For those wondering at the title, I’ve been making a new language this afternoon. More on that in a moment, but first the why.
Ever since the early iterations of this project I’ve had one thing firmly in mind when it comes to the presentation of these books – I want to have some sort of image to end each chapter or at least to indicate changing scenes. For the first draft of Wildwood, I used clipart of a tribal tattoo style rose, a Frasier opening style town and a dagger to indicate swapping between the main character groups. It was quite a nice effect to have that extra break between sections, but did seem a little cheap with the clipart. I considered using runes, but felt that by having something from the past of this world I would be coming away from any mystery I was building in my writing. Still, the idea of communicating with readers, and giving them something to translate should they care to, stayed with me.
So today I set out to come up with a language that would be accessible as well as interesting. I’d thought about this as a teenager (I was that kind of kid) and came up with the idea that straight lines and dots could be combined in enough ways that all letters could be accounted for. A further iteration of this saw a wordline created and another line going above, below or through that. The direction and position of that line indicated a starting letter and then dots added to that letter to push us along the alphabet a bit. It was complex and open to confusion on both ends.
This afternoon I kept the idea of the wordline and came up with a way to utilise it in a simpler way. Now, each word can be written as a circle and the top symbol in each circle is the start of the word, with the rest of the word read clockwise. I came up with a quick system for vowels that was easy to write as a number of dots in a column within the circle, then went to work on the consonants in the cipher. Consonant letters are written as lines that are either inside, outside or through the word circle. These are supplemented in some cases by a single dot either inside or outside the word circle, or two dots (one inside and one outside). In total there are seventeen letters, not counting vowels.
If you can do the maths you’ll see that some letters have to be missing. I’ve changed the QU so it is written as KW, removing the need for a Q. The letter C has been combined with two other symbols. I count S as a soft C, and K as a hard C. Finally the letter X is a combined KS. Other additions include the letter F pulling triple duty for the combined GH and PH sounds sometimes used in English words.
And this is what a word in this language looks like, written with that simple substitution cypher in place.
I feel that the use of dots and lines fits with the idea of an ancient language that evolved by scraping chisels or chalks on soft stone. I also feel that the circular formation of words is suitably alien enough to feel less like our own word formations. It seems more hieroglyphical in that way.
I’m going to be looking at writing things in this language between sections, to both act as section breaks as well as a bit of flavour and a mystery for those looking to read more into the world. Now, I know what you’re thinking. I need to write the books and finish editing them before I think of this. Unfortunately I know that the idea would nag at me until I did something about it, so had to get it sorted out first.
In other news. I’ve now written three of the five short stories for the first book, and am editing like crazy on the first two. I’ve just started the fourth story and was having a bit of a hard time finding the character. After swapping the format over a bit to have him writing letters to a lover far away I think I’ve found his voice finally as well as a way to play off other characters For those that know me, this new story is currently called Apple, so you know it won’t end well.