• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:

    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!



Fallon Friday: Jennifer tells us about getting the language right

Welcome to the first of our ‘Fallon Fridays’ where fabulous author Jennifer Fallon writes about whatever is on her mind for the Voyager blog!

In my humble opinion, there shouldn’t be a single word in your MS that doesn’t advance the story, the plot, the characterisation or the world building (although there are authors who disagree with me). The key to good writing is to be clear and concise.

Just because you researched the ancient art of making glass beads out of recycled dung beetles so well that you can actually do it yourself, it doesn’t mean the reader needs to know about every minute step of the process, too, just because the queen appears briefly wearing a belt made of the aforementioned dung beetle glass beads on page 146.


“The sky overhead was heavy and dark. The ground squelched beneath his feet as he moved stealthily and silently towards the large, ghost-infested, mansion that was haunted.”

Hmmm, what have we here…

The sky overhead was heavy and dark.

Where else would the sky be?

The ground squelched beneath his feet

Where else would the ground be?

as he moved stealthily and silently

Two adverbs in a row… just shoot yourself now and be done with it, if you think this is a good description..:) And I’m sure I don’t need to point out that by definition, someone who is moving stealthily is not banging a drum as they go.

towards the large, ghost-infested, mansion that was haunted.

OK… even if we ignore the fact that by defintion, anything that is “ghost-infested” is also haunted, this is passive voice, something that belongs only in academic papers and is the reason they are so wretchedly boring to read, btw…


“The sky was heavy and dark. The ground squelched as he moved stealthily towards the haunted mansion.”

The other trap of genre writing in particular is the inappropriate use of language. Nothing will jerk a reader out of your sword and sorcery epic faster than your hero replying “Right on, dude!” when he’s asked to save the damsel in distress, (unless your story involves Keanu Reeves being sent back in time to bring the lost art of surfing to Roman Britain… hey, there’s a story!).

The language and references must reflect the character, the character’s knowledge, surrounding world and the setting. The village idiot isn’t likely to report that the enemy is advancing “in numbers commensurate with our enemy’s stated intention of annihilating us, my lord”, any more than the well-educated scribe the king has on stand-by would inform him that “there’s biggest mobs of them, boss.”

Be aware of the origin of words. Unless your story is set in our time, avoid identifiably 20th century words like “OK”, and be prepared to fight for the inclusion of others. I once had an argument with an editor over the word “artillery” because to her it meant modern warfare with guns. I had to prove it was a common reference in Roman times to win the fight.

The most classic and appalling misuse of language I can think of, however, is from the master himself. In The Hobbit, Tolkien describes Bilbo as being overwhelmed with a feeling of alarm:

“…he began to feel a shriek coming up inside, and very soon it burst out like the whistle of an engine coming out of a tunnel.”

Steam trains? In Middle Earth? I don’t think so…

Jennifer Fallon

For more from the brain of Jennifer Fallon, visit her website and blog.

And for more on her wonderful books – including her current series The Tide Lords – visit www.voyageronline.com.au

2 Responses

  1. […] Today Jennifer Fallon gives advice and comment on the use of language in fantasy. […]

  2. Great first entry, Jen!

    You could also extend this to a situation where the world is totally alien (I’m thinking of Glenda’s Mirage Makers trilogy here) but because she used ‘earth-type’ words to describe various characters and locations, it was easier to immerse myself into the world. I had one or two familiar landmarks that gave me security even though the world itself was so different.

    Yes, it did cause an intense debate and I think the participants finally agreed to disagree but that is something to keep in mind when creating a world.

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