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Neal Stephenson’s Anathem and made up words

So this morning, my husband showed me this XKCD comic making fun of Neal Stephenson’s new book Anathem (Disclaimer: I have not actually read this book):


Then, later today, I read (okay skimmed) an interview with Neal Stephenson on Goodreads.com where he points out that even Harry Potter has loads of made up words. How fun would it have been if J.K. Rowling had called “quidditch” the “flying hockey-like game” instead? Or if Tolkein had called hobbits the “little furry-footed guys”?

This got me thinking about writing/creating fantasy worlds. My own fantasy novel has a few made up words here and there, but I consciously tried to keep these to a minimum, thinking that if I included too many, I would alienate my readers. I have no delusions about being the next J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkein (though I have just as many initials as he does!). Creating and introducing fake words is an art in and of itself which, when done well, can feel refreshing and exciting to readers and help immerse them in the world you are trying to create. When done poorly however, it can make your writing frustrating and exhausting to read.

Here is an interview on YouTube where Neal Stephenson talks a little bit about his own made up words. Apparently he included so many in his new book that he ended up including a glossary at the end!:


How do you feel about made-up words in scifi/fantasy novels? Does it put you off to read them? Or do you find that it adds to the flavor of the book? What are your favorite made up words from novels (or from your own writing)?

#xkcd #nealstephenson #video #comicstrips #scifi #fantasy

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