I have a confession to make.
The date is marked, Sepetember the third, where I make my public statement to the audience of four that reads this blog, that Tolkien did not inspire, and influenced little of, my fantasy novel.
*Tuxedo-wearing audience chokes on their toothpicked hors d'oeuvres upon hearing this public statement. Appalled looks of outrage are exchanged with one another as they contemplate their lack in character judgment by coming out to support me*
Or, perhaps, it's refreshing.
Of all the fantasy works I've come across, I've found nil to none free of an obvious Tolkien praise, influence, or even parody.
But we'll get to this later. We're going to be disucssing two Tolkien-related things in this post.
1) My lack of inspiration from Tolkien as opposed to my main influence (which will be revealed shortly)
2) Tolkien's characterization
Ahh, yes. We're here. The Tolkien post. The fantasy writer's repertoire of influence begins and ends with a gollum impression that has been responsible for several deaths by choking (is he doing the best impression yet or did the olive finally get to him?).
When I look at my own repitoire of influence, particularly regarding the fantasy genre (as I've been favoring the science fiction genres in these past posts), I recognize a closet tinged with the beauty of Tolkien though I must admit I think our greatest device should be the mirror staring back at us in that closet.
Exploring the wealth of our imagination and potential is not always easy, though, and guides, chosen carefully, are never a bad thing. Now, my greatest influenece, as I promised I'd reveal, was....
That's right. I am one of THOSE people. I grew up playing swords and knights and animals and lightsabers and video games. In fact, just last week I had a thrilling battle of knights with -- well, back to the post, shall we?
Not Skyrim in particular but the entire Elder Scrolls saga. In fact, I shiver to think that I may even have to remove this post one day lest I be criticized for allowing it to manipulate my world-building techniques too closely. The mideival Empire, the vividly unique provinces, the depth of history and religion. Todd Howard, Bethesda Softworks, they are not just video game makers, but lush, underrated story creators that could rival Tolkien himself. The irony is that I'd be bold enough to guess that half of their players do not bother to even pore over a THIRD of their lore. Next post, or perhaps the one after, we'll see, I will do a lesson on world building. But now, back to Tolkien.
character from that book who made a lasting impression and part of that is faulted on the amount of characters he tossed into the pot. How many dwarves were there? And all their names rhymed? When you are authoring a book, EVERY character must pop. A name and a dialogue tag will not do. It is YOUR job to make even the guard -- yes, the guard who is in every single fantasy novel as the typically middle-aged, plate armored, and frighteningly easy to kill off -- stand out as a unique person. Give them a lisp, a limp, a white eye, make them toothless (my most recent effort). There will be no stock characters. But that's how I felt with Tolkien repetitive dwarves. It came across as more a child's fable than a true fantasy novel.
And that's EXACTLY what
it was. A child's fable.
Here's some Tolkien history for you.
The entire Lord of the Rings saga was intended to be for children. But once he began writing the core trilogy, he realized it was darker than intended and allowed it to mature naturally. THAT is when he hit his mark on characterization.
The Fellowship party teemed with originality. Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas -- all as different as night and day. And then we have the hobbits, of whom Sam is the true hero, I believe. The one who humanizes it all -- in it for Frodo, not for the world. Unsure of himself and yet sure of his devotion. Knowing he will recieve none of the glory, never has, and still carrying Frodo in my favorite scene of book three up Mount Doom. (<-- Tolkien sort of...ran out of creative names when he dubbed that).
-- Why he was the best hobbit. Also a close recollection (similair, though not inspired by this, I must add) of one of MY favorite lines in Breakers. But you'll have to read it to find out.
My time runs short as I must write my nightly chapter before the hermit crabs need re-hydrating, but I will make one more statement. It may very well be that my impressed attitude towards the characters in Lord of the Rings is solely credited to the actors in the movie, who, in some circumstances, made "good" characters "great." As Michael Caine said, the most important part of a movie is casting. After that, the work is done for you.
So go ahead and check out my "Fun Stuff" tab, actors, and write me with your acceptance letters. There's been a few additions.