Blog Episode Two – Contextual Setting


So; you have created characters, you have a story, you have background, you have built a world and all of its rules, this is excellent. This is shiny and good, it has sparkle!
When one is thinking of making something beautiful out of whatever one discovers in the bottom drawer, one needs not only imagination and purpose, one normally needs some kind of glue or other to make all of the pieces come together and, as it were, unify.

Back in the days when Scratchy was still young, the tribes of Eire would, at times, need to communicate from afar and in secret. They would find highly reflective stones or would polish bits of metal and try to direct the light of the sun onto them. Using a code, they would flash a simple message to their compatriots. In later times, I heard about some war in distant Ippon over trade, the natives of an island under Navajo protection has been inconvenienced and the trade deal had become much less voluntary than they would have liked. In order to keep their movements and tactics over telelegon secret, they spoke to one another in the old language of their ancestors, a tongue even the most applied Ipponese intelligence officer could not know.

Eventually, like all codes will be, it was cracked but they found that the messages made no sense. Now, the Ipponese should have – with their own very lyrical and at times metaphorical language, have thought about this but they did not.

They lacked the context, in this case the cultural context that shaped the way Na-Dene is spoken and how it describes certain things, events, and even people; its slang and idioms. The Navajo has invented layered encryption and their innovation became the new standard across both the Empyraeum and beyond.
There is a valuable lesson in this.

How many hours, weeks, and days have you spent writing, rewriting, developing characters, creating art for them, perfecting, researching, rewriting again, refining….and so on until you knew the inside of each character’s head and their ‘life’ perhaps better even than your own?

Shiny indeed.

Now, we all know the dangers and the pitfalls of a new author’s path; we know the silly rules and the concensus opinions on commas, adverbs, and so forth. We have also heard of that of which we must not speak; the infomation dump. If you are writing an academic essay, research paper, text book, a book for Dwarves, or are being paid by the word, info dumps are fine and shiny. If you are, however, not writing one of these effulgent items, then it is not always so welcome. It is, in fact, mostly considered dull and boring.
So, that takes the polish off the gemstone doesn’t it? Now what?
Context, my friends, context.

How does one do that o-wise and be-bereted one? Simple.

How do human babies (the less we talk about goblin babies the better) learn what you people disgustingly call their milk tongue? By hearing it, by repeating it, by praticising it…by speaking!

Ah, you wise and shiny goblin, you cry! You’e talking about dialogue aren’t you? Yes. Yes, I am talking about dialogue, among other things. We have mentioned before a movie made by a certain Antipodean (from the Land of Dream) bearded fellow who did not even try to represent goblins in a good light. Yet he did something beautiful. In his movie he made sure every last possible detail was covered, every weapon, piece of armour, even personal items and imperfectations were present if not conciously seen. He told a story in silence which provided both belief and context.

I digress not at all by mentioning Patchy’s fine works at this point. He is good at that, building consistency and context into his work. He makes many things standard, and many things unique, as is needed. He will standardise armour types so it is clear that Kalshodar armour, Dracograth armour, and even epibatoi armour comes from the same place. You can see that all Empyraen vehicles were made by the same factories. Yet you can see how different characters have personalised their gear, how they carry different items, wear different badges, and so forth. That tells a small story about them.

You as writer today have so many places to drop your context and have people look and enjoy; you have social media, websites, blogs such as this, my fine audio-visoohaahl work, Patchy’s masterpieces, even Scratchy’s sneaky little bits and pieces he scatters around for as youse to find. Your world is not nly needing to be just inside a book any more. In fact, eBooks are opening you all kinds of new doors now!

Back to how they speak though, right? Yes, yes indeedy-pie, sir/madam/other/none!
The idea behind ESG started simple. Change a few names, alter a few ideas and linguisic constructs, give a feel for a different world in simple little casual exchanges of no apparent consequence. Then it got bigger, as these things often do. But the idea remains the same. A little causal ‘overheard’ conversation, a throwaway comment, a far-speaker in the background, a newspaper article the character reads while waiting for something important to happen. All these things give data, provide background, give context without interrupting the flow of the story. Not only that, but they feel natural in way no info dump ever can.

See, here is Sham, our good mate, doing regular people stuff as regular people do. Good old Sham, he does things like we do, we like Sham! We like Sham so we listen to what he has to say…see where the rat is running here? Towards the shine because rats are clever little bleeders.

Your job is not just to make the shine but to lead your readers towards it like a boss rat with his pack, see? Does you find the rat and force food down his gob til he chokes or does you leave some good quality victs out somewhere for him to find so that up he comes to snaffle ’em and….BANG!…he’s inna trap? Right! You leads, you doesn’t force. You drops crumbs for him to follow but you leaves the real shiny stuff for the trap, right?

