Made Up Words

I read something interesting through the week that struck me about the creation of Falling. It was a really interesting story about 'ideophones', the scientific term for words that sound or 'feel' like what they're indicating.

If you're the least bit interested in words, writing or human communication in general it's essential reading. It's about how words seem like what they're describing in a deeper way than plain onomatopoeia (ie 'zip', 'swoosh', etc).

A lot of ideophones can be found in other languages (Japanese is particularly rich with them) but they're common enough in English too, and the reason I love the concept is because I realised I'd made my own to communicate concepts in Falling. Not subconsciously, exactly, but without knowing what I was doing in a technical sense.

When I used the word 'whipstrike', for that sound you always hear in thrillers when the spies are climbing up the elevator shaft (it's found in Part 8 when the cables start to snap and let go during the climax), or the word 'chainwhip' to describe automatic weapon fire, I was trying to build a feeling for you to experience – the combination of sounds from a whip and striking metal, or whipping something with a length of chain, maybe.

In doing so I'd created my own ideophones. It might be cheating, but Shakespeare made up the words 'jaded', 'champion', 'submerge' and even 'skim milk' (if this website can be believed). Isn't creating moods through the communications of sounds and symbols exactly what language is all about? Making up words that do so is what writers do. If Falling achieves nothing else, at least it's done that...