Anachronistic Idioms In Fantasy Writing

I feel the need to give this post a little intro. For those who are new to the site, Jesse adds articles on his writings every once in awhile.  He just finished writing The Autobiography of Ziggy Swift: the Fall for NaNoWriMo and he’s now going through the editing process on it as well as is first book – The Autobiography of Ziggy Swift: The Rise.  You can find more on Ziggy here. – Jackie (cross-posted from

The petrified dragon hit the ground like a freight train, sending ripples across the field and shards of stone in all directions.

It’s a simple enough saying, yet Ziggy can’t say it. Why? Because in his world, there are no freight trains. Now, while Ziggy’s brain has been shattered into a million pieces, and he often sees glimpses of other worlds, there are problems with him using the phrase. I’ve thought long and hard about the best course of action whenever I’m writing and this phrase comes to mind. Idioms and metaphors are essential writing tools, but I find myself constrained at times by keeping things “in line” with the world I’m writing about. If Ziggy starts talking about his Twitter Feed in the book, it’s gonna seem out of place. The same thing goes for the metaphors/idioms he uses.

  • Use it anyways: It may be amusing for Ziggy to speak about cars and radios and coppers, and within the context of the book it might even lend to his instability (in a deadpool 4th wall sorta way). The problem is it may throw unsuspecting readers as sloppy writing.
  • Use another common Idiom: Things like “hit like a ton of bricks” are well known in our world and make sense in his, so the common dialog makes sense. Good luck finding a free Idiom Thesaurus.
  • Create a parallel: Replace “Lets get shit-faced,” with “Let’s get orc-faced.” While visually I can see Ziggy making an orc-like face while drunk, parallels can feel forced or false. Perhaps I’m just not good at them.
  • Avoiding them altogether: Use more generic metaphors like ‘rammed like an angry goat.’ I suppose ramming something like an angry goat isn’t really more generic, but ultimately it may give you more creativity.

So where does that leave me? I judge it on a case by case basis. Sometimes you can take the bull by the horns, other times it’s best to just get orc-faced and forget about it.

About Jesse 29 Articles
The Master and Overlord or better known as the hubby who keeps LE running. He rarely reviews, but he's the one who keeps everything running smoothly from the IT perspective.