Now you get it! Same as with your readers, you drops lilli hints and clues along the way to keep ’em sniffing but you leaves the real shine for them to find for themselves and think ‘what a clever little fellow am I, what with all this shine what is mine!’ right before – BANG! – you got ’em…
And, yes, me letting me ‘inner goblin’ slip out, as it were, was also me giving you some sniff and context.

The Language of the Empyreaum (Là Glostèan Empyraen)

ESG (technically it’s LGE – Là Glostèan Empyraean – but I chose to keep it simple and produce intresting acronyms) was the result of several years of soldiers from across the Empyraeum trying to determine the location of the mess tent or latrines during the Bloodless Conquest. Six million soldiers, artisans, merchants, and the numerous other professions that support what was effectively a mobile city, two hundred and fifty languages, many more dialects…Greek was no longer the predominant language of this force of unequalled size and people had to communicate.
It started with various pidgins and cants, a word here, a phrase there – this thing is called that and you say this in this fashion, it costs this many – but, eventually, words and phrases started to integrate and spread, especially those not meant to be heard in polite company! Soldiers are rarely know for their smooth tongues and gentle manner, after all.
Nobody really knows how it started, it was not recorded, no one group sat down and decided, it ws purely organic osmosis and people doing what people do best; taking what they have and making it work. Eventually, a universal argot started to emerge; every soldier knew it and you can be certain that everyone who made a living taking their wages away from said soldiers knew it. Alexander got to hear about it when his Kalshodar and Dracograth (many of whom, such as Neshaa, were not Greek by birth and had struggled to learn their King’s speech) started to use it and he was delighted, he took it as an omen; his cultural melting pot blending together nicely, no longer were they Greeks, Perisans, Sythians, Celts and so on; they were something new and were creating something new together. He knew this boded well for the Empyraeum to come.
With each country conquered and each fresh batch of recruits added, the flavour of the argot changed as the shiny-faced young men and women in search of adventure added their own languages and dialects to the mix. So delighted was Alexander with this developing language that he made his first formal edict to the new Empyraen Senate, the task of formalising this argot into what would become Empyraen Standard Greek. The greatest minds of the whole Empyraen descended on Alexandria-The-First and debate with lively and passionate. Alexander smiled to see it because, once again, people from all over the new Empyraen were, after a fashion, working together and, once the bruises had faded, forcing a unified identity into being.
Empyraen Standard Greek or ESG was formalised on Gamelia 25th, HA7. The first Lexicóm Empyrean was produced and distributed from Manchuria to Eiré over the following years, to schools, libraries, and town/city halls.
Of course, individual nations kept their own versions, brought by soldiers or merchants who were either returning home or starting a new life elsewhere. ESG is the formal language of the Empyraeum but there are hundreds of vulgar dialects thereof.
To practise;
“Nera ú chalk mug siú éjookaíd drúsa” – An ugly conman finds little business
“Gwyn-ía espry, gage. Sui oy-toy shy yonks anoí.” – Dude, Gwy’s (he is) gone. He surely got captured ages ago.
“Shy itú tevo-éi kat dú la-choir, ma geall” – That sneak is a police informer, I’m sure of it!
“Itù laebh tì èjookàid gamma orì anoì!” – You’ve been staring at that book for three hours now!

[Note; for the purposes of invention, we have focussed on five languages, together with some artistic license, to create ESG. Those languages are the ones we felt worked best together and made the most coherent combination. Ancient and Modern Greek, Nepali & Burmese, Gujarathi and Sanskrit, and Scots/Irish/Welsh Gaelic.]

Empyraeum Videos Now Live!

The Empyraeum YouTube Channel is now live and we aim to present regularly a new series of background and writing skills videos!

We decided to divide our video blog entries into chapters, as if they were a book and the first chapter will be on Worldbuilding, something we consider essential to both the writer;’s art and the success of both your book and your own writing career. When you build an immersive, consistent, and fully-realised world, you open up a wealth of experiences to your readers and give them opportunities to truly feel like they are somewhere else.

For The Empyraeum Cycle, a world whose history seperated from our around 3,000 years ago, it highlights and draws our audience’s attention to those differences, especially when it comes to the language which evolved in the Empyraeum, ESG or Easy-G which evolved from 6 million people, from 250 nations, trying to ask one another where the latrines were and what was for dinner that night.

Notice that the Empyraeum’s image is now fully consistent and realised. This, too, is important as a writer in these online times. Be bold, be consistent, be different, be what you want readers and fans to love; stand out!
More episodes to come…