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Handling Foreign and Made Up Words

World Languages at FVRLThere are times in your novel when you may wish to insert foreign or made up words or phrases. When a reader does not recognize a word or name, they skip over it. Too many speed bumps and they may stop reading. When in doubt, opt for clarity.  You can keep their attention in a number of ways. 

1. If your POV character understands the language, he can translate through internal narration.

My Russian was a bit rusty, but it was clear Vlad wanted Nikolai to stand down.

2. He can translate for another character:

Dick whispered to Jane, "Vlad is telling them to stand down."

3. You can show context through action tags.

Vlad grabbed Nikolai's gun and shouted, "Prekrashcheniye!" His men stood down.

4. If the POV character does not comprehend the language, use narration to say so.

The men waved their guns around and shouted in a guttural foreign language. They didn't look happy to see each other.

5. Context is critical.  If you sprinkle in foreign or made up words, give them context within the sentence. If it is a noun, describe it. 

Ang held the makami carelessly, but I had no doubt the curved blade could cleave a man in two with one stroke.

Persephone plucked calendula, stuffing the bright yellow petals in her pocket. They could be used later to treat wounds.

6. If you use foreign or invented expletives or exclamations, use body language and action to convey the emotion.

"Mein Liebchen." Gunther hugged Nadia. She struggled out of his embrace and moved behind her desk. "I'm not your love. Why are you here?"

"By Camulos, what have you done?" Darien covered his face with his hands. "Do you realize the depth of the hole you've put us in?"

Constable Lyrik yanked on the chains holding the prisoner. "Get up. You're headed for the dungeon you nasty, fae-loving cerpet."

Especially in epic Fantasy, it may be useful to have a list of name pronunciations in the back matter. You may even provide a glossary. However, the goal is to keep the reader immersed in your story. You don't want to lose them to searches.

If you have tips for how you handled this situation, leave a comment.

Foreign Translation Editions

Many traditionally published books are translated into other languages.

If you self-publish, is that option entirely out of reach? Not necessarily. There are foreign rights agents: difficult, but not impossible to connect with.

Another option is to pay for a translation. This is tricky. If you are unable to read the language, it is impossible to know if they have done a credible job of translating your fiction. Cost is one factor. You can expect to pay a good literary translator ten to twenty-five cents a word. Cost versus benefit is another consideration. How much would you earn?

It is crucial to hire a professional translator. Do not rely on Google translate. Artificial intelligence translators lack nuance. It's fine for a blunt instrument such as product instructions, but not poetry. In addition to a translator, you might also require a new cover design. It is possible to keep the original cover artwork and change the title. If you did not design your own cover, however, the changes can lead to additional expense.

When I traveled Europe, I found most book stores carried American novels and our best selling lists were represented there, especially Young Adult, Mystery, and Thriller.  In most stores, the books were  in English rather than German or French.

Switzerland Book Store Shelf
With those cautions, here are resources and articles on the topic:

Selling to Foreign Language Markets (Which languages?)

Kindlepreneur: A complete guide to finding the right translator for your book (and your budget!)

Selling Books Internationally by Jane Friedman  

The Creative Penn: Translations

Translation services you can contact directly: 

Alconost To get a binding quote for the cost of translation please send your material to

Review of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass Series

I began the Throne of Glass series on the heels of Sarah J. Maas's A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I am giddy when I discover long-lasting series which results in past-my-bedtime binges. In this, the author does not disappoint.

I am particularly impressed with her worldbuilding and character development.

Genre: Fantasy

Blurb for Book One: In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien. The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.

Point of View: Maas skillfully shifts through multiple first person POVs. There were only a few chapters throughout the series where I wasn't certain whose viewpoint was represented at the start. Book 5 began with a flashback to the past that was confusing. I checked the list of books to make sure I had the correct book order.

Protagonist: I loved feisty Celaena Sardothien. As a professional assassin, the heroine was believable as a warrior and strategist. She is a "chosen one," but cannot save the world alone. She is a human who finds she has paranormal heritage and eventually is turned into an immortal. She is given several names along the way, but I didn't lose track.

Love interest:  In lieu of love triangles, the books books portray a realistic progression of relationships until a character finds his or her "soul mate." The secondary characters have believable relationships. Lovers of romance will appreciate the partnering aspects of the series.

Antagonist: There is one overarching antagonist in books one through four then a stronger antagonist is introduced and fought until the end of the series.

