0483: "Fiction Rule of Thumb"

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby GodShapedBullet » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:28 am UTC

AppleJordan wrote:
dontpanic wrote:1984 was doubleplusgood, and I bet a hrair of people will mention Watership Down...


Yes indeed, and Dr. Seuss has an automatic immunity to any literary criticism.

I have to say randall, this comic disappoints.


I think even though there is a massive number of counterexamples to the argument conveyed in this picture, the comic is still good. It touches upon and illustrates a really irksome aspect of bad science fiction and fantasy and honestly, I enjoyed reading it.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby lethesoda » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:28 am UTC

... Hitchhiker's Guide.

That is all.
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby sewiv » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:28 am UTC

acheron wrote:I registered just to say how terribly, terribly wrong Randall is about Anathem. It is a great book, maybe better than Cryptonomicon.


I registered just to say how much I agree with this comment.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby anthonymc » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:29 am UTC

I will agree with Randall that Anathem could have done without most of the made up vocab, but overall I thought it was really good, though its possible I was just having Stephenson withdrawls.

Now what is scary is that I was in Austin last week at a Stephenson appearance and he claimed he did everything he could to minimize the made up vocabulary. I think he could have tried harder.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby BwaHaHa » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:30 am UTC

This is the exact reason I refuse to read the Harry Potter series. Which was a big deal in my middle school when they started coming out, not reading them. Yay, Randall! You do understand!

Also, I think Shakespeare receives a pardon for his fictional words because writing a five hour play in iambic pentameter would be incredibly stressful and fictional words can make life easier. So, thus, hence (if you will), make life awesomer. :)
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby douglasadams » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:30 am UTC

sorry randall, but ive gotta pull rank here
cheers

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby rwald » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:30 am UTC

Flewellyn wrote:Corollary: any book which takes an iconic figure or creature of folklore, and egregiously violates its commonly understood attributes, is likely to suck.

q.v. Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, with the sparkling vampires.

Actually, I once read an interesting story where vampires were mindless beasts with less intelligence than dogs. They also could be remote-controlled by a necromancer into doing useful stuff: the necromancer would see through their eyes, hear through their ears, and go into shock if the vampire was killed. It didn't make the story suck by any means.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby DrakeSD » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:36 am UTC

Aubron wrote:Rowling bases a lot of her made up words in Latin, a lot of them being actual latin statements, and most of her fictional creatures are pulled from mythology.


What she writes isn't Latin, its just English words with Latin endings. Wingardium Leviosa being the most annoying of these, as Latin doesn't even have a W, and if you make the argument that the V makes the W sound, you can't have your V in the Leviosa. Harry Potter is overrated anyway. grumble grumble grumble.
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby acheron » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:36 am UTC

anthonymc wrote:Now what is scary is that I was in Austin last week at a Stephenson appearance and he claimed he did everything he could to minimize the made up vocabulary.


Now that is funny.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby valbaca » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:39 am UTC

With all the counter examples (Orwell, Shakespeare, Burgess, Tolkien, etc.)
I think the graph should have been more akin to a x*sin(x)

Good comic in that it got my mind wrapped around literature (and trig) in the middle of a software-engineering-&-electronics-exam-in-the-morning-all-nighter. (+1 to hyphen skill)

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Aubron » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:41 am UTC

DrakeSD wrote:
Aubron wrote:Rowling bases a lot of her made up words in Latin, a lot of them being actual latin statements, and most of her fictional creatures are pulled from mythology.


What she writes isn't Latin, its just English words with Latin endings. Wingardium Leviosa being the most annoying of these, as Latin doesn't even have a W, and if you make the argument that the V makes the W sound, you can't have your V in the Leviosa. Harry Potter is overrated anyway. grumble grumble grumble.


True this. That one is the one me and my dorm mates were just pondering on. Turns out she uses a lot of German, Spanish, and other languages as well. Wingardium Leviosa is basically, as you said, the word wing, attached to the Latin term "arduus". "Levo" is a Latin term prettied up for the ending. Sadly, someone keeps a running list.

HP series is most indefinitely overrated, but it was my first major reading besides Tolkien, so i'm fairly fond of it, if not the movie interpretations. :/
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby roc314 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:41 am UTC

Flewellyn wrote:Corollary: any book which takes an iconic figure or creature of folklore, and egregiously violates its commonly understood attributes, is likely to suck.

q.v. Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, with the sparkling vampires.

