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Making up irregular verbs

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Svrtnsse, May 21, 2016.

  1. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    One thing that I tend to find amusing as a thought experiment is to irregularise regular verbs. It's a fun mental plaything that I like to toy around with.

    I haven't used it (much) in my writing, as I'm uncertain about the impact it'll have on the reader. However, last night, I felt like I really wanted to write glew, instead of glowed. I didn't, but it got me thinking, and it made me decide to bring it up here.

    In the part of the story I was working on, a glowing seed plays a very important role. There's a lot of attention on how it glows and the light that comes from it. I feel that from context it would have been clear what I meant if I'd used the word glew instead of glowed, but as it's not an actual word in the English language (urbandictionary.com doesn't count - because I say so).

    I don't have the relevant piece at hand to quote at the moment, but I can share it later when I get back home in case anyone's curious.

    What I'm pondering though is how much this would rattle the reader. How do you think that you as a reader would react if you came across it?
    I know that we as fantasy writers make up words all the time, but that's more often for names of places, people, objects, concepts etc - not for words that are just part of the regular prose-flow (is that a word?).

    If a word makes sense, seems plausible, and it's clear from context what it means, would you take the gamble and bet the reader doesn't stumble?

    In one of the later chapters of Enar's Vacation I described (descrobe?) the weather and how the wind whone through the trees, and used that made up form of whined for it. Less than a handful of people actually read that far into the story, but none of them commented on it, and none of them remembered noticing it when I asked.

    I'm thinking that if the reader is enough into the story, and the word flows naturally within the prose, then chances are the reader won't notice. But, again, is it a risk you want to take?
  2. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Two things:

    1) More than likely it would bug the hell out of me, probably enough to stop reading.

    2) ...UNLESS...this was done for some special character where the reader is grounded in a deep POV. If that's just the way this particular character thinks and talks, then I may be fine with it.
  3. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Personally I wouldn't go there, unless doing a Clockwork Orange type of language thing. It's one of those things that might work, but I don't see the value.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I can see a place for it, in severe moderation; namely, as a dialect quirk practiced by a foreigner. Could be an elf or halfling (*ahem*), or simply a human from a distant land. I would not, however, integrate that into any of the main characters. A glew can ring true if it is only a few.
  5. Rick

    Rick Acolyte

    In my writing, I'm really careful about using words correctly, mainly because I easy get it wrong if I don't check and recheck. When reading, I think I would be oblivious of irregular use of a verb unless it was so obvious that it pulled me out of the story. I'm fairly sure I would just read through your two examples (glew & whone) without a second thought. I tend to think that many readers would be just like me even if I would never try it in my own writing.
    If they are into a story, perfect verb usage is not an issue high on the readers priorities. With some exceptions.
  6. Russ

    Russ Istar

    So if you are doing a risk analysis, you have to look at the equation.

    The down side is that it might annoy or jar a reader, lessening the quality of their reading experience. I know it would bother me. It doesn't mean I would put down the book forever, but I would think less of the book and wonder about the quality of the editing unless it was done very cleverly with some sort of warning or explanation.

    And the potential upside is....?
  7. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

    I find it annoying. I love to read books in English exactly because it is not my first language and I want to get better at it, so I can write better in English. Because of that, I'd probably be upset if I saw such a strange (and grammatically incorrect) word in good prose.
    I dont' mind if you make up a verb, though. There are many fantasy books that use atypical words, even verbs to explain something magical or out of the ordinary, so if they introduce me to the word early I'd know it is in the context of the book so I wouldn't be fazed.
    I'd steer clear of making regular verbs irregular - there are enough irregular verbs to boggle the mind of an average reader. And think how it would translate if you'd want your book to be translated later on...
    Ray M. likes this.
  8. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    Personally, I'd be fine with it, since (again, personally) I don't really care for the sanctity of 'correct' English. So long as you're completely confident the reader will understand you, I say go for it.
  9. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    ...that it amuses me.

    Thanks everyone for chiming in. The responses are pretty much what I expected. After all, clarity is what matters and adding confusing by making up words is a bit of a weird way to intentionally obscure the prose.

    Still, it's something I enjoy doing, but I think it's too much of a gimmick to do it in a serious piece of writing.
  10. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Okay, probably the hardest book to read in English is The Scarlett Letter. I have no idea what was said about 75% of the time. Read it in high school and suffered through it lol. Try that one if you want a challenge. :p
    Reilith likes this.
  11. Jamesthesecond

    Jamesthesecond Acolyte

    I would say that if the word sounds okay to you after you've seriously thought about it AND considered it from different perspectives, then it should be okay, but in the particular case of glew versus glowed, glew just doesn't sound that great to me, but that's only my opinion.

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