Friends and Foes: The characters are all believably motivated with shifting alliances and relationships that change. There is a large cast, but scenes only focus on a few characters at a time. There are a few foes turned friend and vice versa.

Stakes:  Like most Fantasy, the stakes are high. Domination by the enemy would result in harm to the majority of the species of paranormal and human populations.

Word craft: Several crutch words made a reappearance ( hiss and bark) but not as often. There are times when the expletives were repetitive, but I give her points for inventing originals.

Rules of Magic: Maas excels in this category. She explains where the magic comes from, how it works, and its price. The characters' powers have limitations. Magic is a renewable resource and the characters must recharge. Using magic makes them ravenously hungry and tired. There is a risk of permanently running out of magic if used all at once or for an extended period of time. That gives the magical characters a vulnerability.

Maas explains how shifting works and explains what happens to their clothing, another item other authors ignore. The process of transformation drains shapeshifters.

Maas also addresses how the aging process works with immortality. That is one head-scratcher authors rarely account for.

I accidentally skipped Book Six in the series. When I referred back to the descriptions, Book Six seemed to follow secondary characters I didn't really care about. I decided to leave the story at a satisfactory conclusion instead of going backward in the timeline. Other readers will enjoy the detour.

The books in order are:
0 The Assassin's Blade: a collection of prequel short stories
1 Throne of Glass
2 Crown of Midnight
3 Heir of Fire
4 Queen of Shadows
5 Empire of Storms
6 Tower of Dawn
7 Kingdom of Ash

Embarking on Book Seven, I was a bit battle fatigued and ready for the war to be over. I scanned many chapters following secondary characters that were introduced in Book 6. By this time, the cast and POV characters were so numerous, I grew a bit bored with all of the hookups. But fans of romance will be thrilled that much of the supporting cast had their happy ever after romantic resolutions.

Overall, it was a satisfying book binge. Maas has been placed on my "keeper" list and I look forward her new releases. You can follow her on Amazon, Twitter, and her website (

Further Reading:

Review of Sarah J. Mass's Court of Thorns and Roses

Short Stories, Serials, and Novellas

In a climate where even traditional publishers are demanding constant content, writers are asked to produce filler to keep readers engaged between book releases.

There are several types of "filler" content utilized in today's marketing regimen. 

A word about length: stories under 7,000 are short stories. Novellas run 20,000 to 50,000 words (100 - 150 pages). Novels are 50,000 - 80,000 (300 to 800 pages).

The Kindle Shorts program was discontinued and all books that were less than 2,500 words were removed from the platform (except for children’s books). Kindle books less than 2,500 words might not be accepted.  You can read more about their expectations here

1. Seasonal Stories

Christmas or other holiday themed short stories and novellas are very popular in Mysteries and Romance series. The reader stays in touch with the characters and story worlds they've come to love. The holiday tie-in is a proven marketing strategy.

An example would be Deanna Raybourn's Christmas novellas related to her Julia Grey series: Silent Night, Midsummer Night, Twelfth Night, and Bonfire Night. 

2. Related Novellas and Short Stories

Providing related novellas and short stories is a way of keeping your readers engaged. Some readers will love them, others not so much.  It's like getting a nibble but not a full meal. Whether traditionally published or self-published, these offerings have become part of the game. You can also utilize the novella to expand a secondary character's story or furnish a primary character's backstory. It could also be used as a prequel or bridge.

Cassandra Clare offers short story collections for her Shadowhunters series: The Bane Chronicles, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, and Ghosts of the Shadow Market.

I recently read A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Mass. It is a full length ( 320 page) installment to bridge the gap between the first Trilogy A Court of Thorns and Roses, and the next trilogy in the series not yet published. To be honest, not a lot happens. At first, I expected it to be the beginning of the next trilogy and was mightily annoyed to find it wasn't. The story is split between four POVs, which I also found off-putting. Note: make it very clear in the description that it is a filler, not an installment of a series.

Some fans enjoy spending time in the story world with characters they have come to love. I'd highly suggest providing a satisfying mini story arc to make the investment of time and money worthwhile.

3. Serialized Novellas

The best example I've read is Susan Kaye Quinn's Debt Collector series. In her futuristic society, debt collectors take your life energy and give it to someone more “worthy.” Quinn released nine individual episodes then issued a boxed paperback as Season One featuring protagonist Lirium. Season Two features Wraith as protagonist. Susan has five planned seasons, each from the perspective of a different debt collector.

