Inventing Words: Stop That!

“People everywhere, just wanna be free, wanna read your story, don’t wanna have to figure out your crazy idiosyncratic terminology.” — The Rascals.

The cup of judgment is not yet full on the misguided purity of storytelling. We’re not “Storytelling All Wrong” today. But for pure storytelling that chokes on its own chunks with too much of these noodling neologisms and invented wordspew? Cup of judgment: OVERFULL.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

I heard you do some unsolicited reviews, so I wanted you to read as [sic] sample of what I’m working on.

“The rolled curtains of darkness covered the Arkhurt and the shields of the guarding Morghoth, defenders of the plain. The righteous field magick, the am’nepath, could only hold the evil back so long . . .

“Blisstrix cast aside her mitirith in disgust. The ritual jewelry of King L’andrøth was a stinging reminder of the maiden’s hollow servitude, a hidden curse of the Arkh-fathers . . . ”

—”Mage” Blackstone, Falls Church, Va.

I had to put “Mage” in quotes because there’s no way your name is Mage.

I had to withhold generous portions of this sample because, again, there’s no way your name is Mage.

I had to check my sources on where I said I do these unsolicited reviews because, once again, there’s no way your name is Mage.

Let’s break this down:

1) I asked Mrs. Writing All Wrong whether or not you “roll” curtains over anything. (“Nope.”) Gotta chalk off a point for clumsy mixed metaphors.

2) What’s with this invented vocab, this battery of fake words we have going on?

[I’m gonna park right here, folks. This needs attention.]

Fantasy/SF/cyberplank/wannabe writers: Please stop the unnecessary thuds of invented words and made up inner-narrative terms. You are not a genius, nor are you crafty for “inventing” a world of imaginary words. If you want to codify the mind goo of excessive D&D play and occupying a rent-free basement with your thoughts, then write Urukhukturian Culture and Vocabulary for Beginners, or what have you.

I don’t care if you explain what a jallidot is, or how the séances of Yrthbayne progress to the luminary cycles. If you take a detour to explain that a nuurgodd is a “special type of axe dipped in royal jelly,” let’s agree to call it an “axe” instead. Readers with even mediocre brain function will soon peer right through the vapid vapors of glitter and excess, finding a weak story and limpid writing as a whole.

Am I against even the slightest whiff of neologism? No. But this imaginary vocabulary exuberance affects the weak-minded to a fatal degree. Instead of focusing on trifles like theme, tropes, pacing, cadence, connotation, narrative, and plot, the weak writer latches onto the giddiness of his own rubified brain dumps, pinning them to a flimsy story and a weak, sputtering tale.

If you get too excited about the technobabble, the psuedo-linguistics, the mythical tongues of invented ages, then write a curriculum or a primer. Don’t shame the writing trade with your attempt at a story.

 Writing All Wrong can be reached via email ( and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong). He’s the Phthanath of the Realm of Stythrandorn.


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