Language and World Building
As writers, continuing to develop stories of far off lands, times long ago and galaxies far far away is important. A major point many writers focus their efforts is world building. Creating a believable landscape in which they can draw their story. This is an important aspect to writing if the world building itself serves the story’s purpose. Any fiction piece, especially fantasy, has one crucial pitfall that may desecrate the landscape that they have created. It is a simple fact, but language can't be ignored. Many creators take the time to create backstories, character lines, and cultural norms, but languages are something that sometimes gets overlooked. If your world has one language (or even two), it's not very realistic. Linguistically speaking, residents found in isolated areas may all be monoglots, but the biggest city in the regions that serve as hubs for all the represented cultures should be a bubbling cauldron of linguistic excitement. These are facts that may not be extrinsically known to readers of your pieces. However, intrinsically, we are quick to point out when something does not match or jive with our subconscious representations of language. These semantic memories we have of languages influence how we perceive not only speech of characters but the tone as well. Now keep in mind a writer doesn't need to create a hundred languages, but they should be aware that they will exist—and they'll exist in families, not as isolates. Basically, if different cultures are important to the story, different languages likely are as well.
Now here’s the thing. If you are willing to tackle the task of adding aspects of language to your story there are important factors to keep in mind. First and foremost, take time to think about the nature of the language. There is a very big difference between a conlang and a sketch (aka naming language). To know which one your story must have, requires, well, world building. If the author is going to take the time to create a fantasy world with different regions, countries, and/or worlds. It’s important to give thought about how these cultures interact. What is at the center of their communication (body language, speech, a blinking light on top of their head)? Not only that but what is the history like of these places and people. If the history is vast with migrations, conquering or complete annihilation, this will cause variation in the linguistic footprint they leave (traditionally in ascending order; migrations with most language carried throughout history). We don’t have a lot of examples of real-life other worlds to draw on, but keep in mind that it is unlikely that there would be an entire world living with only one language. So, do some building. Take time to think out what importance does the language play in your world. If you decide that you mostly just need names and maybe one line of dialogue that's never translated a naming language will suffice, otherwise you'll need a conlang. If you don’t know if you’re up to the task of a conlang first start with the naming language.
Just like atoms are the building blocks of matter, sounds are the building blocks of language. They are the smallest and most significant part. These sounds, called phonemes, have a set of sounds that build on one another to create meaning. So first you need sounds, a good resource if you are unsure is here. You can listen to the sounds and choose from those that you “hear” your speakers using, don't forget to choose both consonants and vowels!
Once your sounds are chosen, you must put the sounds together. This is done by creating syllables. These syllables are done usually in clusters. By alternating consonants (C) and vowels (V). In English, syllables can be as small as “a,” a single V, and as large as “strengths,” CCCVCCC. Once you have all your possible syllable combinations listed you can start using them in conjuncture with your sounds. This will begin the process of creating words for your language and thereby a very rudimentary naming language. If at this point you are saying, nope this isn’t for me then that’s okay. There are plenty of conlangers that would gladly collaborate with writers (and do so all the time). In fact, there is a place specifically for writers to find conlangers and linguists to help them!
Also, keep one other thing in mind. This naming language idea is strictly based on one thing, sounds! What are sounds? They are pulmonic tones; that is, things that we as sentient creatures create with our lungs and larynx. So, what if your story has creatures that don’t fit this?! That’s okay! Get creative. Languages don’t have to rely on sounds. Communication is not just sound. As humans, much of our communication is non-verbal. We rely on body movement, posture, and position to determine meaning as well. I once created a basic language that involved a beetle like species where depending on the number of claws they had on the ground vs in the air relayed meaning. Many conlangers tend to push to something that feels tangible which is something that someone can learn or speak. This doesn’t have to be the case for your story. What are your characters telling you? Listen to them! For those that are interested in further activities for naming languages look to one of the granddads of conlangs,Jeffrey Henning.