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Thursday, December 11, 2008

What language is this?

One of my beta-readers, nice girl despite the fact that she doesn't read sci-fi, wrote this:

...and "accelerated terraforming" just made me blink and have to read it twice. It's a weird description to me. A mouthful. Confusing at first. To me. I'm wondering, is the rest of the book going to be filled with descriptions I don't understand right away? *ducks smack*

Okay - just looked up terraforming. If I read science-fiction, this description wouldn't be weird to me at all. Well, I'm just giving you my opinion as a non sci-fi reader. *shrugs*

"habitable" - I think a shorter word would work here. Livable, maybe? Same meaning, just flows smoother in my head.

"...habitable is the correct scientific term..." says I.
"That's my POINT, L. This is fiction, not a science book...."

Does this ever happen to you? Some people just don't speak the same book language. Just like there are Love Languages there are Book Languages. A way of reading, understanding, and appreciating the written word.
1. The Literalist- A literalist is someone who can't appreciate fiction. Fantasy writing irks them because they want something grounded and factual. Magic is something they neither support nor understand. Their libraries are filled with biographies, text books, and treatises on economics and political structure. When a Literalist writes they speak in facts and figures. Everything they say has been thought out and fully researched.

2. The Technical Reader- A TR is someone who enjoys fiction, but only if the logic makes sense. They are irked by historical anachronisms, impossible fighting moves, unexplained science, and illogical characters. They prefer hard core sci-fi with slow travel and visual time delays (speed of light you know), well-researched historical fiction, and realistic thrillers. When they write it's usually done slowly and carefully, research is done, technical terms used, and if the character's act like idiots you know the TR Author has either gone senile or is up to no good.

3. The Fanciful Reader- A FR is almost the exact opposite of a Technical Reader or Literalist. They are irked by technical details and dry recitation of facts. They want magic, romantic characters, epic sagas, and undying love. When an FR writes they will pen their greatest fantasies. Characters will be beautiful, thoughtful, and intelligent, the land will be one of milk and honey, and everything will end Happily Ever After. Expect to see fairy tales on their shelf, or a copy of Twilight.

4. The Romantic- Like the Fanciful Reader the Romantic isn't interested in technical details, what they want is searing passion and good descriptive passages. These are the people who read Romeo and Juliet and watch the Titanic and cry every time. They won't accept dumb-down character, and aren't interested in epic battles or sagas. When a Romantic writes they focus on dialog and interpersonal relationships. They want to speak to the soul and senses. And they have no problem with ending the book tragically.

5. The Symbolist- Closely related to the Fanciful Reader and the Romantic the Symbolist is searching for deeper meaning in their books. They are irked by irrelevant facts and books that are "light and fluffy." A Symbolist wants to walk away from a book and feel like they've been edified. Their library shelves are filled with classical works and possible a diploma in Liberal Arts. They want to reread a book and find new meaning. When a symbolist writes they add layers of clues, Bonus Rounds, and meaning. Most of their work will be set in the Real World. Very rarely a Symbolist will break out into Genre Fiction and try something like fantasy or sci-fi (think CS Lewis or JRR Tolkein).

My beta-reader above is a Symbolist. She doesn't usually read Dirty Genre Fiction and wasn't familiar with the terminology. On a scale of one to ten that ranks maybe a 3 in the Things To Worry About category. She's still an effective beta-reader and still a good friend.

But it would be a 10 in the TTWA category is she were an agent I wanted to query. It's very important to know what Book Language the agents you query read in. You need to do your research, read the books they love and represent, and get a feel for where your potential query victim reads.

If you are a Literalist or a Technical Reader you don't want to query a Fanciful agent. If your dream agent is a Symbolist you don't want to query them if you are a Technical Reader.

So, now you know.... The question is what will you do with this? Can you apply Book Languages to your critique group, reading club, or agent hunt? I hope so! See if you can apply it to your reading too. Maybe try branching out and finding a book written in a different Language. A lot of the work out there is multilingual. Ask around, find a Symbolic Sci-fi or a Fanciful Biography. You'd be surprised what you're missing by reading only one Language.

*Disclaimer* This is all meant in good fun. Yes, I made the Languages up. Yes, feel free to disagree. None of this is backed by scientific studies, government grants, or facts of any kind.


  1. For the record: I'm an odd mutant cross of Technical and Fanciful. I hate impossible scenes, but I'll suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy warp drives, wormholes, and outrageous sci-fi. And I prefer happy endings.

    Just don't get your historical or biological details wrong!

  2. I'm afraid I'm a mix of everything. I'm a symbolist with romantic tendencies, and I'm pursuing a degree in theoretical physics, so accelerated terraforming and habitable sound natural to me.

    It kills me when already-known facts are messed up to no purpose (say, there isn't a new explanation/scientific discovery in the book, and it's not magical realism) though, so I agree that people oughtn't get the historical and biological details wrong.

  3. You are correct: I am a Symbolist reader. I also contain a bit of the Romantic as well, but just a bit.

    And I am trying to branch out, really. I'm actually thinking of starting a Fantasy work after Monarch is finished. This will be done with help from you and others, of course, because I'll have no idea what I'm doing.

    It's just that my hubby introduced a character of his to me, and I'm fascinated. The character comes from a Fantasy world, so . . . I must stick with it, I believe.

    I love these categories you've come up with. I think we need to introduce them on CC, or at least in Slacker's. Now it makes more sense why certain readers don't critique my work. :)

  4. Alexandra- A combination is probably the best kind of reader or author. You can enjoy everything, and your writing will appeal to a broad spectrum of people. That's quite a gift :o)

  5. I'm definitely a mix between Fanciful and Romantic, and that's where my reading tends to be as well. I may not own Twilight, but I enjoyed it, and I love my fairy tales. But I'm a sucker for Titanic (yes, cry every time; but I've also cried during a Pokemon movie, and at the drop of a Kleenex).

  6. I totally feel your beta-reader's pain. It's hard to read a different genre--we've all got terminology and plot devices that dedicated readers will understand and newbies will not.

    That said, I think I'm a technical reader (I've got a journalism background--what can I say) with a little bit of romantic and a smidgen of symbolist thrown in ;)

  7. I am SUCH a symbolist, with a cup of Technical and a tablespoon of Fanciful thrown in.

    I love your definitions, L. Great work! :D

  8. Nice one lei! Yes, I've had a crit once from someone who didn't match up with my language at all. So much so that if I'd followed their suggestion, and cut out all description, it wouldn't have been my style left but a bare bone boring piece of work.

  9. I have a bit of all, but am predominantly a mixtue of Fanciful and Romantic.