Right, so recently I started the rewrite of Possession and Other Invitations. I’m taking the story slow this time and making sure to compile all the needed notes for things that–well most of this will never get a mention, but there’s something gratifying about being able to answer literally anything about my story and world setting. This doesn’t mean I’m writing every little thing down. I focus on crafting the world setting guidelines. See, with enough principles in place, knowing every detail is easily done and doesn’t actually take up that much headspace (which when you’ve got multiple worlds competing for brain power, simplicity is a mind saver).
I made a heinous mistake in my last draft of the book when I didn’t name the infernal dialect used by the demon in the opening scene. So, I started digging through what I knew about my world and researching languages. Since I was talking the other night to my friend about how I developed character and world together for Starfell, I thought I’d share a bit of my process on how world setting and ideas affected each other to establish a world setting rule in Possession and Other Invitations.
All right, first step in adding new world building–decide which rules are relevant. World settings are huge vast, things, and while most rules will interplay, it’s easier to start with the basic block and then build up from there. In this case, languages spoken by demons, the building begins with Belief = Power. The second being Low Level Psychic Fields Exist.
Those two rules affect nearly every decision made about the world setting and are the basis for the magic system in Possession. See, the idea is that the more something is believed, the more likely it is to be true. You get enough people thinking the same thing and it starts warping reality to that thing. The opposite is true, too. If too many people don’t believe in something, it gets nearly impossible. The magic system example I like to use is a fireball. People–even the wizards of the Society–don’t believe that magic fireballs are possible in our world. That shared thought/belief creates a psychic field which in turn helps the physics of the world stay in place. Okay, that’s something that gets harder, what gets easier? Well, there’s a lot more people believing in ghosts and the ability to talk to the dead. Get a room with the right people and the right mood and contacting the dead is like flipping a switch.
Okay, I’ve got to add in the rules The Spiritual Plane Is Linked To Our World and Belief = Greater Power in Spiritual Plane. While the Spiritual Plane exists on its own, it’s highly influenced by the world. In fact, Religions have enough psychic fields behind them to create realms inside the Spiritual Plane. Possession‘s world has a multitude of Heavens, Hells, Purgatories, Nirvanas, and other after-mortal-life areas.
How does all this affect language choice? Well, Religion is a cultural aspect (see another rule slip in there?) and culture is passed from person to person primarily through language. Language then becomes a part of that psychic field that has an effect on the Spiritual Plane. That part of the plane is influenced to adapt to the language component. So human languages are spoken in the Spiritual Plane. However, many people think that demonic/angelic/other worldly languages are going to sound different, which has also had power over how the denizens of the Spiritual Plane speak.
That all sounds a bit obtuse, doesn’t it? I’ll run through an example.
Catholicism is a large, multi-cultural, international religion. In modern era, masses are said in local dialects and the religion will take on cultural aspects from where it’s being practiced. But Latin is still an important language to the religion and is still used for some ceremonies. Latin helps bind a few of the bigger Catholic concepts (one God, redemption through Christ, Heaven for the saved, Hell for the unrepentant) and gives the large psychic field a strong foundation. So, Latin is spoken in those related Hells, Heavens, and Purgatories. In fact, the older a demon (or angel for that matter) is, the more likely it will speak a dialect of Latin–assuming it lives in one of those related realms. If it comes from, say, an older Lutheran realm, it’s more likely to know a dialect of German.
I say dialect because it won’t be exactly Latin. First of all, there is no exact. There’s a standardized version, but each place that speaks it will have variance. The same is true of the Spiritual Plane. Demonic dialects of Latin are going to snarl, hiss, and spit more than the standardized according to region. The specifics of their dialects are going to be based on region. So if there’s, say, Seven Layers of Hell, the First Layer is going to have differences from those demons in the Seventh. To an outsider, it’d be like picking out the difference between the Midwestern Illinois Dialect versus the Chicagoland Dialect. A lot of it comes down to word choice (like soda versus pop), but get someone talking long enough and you’ve got an idea of where they come from. A skilled exorcist, like Wes in Possessions, is going to need to be a linguist as well. While some basic chants will work, an exorcism is going to be more efficient if the demon is bound in its native language. That’s going to take some knowledge and a keen ear.
Knowing all of this is going to help me create a naming system, so that the next time I need to name a dialect, or hell to even know what language is important, it’ll be a bit of research and then bam! idea. Uh, this was also a glimpse into the insanity of how detailed my brain can get on a subject. Deepening world setting can be easy if keep asking ‘why does it work this way?’ That’s all I did here. Just a repetitive cycles of ‘whys’ until I understood Possession‘s world that much more. Thanks for reading. Got any interesting world building factoids of your own?