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Entries in J.R.R. Tolkien (3)


Getting back in the hobbit

[DISCLAIMER: This post has absolutely nothing to do with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien or Peter Jackson's movies... though while we're on the topic, how disappointing are these The Hobbit movies? I mean, those Lord of the Rings movies were a ten-hour masterwork, and though it's basically the same creative team, these new ones are just CGI spectacule junk, don't you think? I don't care about these characters, I'm never worried that they're in actual peril, and there are some sequences that seem to exist just to crank the goofiness up to eleven. Also it turns out that Legolas is an elf sepremacist, which, really dude, not cool. Anyway, this post has nothing to do with any of that... though, I guess, now it kinda does?]

Last season on the Unwritten Word, I wrote about how I knew I needed a newish direction for the blog, but wasn't sure what that should be.

Well, this will surprise no one, but two months later, I still don't know. Things have been going really well on the "being a playwright" front (check out www.brandoncrose.com if you're curious about that), but these days I'm submitting to opportunities much more often than I am writing new stuff.

And so I return to you, blog, even if your premise is flawed. I'm going to restart the weekly challenges, and you are all more than welcome to play too (please brag in the comments if you do!), but I'm going to stop the whole "Sunday deadline" thing. Who am I to give you deadlines? Really.

I need to get back into the habit/hobbit of writing every day, and hopefully you guys can keep me honest about that. 

So, where were we? Ah right: Story about God's favorite who falls, but doesn't know it.

I don't know the Bible nearly well enough to give this the literal treatment, so maybe I'll just play around with the following:


...maybe I should have written that first? 


Building a magical fantasy world...

So I've decided to attempt a character-driven story set in a magical fantasy world... but how do you build a magical fantasy world that is both compelling and uniquely yours? How do you weave in fantasy tropes (magical trinkets, a perilous quest, etc.) without unwittingly copying everything that's come before?

Brandon Sanderson talks about how The Lord of the Rings changed the landscape of fantasy literature forever—and perhaps not for the better:

[Tolkien's] work was so revolutionary that the market couldn't deal with it. Readers wanted more books like LotR, but other authors weren't ready to produce high fantasy yet. The only thing they could do was try and do what Tolkien did.

But they didn't do what Tolkien did. They didn't create a new world, with its own mythology, its own society, its own technology, its own races and creatures. This wasn't their fault—they just weren't ready to jump to that level. So instead they applied their considerable creativity toward copying Tolkien. Instead of creating true high fantasy, everyone created more low fantasy—but they used Tolkien's world as a base instead of our own. The result was a kind of tainting of the entire genre, a 'Tolkienizing.' Fantasy didn't mean 'the genre where the author creates his or her own unique setting.' It meant 'the genre where the books include elves, dwarfs, wizards, and quests.'

(Link to the rest here.)

Well, crud. And conversely, if I am going to build an entire fantasy setting that's uniquely mine, owing nothing to Tolkien et al.... where do I start? The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has a great series of fantasy worldbuilding questions to ask yourself... but now there's the threat of being overwhelmed by the scope of this thing before I've even written one word. For example:

  • How are the continents laid out? If there is more than one moon/sun, how does this affect winds, tides, and weather generally?
  • How much land is there, and how much of it is habitable?
  • Is the axial tilt and orbit the same — i.e., does the world have the same seasons and same length of year as Earth?

I could of course just start writing the story and figure out these details later, but that's going to make for some tough writing.

Have you tried to build a magical fantasy world? If so, what was the experience like for you? What were some helpful things to keep in mind?


Step 6: Acquire loyal pet

Courtesy of Grant Snider from Incidental Comics:

[Original post here.]

Thanks (I think) to my sister Sarah for thinking of me when she saw this. I got a big kick of out it, but I'm specifically sharing this with you today because I have at last progressed to the sixth panel of this comic: Loyal pet.

We're bringing him home from the shelter today, so to be fair, there's no knowing just how loyal he is. But he is a consummate cuddlebug with lots of personality. I believe in him.

The folks at the shelter named him "Toast" because he came to them in a sealed toaster box with holes poked in the side. I want to rename him "Gandalf the Grey" but my girlfriend has doubts. Maybe she's right. It's been awhile since I read The Lord of the Rings, but I don't recall Gandalf nestling in to anyone's lap and purring.

What do you think? What would you name this guy? Bonus points if it's a literary reference.