Thinking About Learning Languages

One thing that comes up often in science fiction and fantasy stories is a situation where characters would, logically, probably speak different languages. The characters may come from different countries or planets, they may come from different times, or they may even come from different social strata. Since, as writers, we need to get our characters communicating, we often wave our hands around this fact, but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense that the character would already know the language and we therefore need our characters to actually learn a different language on the fly.

So how do we learn languages?

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What About the Migraine?

I have a migraine at the moment, so this blog post is just going to be a reminder that you need to remember to complicate your characters’ lives. In my case, life has been complicated by the big, glowing spot in the middle of my vision and the persistent nausea. The good news is, it’s not terribly painful and I can still function, so I can continue to move the plot forward, though I’m grumpier than usual about the need to do so.

Really changes the dynamic of the story, doesn’t it? Character with a migraine thinks and reacts differently than the same character in normal circumstances.

Imagine what would happen if your main character were pregnant, or asthmatic, or — hey this is science fiction — of a different sort of physiology altogether. Things that we take for granted being able to do, like get up and walk out of a room, may be difficult or impossible for some characters at some times.

We always talk about “upping the stakes” or “twisting the knife” to make the story more interesting. Right now I’m sure my story is more interesting than usual, thanks to my brain chemistry turning on me.


Beware the Shibboleth

I’ve had “A Whiter Shade of Pale” stuck in my head for over a week now. In my Chaucer class, we finished The Knight’s Tale a little over a week ago and kept reading, and the song has been on endless repeat in my brain ever since.

Did you just laugh? If so, you not only know the order of the first Fragment of The Canterbury Tales, you’re also up on your 60’s rock anthem lyrics. You got the shibboleth. You proved you’re a member of an elite club that can make the connection between a Middle-English long-form poem no one except a handful of literature majors actually likes and music that’s usually only played while mind-altering substances are being consumed.

The rest of you? As an author, I just lost you completely. And unless I’m trying to seriously limit my audience, that’s a problem.  Continue reading