On my first project, not a fantasy, now long dead – and good riddance, I wanted the names of people and places to be foreign. I mean, it’s not necessary for them to be, plenty of fantasies use regular or regular-like English names, and those work just fine. But that’s not how I wanted to approach it, and maybe that’s stupid, but it’s the writer’s prerogative right? So, for that first project I slammed together a bunch of letters and called them names. The result was a bit of text that was unreadable to anybody and had no consistency nor did it make the world feel like the world was full of unique cultures, which is what I wanted. I feel like I’ve read fantasies where the approach was to just put together some random letters until a name was achieved, and in those cases, I wish they’d just used regular English names.
When I started my current project, I still wanted to use names that weren’t like English. So, I started researching, with two goals in mind 1: Develop a language with just enough depth to let me name things. 2: Make sure that language follows conventions easily recognizable and readable to an English speaker. I spent hours, well weeks and weeks really, learning about language. Naturally, I also spent a lot of time studying the famousest of constructed languages, trying to learn what Tolkien did and how. Since I’m not a linguist, I recognize whatever I attempt will still fall rather short of the mark, but it’s a zillion times better than what I had before. Anyhow, in the process I learned a lot and managed to come up with a pair of nearly passable con-langs that gave me enough to name everything on the map and people.
As with anything I work on though, it didn’t stop there. I kept going, building alphabets (check this place out: www.omniglot.com) and complex rules for speaking the language. Between the case endings and made-up words in the second language, there are around 3500 words to pull from. The first of the two languages has considerably fewer words, but provides enough to translate short quotes, which is a fun thing to add into a story. I’m still working on them here and there, mostly when I’m trying to procrastinate. In retrospect, the best thing to have done would have been to learn a second language, and take that experience into the development of a con-lang. You learn loads about ways to deal with conjugation and sentence construction very rapidly. Of course, six or seven years ago when I started this, there wasn’t such a thing as duolingo on your phone, and so it would have been a lot harder than it is now. In the end, the only reason to have these is to rarely interject them into the story, and give some consistency to names, so perhaps it’s all wasted time, but I enjoy it as a creative outlet nonetheless.