See Stephen Erickson's series The Malazan Book of the Fallen where he violates nearly every archetype of the fantasy genre. It actually was better for it, not worse.

The problem seems to be bad authors, not bad writing methods.
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Pandaburn » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:42 am UTC

George R. R. Martin even has a word for "like a sword only awesomer" and I think his books are some of the best I've read.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby AlexDitto » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:44 am UTC

Well I guess anything by China Mieville is right out, then, eh? Mmm... dreamshit. Then again, he doesn't do it nearly as often as one would expect a fantasy/sci-fi author to do. I guess it doesn't count if they're coining new words for things that don't already have a word, like "ent" or "Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster." The "count of five" should only refer to making up new words for things that already have words that do perfectly well, a "frindle" if you will.

I guess the problem with this comic is that we manage to block out all the garbage books that are guilty of this sort of thing, and only remember the exceptions to the rule. That's the wonderful thing about probability: you can be wrong over and over again, but you're still "right."

Still made me lol.

Bonus points for authors who write brilliant fantasy without making up their own bullshit languages and words. Howl's Moving Castle sticks out in my mind. <3
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Rendon » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:47 am UTC

Pandaburn wrote:George R. R. Martin even has a word for "like a sword only awesomer" and I think his books are some of the best I've read.


Not quite, he uses "Valyrian steel sword" to mean a sword forged of steel from Valyria, a fictional empire. I'm not positive, but I wouldn't expect names of places to count for this chart.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Prince Myshkin » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:49 am UTC

Randall only pointed out the correlation; he never said made up words = doubleplusungood. Card is near the good end of the spectrum, the man needs no exceptions, I can feel that in my aiua.

And I know I'm going to get reamed here, but Tolkien isn't that great. Has everyone forgotten how painfully boring the meeting at Rivendell is? It's like 200 pages of everyone going "what should we do with it, should we smash it or use it?" It's worse than the John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged. Tolkien was a great ideas guy who fell too in love with them once he came up with them and just rambled on endlessly and got himself caught up in the details.

And to the guy who brought up Finnegan's Wake: Couldn't agree more. If I wanted to experience a dream-like state, I'd either go to bed or take some mushrooms. I definitely don't need 1000 pages of "Wing the midget schwartzblack pantaloon baby bottom"

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Pandaburn » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:49 am UTC

Rendon wrote:
Pandaburn wrote:George R. R. Martin even has a word for "like a sword only awesomer" and I think his books are some of the best I've read.


Not quite, he uses "Valyrian steel sword" to mean a sword forged of steel from Valyria, a fictional empire. I'm not positive, but I wouldn't expect names of places to count for this chart.


I was talking about "arakh"

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Wehpudicabok » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:50 am UTC

6453893 wrote:Finnegans Wake is on the asymptote.


I was hoping to be the first one to mention the Wake, but you beat me to it. Dangit!

It's true. It, Clockwork Orange, 1984, Gulliver's Travels... they just wouldn't have been the same if they hadn't made up crazy words. I think this comic needs a corollary: when dealing with works of literature (the kind you'd read in lit class, anyway), the graph should be reflected at about the 50% mark. As it is, it's only accurate when applied to contemporary fantasy and sci-fi.

Not that most of us lilliputian chellovecks could get away with doubleplusgood writings on setdown secular phoenishes.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby GodShapedBullet » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:52 am UTC

It's a shame Newspeak was specifically designed so that you can't say anything worthwhile in it. Otherwise I would be all up on that learning it as a language.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Xaith » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:53 am UTC

To everyone who's saying this comic disappoints, it's a graph of probability. Every "counterexample" can easily fit on the current graph, since the probability never reaches 0. He's just saying it's unlikely, not impossible.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Prince Myshkin » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:56 am UTC

It's a shame Newspeak was specifically designed so that you can't say anything worthwhile in it. Otherwise I would be all up on that learning it as a language

It's completely worthwhile if you want to understand politics or high-level corporate interactions.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby A.Udelhoven » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:57 am UTC

There is a difference between making up words for already existant stuff and making up new things entirely.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby 6453893 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:58 am UTC

Wehpudicabok wrote:
6453893 wrote:Finnegans Wake is on the asymptote.


I was hoping to be the first one to mention the Wake, but you beat me to it. Dangit!


