and how well you deliver the story you're writing. There are hundreds of examples of good stories with good plots being turned into very shitty useless films because the person directing the film lost focus and wandered off to do other crap instead of staying with the plot and story.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Ernest Bywater

1. Keep focused on the plot and the story, utilizing sub-plots and auxiliary plots to enhance the main plot and characters well. - - The result is a good story.


I would like to add that if the writer and the editors feel the story is getting to long. It makes it simpler to find a natural combination ending/starting point. Like we see so much of in those TV shows which run multiple years or seasons as they term it. The ending of one season sets up the starting show for the next season. I don't know if that principle can be used in other medias however.

Ernest Bywater

@docholladay

I would like to add that if the writer and the editors feel the story is getting to long. It makes it simpler to find a natural combination ending/starting point. Like we see so much of in those TV shows which run multiple years or seasons as they term it. The ending of one season sets up the starting show for the next season. I don't know if that principle can be used in other medias however.


It works well - I did that with the Clan Amir series and the Chaos Calls stories.

Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

I would like to add that if the writer and the editors feel the story is getting to long. It makes it simpler to find a natural combination ending/starting point. Like we see so much of in those TV shows which run multiple years or seasons as they term it. The ending of one season sets up the starting show for the next season. I don't know if that principle can be used in other medias however.

Those "TV shows" are called a "series", which is, coincidentally, the same thing you call a story that continues from one book to another. 'D However, a story that starts with one book and continues with additional books, with little to no change in the basic conflicts, is called a "serial", and that's where you run into trouble, as there's no conflict resolution, and emotional connection to actually power a story.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Crumbly Writer

with each getting lower scores than all my previous stories.


I suspect you are confusing a good plot with the manner in which it is told.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

However, a story that starts with one book and continues with additional books, with little to no change in the basic conflicts, is called a "serial", and that's where you run into trouble, as there's no conflict resolution, and emotional connection to actually power a story.


But in such a serialized story the plot is about your MC's efforts to attain a resolution to the stated conflict, thus the conflict is not the plot.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

But in such a serialized story the plot is about your MC's efforts to attain a resolution to the stated conflict, thus the conflict is not the plot.

There are typically multiple conflicts, but generally, a series will have one overriding conflict, while each book will have a distinctive primary conflict, with secondary and tertiary conflicts popping up as needed.

In my stories, the characters are trying to resolve a specific conflict, but that depends on their understanding the physics which governs what's occurring (i.e. source of a plague, how telepathy works, or why zombies continue to live after death).

My stories are more about the scientific method than anything else, as the characters are in a race against time to figure out whatever new power/abilities they've discovered before it's too late.

The conflict is the driver of the plot, but the plot determines the steps the characters have to follow to resolve the conflicts.

Lapi

@REP

REP Just an FYI, Ch 1 has both the foreign and English sentences. Noone is forced to learn a new vocabulary. My editor tried to nix the foreign stuff so I only used it in Ch 1. Later there is only modified English spoken like a non-native might speak. Starfleet Carl, I don't recall using Polish, Shit would be the English though.

Replies:   REP
Lapi

I think the add about mangling a language may be a very valid point. Perhaps the reason may make the decision whether it is good or bad. Both aspects have good points. There are some pronunciations that are near impossible for non-native speakers, in English and in other languages.

The comment about people trying to speak in a native's language means a lot.

REP

@Lapi

Just an FYI, Ch 1 has both the foreign and English sentences

I have read/started several stories that use foreign words. In most, the Author provides English translations. However, in the story I recall most clearly, the Author gave his readers a listing of 20-30 made-up words with meanings that he would be using during his story. He didn't provide translations in the story, I skimmed several paragraphs and bailed. In other stories, the Author would define a word or phase when first presented, and they expected you to remember the word/phase. I don't recall a glossary, but there may have been one.

When I encountered your note, I interpreted it to mean you would be using foreign words and phrases in the story, and not be providing English translations after the first chapter.

After reading your post, I reread the note and I saw how you may have meant no foreign words after the first chapter. So assuming I misread your note, I apologize for any offense.

Replies:   sejintenej
Lapi

No problem. I want to take any critics that are true, and I try not to use words or phrases that people don't understand. Thanks for reading the story further.

Replies:   REP
sejintenej
Updated:

@REP


I have read/started several stories that use foreign words. In most, the Author provides English translations. However, in the story I recall most clearly, the Author gave his readers a listing of 20-30 made-up words with meanings that he would be using during his story. He didn't provide translations in the story, I skimmed several paragraphs and bailed.


I don't know if it is the same story but I could have written that a week ago - I also stopped reading even though the synopsis looked interesting. I think the story appeared as a new one on the SOL home page between a week and two weeks ago.

