31 Days of Post (2) Day 29: Some Thoughts on Writing
Today’s post (and tomorrow’s) will be talking to myself posts. Today, I’m going to be focusing on the temptation to exoticize in secondary world fantasy. Also, I want to touch on the problem of naming. Tomorrow, I’m going to write about writing sex and the issues I have.
The Temptation to Make Exotic
I have a series idea. It could come in one of two forms, either set on a contemporary, though fantastical, Earth or a secondary world. I know that there will be an international focus in both works. But where I’m starkly aware of the dangers of playing with cultures not my own in a series set on “our” Earth, I’m seriously facing the temptation to do what I don’t want to do in a world that I make up.
Why is that?
I think, for me, the cultures are real in our world. And the offense of getting it wrong is so much more clear cut. If I have a story arc set in Japan, the onus is on me to not fuck it up.
But is the same true for a constructed culture, even if I draw inspiration from several real cultures? Is there still an onus to not fuck up if I’m only borrowing inspiration from Japan and mixing it with other influences?
To be honest, fucking things up can cause offense whether or not the setting is Japan or a made up Japan-plus influenced setting. It depends, ultimately, on the reader. And, of course, the onus should be on being respectful wherever the setting happens to be.
Yet, I’m still not answering my own question. Why am I so more tempted to play into exoticism when it is a world I made up?
I don’t know. I don’t know If I buy my own argument that I’m tempted because it is easier. Perhaps the issue lies in the image I have in my head. A very erotically charged image that so tempts me into exoticism. (I’ll return to that image tomorrow for obvious reasons).
(I’m also almost tempted to wonder if there is something about sword and sorcery and science fantasy that just, like that image, tempts me. Maybe, at some point, I need to really analyze that aspect of my reading.)
Perhaps, in the end, the only thing I can do is fight my damnedest to not give into the temptation. No matter the setting.
What’s in a Name?
To be honest, I’m an Aerith and Bob kind of guy. While I’m almost certainly more “Bob” when the setting is Earth, I’m completely a mix in secondary fantasy.
I’m not very good, or comfortable, when it comes to making up names and languages wholesale. I’m not a linguist, so that’s not my thing.
But, I do recognize that I will have to make up some languages wholesale for some of my projects. And I’m likely to only do that level of creation only on those projects. Otherwise, I’ll stick to using the languages of our own world. Or mutating it to get some “cool” names.
This is, annoyingly, where this half of the post touches on the first half of the post. When is it appropriate (or not) to use certain names? Let’s keep with the example of Japan/ Japan-plus inspired, okay?
Is it appropriate to use a Japanese name, or a Japanese sounding name? Am I being too obvious or does it fit?
Again, I don’t know. Maybe the only way I can find out is through trial and error. By making the mistake and correcting it, I can learn how not to make those mistakes.