Literarily ninja'd. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw 'made up words'.

Honestly, I was wondering if anybody but me is interested in both calculus and James Joyce. I imagine there's a pretty narrow overlap between those two groups.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby LordChess » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:59 am UTC

That none of you jerks have brought up Cat's Cradle is deplorable.

I registered just to say this, I don't even like this comic that much, and am really lazy. Registering is a nightmare.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby the_moose » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:03 am UTC

In reply to all the Clockwork Orange citing people, no new words were actually invented in that book. They were just slightly modified versions of already existing Russian (or similar) words.
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby AlexDitto » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:04 am UTC

LordChess wrote:That none of you jerks have brought up Cat's Cradle is deplorable.

I registered just to say this, I don't even like this comic that much, and am really lazy. Registering is a nightmare.


As an avid fan of Vonnegut, I must say he's not really one for making up words, except for Cat's Cradle. Grandfaloons and Bokonon and all that. Then again, one might say that he was making up words for the express purpose of mocking religious jargon, and wasn't simply redefining things that already had words.

I mean, "prolonged contact between the soles of two people's feet" wasn't exactly well defined before. Hence new word boku-maru.

The key, as several people have pointed out, is there is a difference between making up words for things that already HAVE perfectly good words for them, and making up entirely new things.

And James Joyce can go jump in a lake. D:<
Last edited by AlexDitto on Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:04 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby 6453893 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:04 am UTC

LordChess wrote:That none of you jerks have brought up Cat's Cradle is deplorable.

I registered just to say this, I don't even like this comic that much, and am really lazy. Registering is a nightmare.


I'm pretty sure Cat's Cradle falls within the five word limit. It's been years since I read the book, but besides Icenine, Karass, granfalloon, and bokonon, there aren't really any significant made-up words, are there?

And even then, most of those words are part of a fictitious language, and we're undecided as to whether languages count towards the word limit.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby koldito » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:04 am UTC

Of course, the x axis should not be "number of made-up words", but rather "number of phrases of the form X of Y, where X and Y are gratuitously capitalized". Actually, gratuitous capitalization by itself is already a good indicator.

Example: "...and then the Ruler of Light took the Staff of Destiny in his hands, which allowed him to open the Gate of Eternity and stroll down the Path of Wisdom. Never before had a lowly Peasant travelled so far into the Meadow and away from the County."

Robert Jordan, anyone?

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby AlexDitto » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:07 am UTC

6453893 wrote:
LordChess wrote:That none of you jerks have brought up Cat's Cradle is deplorable.

I registered just to say this, I don't even like this comic that much, and am really lazy. Registering is a nightmare.


I'm pretty sure Cat's Cradle falls within the five word limit. It's been years since I read the book, but besides Icenine, Karass, granfalloon, and bokonon, there aren't really any significant made-up words, are there?

And even then, most of those words are part of a fictitious language, and we're undecided as to whether languages count towards the word limit.


Wikipedia counts sixteen from Bokononism.

Good lord Robert Jordan and his crap of crap. Why anyone is endeared to that man's writing I can't fathom. He and Terry Goodkind can go jump in a lake. With James Joyce. D:<
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby slamadoca » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:08 am UTC

AlexDitto wrote:Well I guess anything by China Mieville is right out, then, eh? Mmm... dreamshit. <3


I agree. :twisted:

Though I am also glad that this is merely a probability curve. I'd much rather think Ive been reading a lot of really good, really improbable books.

And Vonnegut doesn't make up worlds?? What was Slaughterhouse Five without its absurd made-up alien world? I suppose you could call it the truth of course, but we tend to believe in science around these parts, now don't we.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby LordChess » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:08 am UTC

AlexDitto wrote:one might say that he was making up words for the express purpose of mocking religious jargon, and wasn't simply redefining things that already had words.


Well, yes. Duh. But the comic wasn't quite so specific.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Gingerbreadman » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:10 am UTC

I truly apologize for taking another crack at Paolini, but the instant I saw this comic, I thought, "That explains Paolini."

But then I thought... "Wait, he doesn't actually make up words, he steals them from Tolkien!"

Oh snap!

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Roiden » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:12 am UTC

6453893 wrote:Honestly, I was wondering if anybody but me is interested in both calculus and James Joyce. I imagine there's a pretty narrow overlap between those two groups.




