483: Fiction Rule of Thumb

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Fiction Rule of Thumb
Except for anything by Lewis Carroll or Tolkien, you get five made-up words per story. I'm looking at you, Anathem.
Title text: Except for anything by Lewis Carroll or Tolkien, you get five made-up words per story. I'm looking at you, Anathem.

[edit] Explanation

Randall uses a graph that purports that the more words an author makes up, the less likely their book is any good. To demonstrate this, he provides an example where a hypothetical author uses three made up words, "Fra'as", "Farmlings", and "Krytoses". The latter of these words are described very unprofessionally as being "like swords but awesomer" (and of course "awesomer" is itself a made-up word). The author clearly does not see that having to insert explanations of all the made up words makes the sentence extremely clumsy.

The title text declares that the average author is allowed five invented words per book before this rule is invoked against them, but mentions that J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll are exceptions, as they are both very famous, well-respected writers who made words up all the time.

Randall also makes a dig at Anathem, a speculative fiction novel by Neal Stephenson about a monastic order on another planet that studies science, mathematics, and philosophy. The book is noteworthy for having a very large number of made-up or repurposed words, enough to require its own glossary. One of the more common fake words is fraa (without an apostrophe).

[edit] Transcript

[Line graph shown with an inverse curve.]
[Y-Axis: Probability book is good.]
[X-Axis: Number of words made up by author.]
[The curve becomes less steep as the number of words increase.]
"The Elders, or Fra'as, guarded the farmlings (children) with their krytoses, which are like swords but awesomer..."
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Discussion

Also, you get minus points if you have to add a totally reading-flow rupturing explanation. And if the words which supposedly come from one language have completely different linguistic structure. And for random apostrophes. And if you cannot read the book without a wordlist for constant reference next to you. Rule of thumb #2: if it's not clear from the context or from a smooth, unobtrusive explanation* and/or if the reader has to go back the second time it is mentioned to remember what it was, don't use it.

Exception to this: Terry Prachett. How the hell can that guy make funny literature out of annoyingly large footnotes?? 132.187.20.160 09:14, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

I know an author who made up words and still turned out well! His name is Andrew Hussie, creator of Homestuck. Captchalogue, Sylladex, Alchemiter, Cruxite, Respiteblock, Recuperacoon, Cookalizer, Fenestrated Wall, you name it! 108.162.219.47 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Well one, that's a webcomic, not a book. Two, most of these words are portamntus (Captcha + Catalogue = Captchalogue, Recuperate + Cocoon = Recuperacoon). And while this is certainly a nice observation, it doesn't really contribute to the discussion since the page is not really about Homestuck.--Edrobot (talk) 19:42, 23 May 2014 (UTC)

Dune comes to mind... 199.27.128.71 07:07, 15 April 2014 (UTC)

Interesting that Randall omitted Shakespeare from the list of people allowed to make up words. Shakespeare used 17,677 different words in all of his known works. About 10% of those words are words that he made up and are now technically official English (includes changing parts of speech for existing words)108.162.216.100 21:45, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
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