If you've read other successful serials, leave the titles in the comments.

4. Serialization of a Novel

In the 1900s, a long list of  famous authors' books were published piecemeal by newspapers and journals. Luminaries included Alexandre Dumas, James Thackery, Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskill, and Agatha Christie.

Serializing a novel today can be done through self-publishing platforms such as Medium, or Wattpad.

There are pros and cons with serials. On one hand, you have readers who appreciate the short form. On the other, some readers hate waiting for the next installment. They may even forget to return. Many readers will wait until the installments are finished to read it. For that matter, many readers now wait until a series or trilogy is finished before buying it so they can binge read. 

Whether the benefit is worth the effort is up to you. Will it interrupt or derail your progress on the actual books in your series or will you enjoy the detour?

Related topics:

The Novella Economy: Making Novellas Profitable

The novella: Stepping stone to success or waste of time? Writers and editors weigh in.

Ten Tips for Writing Novellas

The Debt Collector, an Interview with Susan Kaye Quinn

Things You Should Know If You Are Writing A Serial

Serialize Your Novel on Medium

Why Writing Network Startups Are Banking On Serialized Storytelling 

Should You Serialize A Novel on Kindle

Structuring the Series: The Relay

We have discussed the Trilogy, and the Serial. This week, we look at the Relay. 

A Relay is similar to a serial and stays in the same story world, but switches protagonists for each book. A Relay is often used in Literary generational family or Historical sagas. It can be used in Mysteries, Fantasy, or SciFi.

A good example of the Mystery Relay is Tana French's Dublin murder squad series: In The Woods, The Likeness, and Faithful Place. The protagonists work for the same police division, but a different protagonist solves a new case in each book with different friends and foes. In a Relay mystery, the case is new even if you decide to utilize an undefeated mastermind or serial killer.

In a Historical or generational family saga, the challenge facing the protagonist may be the same story world imbalance or feud between clans. Philippa Gregory's historical novel series The Cousins' War (The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker's Daughter) is a good example of a Relay.

The Relay Romance follows a new couple as they struggle to connect. The new protagonist is a relative or friend or secondary character from the first book.

In my Mythikas Island series, this structure works as a tag team approach, handing off the overall challenge to a new character's POV.  Each character (Diana, Persephone, Aphrodite, then Athena) faces a "ghost" from their past in their book as the whole cast fights for survival to earn a seat on the ruling council of Mt. Olympus across the four-book series.

The antagonist is usually different in each book, though he could have a relationship to the previous antagonist, especially in multiple generational family or Historical sagas. There are several skirmishes that lead up to the final confrontation with the antagonist. The antagonist can be vanquished, reduced in circumstances, or killed off.

Friends and foes generally change with each story, though there can be an overlap of cast members. The parents could take a back seat to the children. The same court can have a new ruler. The original couple could be in the background in a Romance. Tertiary characters can become secondary characters. Historical characters, such as a king or queen, can remain in place but there is a different intrigue involving them.

The internal dilemma for the protagonist is unique to that character, whether it is a complication, internal struggle, or relationship. 

A Relay can be a fresh approach to an aging series. Anne Perry has extended her Thomas Pitt series with an offshoot featuring his son Daniel beginning with Triple Jeopardy.

An offshoot series is a form of Relay and many Trilogies utilize a relay for subsequent stories set in the same story world. Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments trilogy was followed by a step back in time with the Infernal Devices trilogy featuring the parents of the MI cast. She then skipped forward in time in the Dark Artifices trilogy using a new generation of Shadowhunters. The original cast makes an appearance.

I love finding a trilogy and long running series. It leads to a binge then a painful wait for the next installment. 

In the current publishing climate, the more books you produce, the more likely you are to stay visible in the vicious algorithm game. 

Next week, we'll look at related short stories and serialization of novels and novellas.

Related Topics:

Mystery Subgenres

Mystery Skeleton

Literary Subgenres

Literary Skeleton

Romance Subgenres

Romance Skeleton

Historical Subgenres Part One

Historical Subgenres Part Two

Historical Skeleton

Free tools and forms are available at You can also check out the Build A Plot Workbooks for MysteryLiterary Drama, Romance, and Historical.

Structuring A Series: The Serial

Anne Perry
Last week, we looked at the standard Trilogy format. This week, we will discuss the Serial format. 

