When Your Fantasy Novel Sounds Too Modern

When You Need To Fix Your Language

I finished my copy-edit on my 5th round of revisions Tuesday night! So, I’m ready to go back to the querying!

Except, first – I’ve got a new critique partner doing a quick read through to check for blatant errors and things that might confuse new readers. That’s the sad thing with any reader, they can only read it for the first time, once.

However, last week, when my eyes weren’t quite recovered enough for focused editing, I decided to fix my language. Sometimes, when I can’t make coherent progress on the story itself, I’ll go through and look for problematic words.

Editing Out Filler words (and passive voice)

I’ve done it before with filler words and passive voice. Using search and remove or replace to lower the number of uses of each:

  • just
  • that
  • felt/believed/thought
  • all forms of ‘to be’ (am, is, was, were, be, being, been..)

This time, though? This time I was fixing an issue with my voice. I love Lilyen and her voice and her family, but sometimes? She sounds like a regular girl. Which would be great, except I’m writing fantasy.

There are certain tropes that are expected when you write fantasy, and one is that the language should sound… for want of a better word. Archaic. More polite.

Ways I Made My Language More Fantastic

  • Step 1 – I googled ‘formal English’ and ‘polite language’
  • Step 2 – I replaced informal words with more formal ones, particularly during dialogue
  • Step 3 – As I read along the paragraphs around those edits, I looked for other phrases that stuck out as ‘too modern’ and replaced those as well.

NOTE! I didn’t replace every word the same way, it took finesse to convey the proper meaning. If the pre-suggested word from google didn’t work, I went to my handy-dandy thesaurus and looked up synonyms (or googled them).

Here are some of the more widespread words I converted and some of the things I converted them into.


Hopefully my new critique partner won’t find too many sentences that got TOO stilted to fit in.

How have you changed your language for your setting?


  1. Definitely have altered language to fit setting and character, even after the fact, so I sympathise! But this crutches, so hard to let go of while writing … that’s why the fun starts when I come to the editing. Out go most of the justs and onlys, and the adverbs and the mood verbs and the gets and wases and … 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. See, I write crime–heisters, drug runners, really bad eggs–but now the muse wants a genderqueer dark fantasy novel. What you address is what I’m afraid of–can’t have my paladin talking like a palooka c. 1983. Guess I gotta read some more fantasy to get my mind right.

    Liked by 1 person

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