I don't mind, even welcome, foreign words and even Japanese, but never as a separate chapter they should be introduced in the story with an English translation the first time a word occurs.
As an indicator I would prefer shorter foreign words and preferably those which look as if they could be easily said by an English speaker. Hai and arrigato are easy but some Japanese words seem to be ingterminable

Replies:   REP
Ferrum1

I've found that it really is hit-or-miss depending on the skills of the author.

Like you, I pretty much automatically turn away from any story that the author thinks needs a huge cast list or dictionary. I'm not going to bother trying to keep all those characters and words straight in the brain.

For an example, in Three Square Meals, I think the author is just at the borderline of good in terms of the number of "species" involved. He does a great job of illustrating the species each time they appear so you don't forget that Maliri are blue-skinned hotties and the Khintark are the ugly bad guys.

Because he does such a good job of working the description of the species into the story, you get a constant reminder of what they look/act like and don't feel like you have to keep them straight in your imagination. Same goes for his use of alien language.

Other stories, however, go off the rails like the author is trying to prove something. In a recent tale, the story was pretty dang awesome, but as more and more species were introduced, the crazy names built and built until it was impossible to remember what each species was supposed to be like. Eventually, I stopped trying to keep it straight and simply treated them all like they were humanoid.

It detracted from the story a little bit, mostly because it was just aggravating.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@Lapi

Thanks for reading the story further.


Actually, I didn't read it beyond your note. When I read that note and interpreted it the way I did, I bailed for I'm not willing to expend the time and effort to learn foreign words and phrases just to enjoy a story.

I found the story of interest based on the description, so since it isn't what I thought it was, I bookmarked it and will give it a try. Thanks for clarifying my misunderstanding.

REP

@sejintenej

I think the story appeared as a new one on the SOL home page between a week and two weeks ago.

IIRC, the story I was referencing was posted early last year.

Crumbly Writer

@Ferrum1

I've found that it really is hit-or-miss depending on the skills of the author.

Like you, I pretty much automatically turn away from any story that the author thinks needs a huge cast list or dictionary. I'm not going to bother trying to keep all those characters and words straight in the brain.

For an example, in Three Square Meals, I think the author is just at the borderline of good in terms of the number of "species" involved. He does a great job of illustrating the species each time they appear so you don't forget that Maliri are blue-skinned hotties and the Khintark are the ugly bad guys.

Because he does such a good job of working the description of the species into the story, you get a constant reminder of what they look/act like and don't feel like you have to keep them straight in your imagination. Same goes for his use of alien language.

I'll keep that in mind in the future, especially as I revise my current story (currently in development) as it features a bunch of different species, using a LOT of specific foreign words and phrases. Typically, authors WANT to avoid repetition, but in this case, constantly repeating the same thing serves a definite purpose, making establishing clear lines more difficult.

In my case, I think I'm clear, since most of the terms and phrases consist of variations of either "Hey, You!" or "Screw You!" in various languages, but I've already started restating what specific terms means, each time they're used (specifically, the names of the different species/races).

As for cast lists, I prefer complex multi-character dialogues, as I tend to write more far-encroaching epics, but I also include cast lists (and limit them) to make them both usable and easy to reference. I'd rather not limit how far a story can range, but I also don't want to overwhelm readers.

In all, it's a fascinating dilemma that all authors should be aware of. If you don't need an answer now, it doesn't mean you won't some time in the future.

Replies:   Ferrum1
Ferrum1

@Crumbly Writer

It's got to be a thorough pain to try and keep all that stuff straight as you're writing. As a reader, I find it taxing enough and can't imagine what it'd be like as the guy behind the pen.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ferrum1

It's got to be a thorough pain to try and keep all that stuff straight as you're writing. As a reader, I find it taxing enough and can't imagine what it'd be like as the guy behind the pen.

The key is, I don't aim to write 'easy' stories, instead I'm drawn to the difficult ones (like one's where everyone dies, where there are over a hundred characters, the characters all disagree with each other, or other complicating factors which (hopefully) make the story more captivating (kind of like watching a trapeze act, where you wonder whether they're going to fall to their deaths or not).

I've long said, I like planning out a complete story, but before I begin writing, I purposely throw in a monkey wrench which completely disrupts the entire story. Then I'll sit on it (or at least I used to, as I've progressed beyond this process some time ago) until I figure out how to rectify the dilemma.

The resulting story, more complicated because of the added complications, make for a more involved, rich story. However, I wouldn't recommend that technique for everyone, as it's fraught with obvious problems, as I've also had several spectacular failures!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

The key is, I don't aim to write 'easy' stories, instead I'm drawn to the difficult ones


There are people who like reading those kinds of stories. :)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

There are people who like reading those kinds of stories. :)

And those who find them ... difficult! 'D

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