Hi, nice to meet you.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Theogrin » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:14 am UTC

I honestly don't recall, but how many made-up words were there in Stranger in a Strange Land? I do know that several of them are now part of common parlance; take, for instance, the term 'grok'. Aaand...yeah, Paolini, Martin (George and otherwise), and so forth...it's an epidemic, you hear me? An EPIDEMIC!
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby EtzHadaat » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:15 am UTC

6453893 wrote:Finnegans Wake is on the asymptote.


That's what I came here to say.

Also Tolkien follows this rule perfectly as well.

(In response to person two above me, Dubliners and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man were both easy to connect to, but when I'm reading a book I want to read a book not solve a puzzle...on that note the overlap between James Joyce and Calculus seems like it may be more common.)

Also in regards to Harry Potter, I don't think I've ever met anyone who thought it was a crowning work of literature, it's just enjoyable. I didn't get any of that deep insight feeling I got when I read Hamlet or Araby, but I had fun. Well, I had fun up to goblet, after that I just read them so I could talk about them.
...can't say either is true about LotR, THAT'S overrated for you.
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Hasufel » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:17 am UTC

Aubron wrote:
Hasufel wrote:Hmm. I'm not sure if I quite agree with this one. I've read a lot of good books that had quite a few made-up words. But yeah, I guess, if there are too many made-up words, it makes it harder to read, and therefore less interesting. But it's better than boring vocabulary.

And I'm surprised no one's mentioned Harry Potter yet. J.K. Rowling and Orson Scott Card should be exceptions to this rule.

What about Orson Scott Card and the ramen/framlings/varelse?

And "utlanning" and "xenocide", too!


Rowling bases a lot of her made up words in Latin, a lot of them being actual latin statements, and most of her fictional creatures are pulled from mythology.

Now Card is a different story...


Well, yeah, but I was referring more to words like "muggle" and "quiddich".

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby 6453893 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:17 am UTC

Roiden wrote:
6453893 wrote:Honestly, I was wondering if anybody but me is interested in both calculus and James Joyce. I imagine there's a pretty narrow overlap between those two groups.




Hi, nice to meet you.



So you heard they're finally printing that collaboration between Jack Kerouac and W.S. Burroughs? Only a month or two from publication; I'm super excited.

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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby netcrusher88 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:19 am UTC

EtzHadaat wrote:
6453893 wrote:Finnegans Wake is on the asymptote.


That's what I came here to say.


Likewise. Though I'm not sure this is really that reliable a rule of thumb, I can come up with some solid counterexamples in the form of Mieville, Orwell, and yes, Anathem.
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby Kain » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:20 am UTC

I have to agree with the premises of the comic. While adding in new languages (ie Tolkein) can create more depth in a novel or series, making up individual words and casually inserting them into the language of the rest of the novel (ie "he walked down to the slurpleshrad and pondered wheter he would purchase their wares") confuses the reader while showing an appaling attempt to make the setting more foreign.

Naturally, there are counterexamples that might be exluded from the probability chart completely, namely those where the phenomena of language manipulation is a theme (ie Newspeak) or where the entire work is a study in unusual words giving an understood meaning ("He took his vorpal blade in hand/ Long time the manxome foe he sought)... in afterthought, that may not be the best set from the poem to use, as manxome is pretty easy to relate to a manx cat, and hence the word feline... whatever, I'm to tired to think clearly, my appologies.

Anyways, I would very much like to write a pair of novels some time in the future, preferable after college as a hobby (my progress on my AeroEng and AstroPhys degrees negligable at this time, sadly). Even though the setting would be futuristic fantasy, I would not want to make up words for it. Rather, I would want the culture to be felt through the customs, settings, etc. described in the work.
Though perhaps if I remove all gender pronouns...
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Re: "Fiction Rule of Thumb" Discussion

Postby kirkwillrule » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:21 am UTC

well in my personal feeling (which really dose not mean anything if you have to use backspace more than 10 times in 10 words right) is that is there is already a word meaning basically what you are trying to say you fit in this catagory. the only exceptions are when there are no words to fit what you are trying to say at which point you might want to consider revising what you say so that it makes since with a real word (what an idea) or if you are a scifi writter who has just come up with a funny shpeal about matrices (you know the thing you sleep on is that how you spell it) flaloopling!!!

Cant put me in that one im not an author haha

Kirk


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