Clarion Write-a-Thon 2012: Day 13

I didn’t get any “real” writing done. Instead, I sat down and constructed the parts of my world that I needed. No longer using (or rather, appropriating) Inuit culture, I needed to rework the world again from scratch.


First of all, I needed a language. This is a bit of a daunting task. I decided to make it similar to Inuktitut (but, importantly, this is not Inuktitut), drawing from very general principles:

  1. Words are constructed from morphemes, which fit together like lego blocks, rather than the multiple word “pearls” of, for instance, Latin languages. For more information, see this grammar lesson from Tusaalanga.

  2. Instead of an alphabet, I’m using a syllabary with consonant finals added.

  3. TBD: rules for plurals

  4. TBD: pronouns

  5. TBD: tenses

  6. TBD: other basic language stuff

My simple syllabary, which you can see takes after the Inuktitut syllabary. I haven’t come up with actual symbols, because that’s not necessary right now—writing is what’s necessary.

a i u
d da di du d
g ga gi gu g
j ja ji ju j
k ka ki ku k
l la li lu l
m ma mi mu m
n na ni nu n
p pa pi pu p
r ra ri ru r
s sa si su s
t ta ti tu t
v va vi vu v
y ya yi yu y

Right now, I just need the first two items, and perhaps item 3. I’m not up to idioms and turns of phrases yet; but hopefully I am up to decent names (none of this surname business, by the way).

Vowels can be either short or long (doubled). Final consonants can end syllables, which also look doubled in the roman form. (How are they indicated in the pretend language, which needs a name? Unknown, not needed right now!)

Some of my made-up roots:

ali – strength
nurik – wind
satumik – storm
tarrakinat – butterfly
tuvunik – foundation
yunva – the world but a larger sense of it (see later)

Some of my made-up affixes:

-inami – roughly speaking in anglo terms, Lord or Lady of [insert natural force or animal family here]
-gan – city
-juu – one person
-vak – in anglo terms, god / goddess
-vuk – in anglo terms, spirit

Then there are names I’m committed to, despite the fact that they’re also Inuit names.

Kinaktak – in my world, this means “sharp” as in intellect and, sometimes, cunning
Sanna – in my world, this means “sea”.

Then there’s the one name I’m also committed to, but it’s less problematic because, well, Psann is Psann and breaks the rules of my pretend language as well.

Culture: Naming

One of the most important themes in Seal Tales (hmmm, I need to come up with plurals soon) is that of identity and family. Naming follows similar rules to Inuit culture, but not entirely so.

We still have the concept of naming people after others, usually dead family members or friends, to effectively make them reborn into the world. Those named in such a way are treated, at times, like the original person.

Now we get into the bits that aren’t part of any Inuit cultures. I feel I must underline this several times: not part of any Inuit cultures.

So, random factoids: names themselves come from the environment, characteristics, and so on. Life-long names aren’t given until the child reaches at least one year of age. The exception to naming rules is that you never name people after the gods unless for some reason you’re dedicating the child to the god/goddess in question.

Dedication does not constitute child sacrifice or sending them to temples—this isn’t organized religion, after all. But a certain awareness is needed… in a sense, you’re attributing to them a god’s character or function. You’re counting on your family, child included, never committing a taboo ever. Some gods are kind, some don’t care, but a few are vengeful. Get on the wrong side of someone as perpetually angry as the goddess of the sea, and voluntary child sacrifice is not necessary.

Mythology: A Hierarchy

Not present in Inuit mythology, there’s a hierarchy of supernatural beings in Yunva.

First, comes Yunva, who is no being but, in one sense, the world, but in a more accurate sense, life and existence itself. This parallels the concept of sila from the real world, except this time as part of the hierarchy.

Next, come the gods and goddesses. Their power levels allow them to take over functions that are world-wide in nature: death, the seas, the sun, the moon, etc.

Next, come the lords and ladies. Their power levels are more restricted, but still awesome (and I don’t mean the hipster definition): specific weather patterns, specific animals, individual stars, etc).

Next, come the spirits. They’re basically immortal individuals that sometimes are in the employ of more powerful supernatural beings. They could be intangible, even bodiless; they can be solid and life-like.

In all cases except for Yunva, the beings in question used to be mortal.

And now…

… I’m going to run with this. There’s more, but it’s embedded in the characters and story for now. This amount of world-building is strangely fun for me, a breath of fresh air.

Anyways, I’m in the process of revising various scenes that are keepers, but the rest are throw-aways since the story is going to take a certain, different direction following the original, and incomplete, outline.

By the way, here’s a review of K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel on Team China Mountain Zhang’s blog.