In Defense of Jargon

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The writing and critique group I attend (almost) weekly is divided: how much sci-fi or fantasy jargon is too much? With such a wide variety of writers who pursue different styles, there’s polite disagreement on almost everything we bring up – but the issue of made-up words seems to be a hot one lately.

As a lover of fantasy and science fiction both, I believe in the power that jargon can bring to the page when it comes to creating a world. I don’t want to smack my readers in the face with excessive comparisons and descriptions based on objects they already know. I want to challenge them, to push them, to make them feel like they really are in a living, breathing other world.

When a reader is presented with new vocabulary or made-up words and languages, that’s a chance to really get him engaged. When she is looking at new jargon in the context of the new world, she’s taking some time to puzzle over the words while exploring a new place.

And that’s what I want! If I’m creating a whole new world for my readers and characters to explore, I want it to have a heartbeat that’s different from our own. I want the reader to hear that quiet thump-thump rhythm and fall into it headfirst, running wild through an unexplored place.

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