A Serial is most often used for Thrillers and Mysteries. It can also be used for multi-generational dramas, or a Con, Heist & Prison Break series.

A serial can have as many books as the author cares to write. Anne Perry's Mystery series with Inspector Thomas Pitt has 34 to date and her William Monk series has 24.  Diana Gabaldon's Outlander is a long running serial.

The protagonist appears in each book and faces a similar overall story problem such as a murder, a dangerous threat to one or many, a family conflict, etc.

In each book, the main cast is introduced. The hero has special knowledge or a skill set to solve the problem at hand.

The antagonist is often different in each book. In some spy novels, the antagonist remains the same but there are different cases involved. The enemy spy is nearly caught, a major minion is apprehended or killed, but the case itself is resolved at the end.

Most mysteries are serials with a different crime to solve in each book. In the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, there is  a recurrent antagonist like Professor Moriarty, but each murder is solved at the end of each book.

Friends and allies are often a continuing thread, but it is possible to add and subtract cast members as the serial progresses. Focusing on different friends and foes in each serial leaves plenty of room for growth and offshoots.

The internal dilemma is usually the same throughout the serial, especially if it is a love interest. Their bond is tested as the books progress. 

The protagonist's internal dilemma can also be a sick family member, a child, or responsibility for another character that causes problems for him as he navigates the overall story problem. He may have a personal issue to solve: an addiction, an affliction, or an internal struggle.

The book covers follow a theme, but the titles can be unique. Anne Perry is a good example of how to keep naming a serial as it stretches out. It helps to have a subtitle such as "A Thomas Pitt novel."

Next week, we will take a look at the Relay series.

Related Topics:

Mystery Subgenres

Mystery Skeleton

Thriller & Suspense Subgenres

Thriller & Suspense Skeleton

Con, Heist & Prison Break Skeleton

Literary Subgenres

Literary Skeleton

Free tools and forms are available at You can also check out the Build A Plot Workbooks for Mystery, ThrillerCon, Heist, & Prison Break, and Literary Drama.

Structuring A Series: The Trilogy

There are several ways to structure a series. For the next few weeks, we will examine a few of them. We will start with the Trilogy.

The protagonist usually faces one powerful antagonist and his or her minions over the course of a trilogy. This is the typical format for Fantasy and Science Fiction for adults and young adults.

Book One covers the introduction of the cast, often with the protagonist learning they have powers or tools to defeat the antagonist. There is a central conflict introduced as the overall story problem with two or three turning points before the climactic engagement with the antagonist. This battle arc is completed, but the antagonist lives to fight another day. Friends and foes can perish or suffer. The hero and love interest live but may have been weakened and need to recoup and gather tools, information, or allies for the next book.

Book Two follows the second attempt to defeat the antagonist in the central conflict. There are two to three more engagements with the antagonist before the decisive battle. The antagonist lives to fight another day but may be weakened or appear to have the upper hand. Casualties on both sides often occur to add poignancy. The hero must gather more tools, skills, or allies for the final showdown.

Book Three is the final showdown with two to three skirmishes leading up to the deciding battle. The hero and his allies have all they need. They fight with everything they have. It may appear after the second or third skirmish that they could lose, but they rally at the climax and usually defeat the antagonist and his minions.

The hero's internal conflict can be the same for all three books or change. This can be a love interest, family member, or friend relationship. It can be a debt the character feels he owes, atonement for a past wrong, or an issue that sparked revenge. If a relationship is not involved, the internal layer can be the protagonist's struggle with responsibility for saving others or fighting a battle he didn't choose. He may pay a price, sacrifice something dear, or give up on the future he dreamed of.

Occasionally, there is a different antagonist in each book. In this case, there are several conflicts that lead up to the final confrontation where the next antagonist is revealed.

Friends and foes add interpersonal conflict. There are secondary characters with stakes and relationship issues. The tighter the cast, the more effective it is.

The external layer goal of restoring cosmic or paranormal balance to the story world is successful in most cases. If there is a second trilogy, the antagonist may appear completely defeated or retreat to rebuild his strength or a second antagonist emerges for the antagonist layer.

The covers should be similar with the series as a subtitle. It helps to note which book is number one, two, three, etc.

Next week, we will examine the Serial format.

Related topics:

Science Fiction Subgenres 

The Science Fiction Skeleton 

Fantasy Subgenres

The Fantasy Skeleton

Free tools and forms are available at You can also check out the Build A Plot Workbooks for Science Fiction and Fantasy.