Editors: Perian, Xara.
Primary Reporter: Ivy Brandybuck.
Chief Corespondent: Prongs.
Contributor(s): Lady Morrigan Shadow, Elaine (Fan), Space Case.
In this issue: Writing and Rings.
Story-tellers by Xara.
A Tolkien Writer's Brand by Ivy.
Clichés Every Writer Should Know by Perian.
Romanticism in Lord of the Rings by Xara.
What Goes In... by Perian.
In every issue:
Fanfiction: This Fortnight: Chapter Seven by Ivy.
Does anyone here know how much money Return of the King has so
far made in the box office? Because I don't, not specifically, but last
time I heard it was $300 million. Let's say that again, three hundred million!!
Do you know to how much effort the movie-makers went to build Hobbiton?
Because I do! They took an oak tree, hired an engineer to cut it down branch
by branch, taking a photograph of each piece as it was chopped, numbering
every piece, transported it to a completely different farm, to a hill atop
Bag End, wired the whole thing back together again and then, because it
was now dead, gave the entire enormous tree fake but extremely real-looking
and therefore extremely expensive foliage. That was one tree in the Shire,
and do you know for how long it appears on screen? Less than a minute for
certain! Less than thirty seconds I wouldn't doubt!
Now I'm sure you begin to wonder, as I have, why would a movie about a story that's not real, that never has been real and never will be real, make so much money, and mean so much to so many people? Why would Peter Jackson bother to go to such lengths to put in that one tree that most of the film's audience probably wouldn't have known or cared if it wasn't there at all? Why do so many people spend their lives reading the same story every year? Simply why?
Some people will tell you that stories aren't important, that they're not real and they don't matter. Some people will even go so far as to tell you to get a life. But stories are part of life. The very first artwork, cave-paintings, told stories. Languages were invented to communicate, and tell stories. People learn from the past, history, which is comprised entirely of stories. Most cultures and religions are by a large part made up of stories. Most conversations are started with stories, "Hey, you wouldn't believe what happened to me today...", "Did you hear about what happened in...".
Stories are important, even more important than most people realise. We need stories. We need characters we can identify with, and situations that we can understand and learn from, themes that we can watch on screen and then a week later suddenly gasp as we grasp for the first time what that really means, and how much it really does matter. It is amazing how much something that isn't real can have so much to say about our own lives, and how much we have to learn from something that never happened.
"It's like in the great stories Mister Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow, a new day will come. And when it shines it'll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mister Frodo, I do understand, I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn't. They kept going, because they were holding onto something..."
We all know who made that speech. And indeed it is a great credit
to Tolkien, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens that they could so clearly and
seamlessly describe and explain a concept that I have so much trouble putting
into words. Sam there has just given me a crystal clear example of exactly
what I wanted to say. He's relating a story, that either isn't real or
happened an incredibly long time ago, to himself and his present situation,
and drawing wisdom, understanding, hope and courage from it. That's the
significance of story-tellers in a nutshell.
In my experience, working with other writers who are fans of
Tolkien, ones who write fanfictions or essays on his writing, we all seem
to have one similarity. Not to say we don't have more, we all have the
obvious love for Tolkien and his work, but there was one more distinctive
quality: Some sort of mark or dent in the right ring finger.
While that may just say that we hold our pens 'wrong', it seems rather odd that we all share this brand. I'm sure there are those who don't carry the mark, it's odd that those I have come across do. It may be coincidence, it may be conspiracy, but perhaps something can be made of it.
There has to be something that bonds Tolkien writers together. Not just their love for the subject, or their writing ability; those are all traits and similarities we share on the inside. Shouldn't there be some physical evidence of what they love? Some mark that, over time, becomes more apparent and obvious. Why not a dent, callus, or red mark on the writing finger? It's proof of their love for writing.
When you think of this, though, you have to think: But which finger? Why, the ring finger, of course! Yes, that defies everything that you ever learned in your writing lessons in school: The pen should rest on the middle finger. But the ring finger signifies something bigger. For one, it's the ring finger. Rings... Rings... Why are they so familiar? Why, Frodo destroyed a ring! It's like a tribute to our favourite hobbit for saving Middle-earth!
Writing and Rings... They seem connected, no? That every Tolkien writer this reporter has ever met bears the same mark, and in the same place. Is it some strange coincidence? Or is it something bigger? Will we ever know? Perhaps not.
Though it is a general rule that writers should go to any length
(oh dear, thereís one) to avoid clichés, there are a few, scarce
few, which every writer should know and learn from.
Steal from one, itís plagiarism; from ten, itís research. It is only natural that we integrate that which we know into our writing (a concept which I have gone into more detail with in the article below). However, there is a fine line drawn between literary inspiration and plagiarism. If you write a story about an orphaned lad who is counselled by a wizard and thrust into a situation in which he must bring about the downfall of a Dark Lord, sooner or later someone will accuse you of copying The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or Harry Potter ... George and J.K. are thieveses, yes, precious ... But if you write of a herdsmanís daughter who incurs the wrath of gods in dragon form and is banished to a land of peril in which her only companion is a melancholy dwarf, chances are no one will know your sources.
A writer is, first and foremost, a reader. The more you have in your head, the more there is to draw from as you write. Reading expands your vocabulary, refines your sense of plot and writing style, and introduces you to situations and objects you would not have known to exist otherwise. Another benefit of reading is that it encourages and inspires the reader to writing more than any sticky note or New Yearís resolution can. Take time to read new material everyday.
A page per day is one book each year. Writing often looks daunting, particularly when it comes to novels. Why, you would have to write reams when you have the time, and who does any more? No, that is the common perception, but it is not altogether true. Consider this: If you were to write a mere one page per days (approximately 300 words, equivalent of about five short e-mails, two small diary pages, or half an article,) which, with practice, can be done in less than an hour before you go to sleep (less time if typing) you would be able to produce one full-length novel per year. In other words, if you started now, you could write thirty volumes and still retire early.
Nothing dislodges a writerís block as well as a flood of words. Staring at a blank page or screen for hours is not likely to provide inspiration. If you donít write, nothing will ever be written on your story. The key is to transcribe the images in your head into words. If you cannot think of what to write, put down every thought which crosses your mind, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. Who knows, perhaps hobbitsí furry feet evolved out of clearing writerís block while Tolkien was staring at the hair of his toes. If all you can come up with is "I canít think of what to write", that is still a beginning. Elaborate on that. You can always edit what you donít want out later.
And now in complete contradiction to this entire article: Never use a cliché! Not meaning "do not integrate what you have just read", but rather do not fill your manuscript with overused phrases. When in doubt, follow your heart, but donít do a halfway job: In for a penny, in for a pound. Ah, now do you understand? That sentence, though making the point, sounded pedestrian and trite. Compile a list of phrases you know to be clichés, and if you find yourself writing one, go back and rework the sentence.
'Romantic'. We all think we know what that word means, but do
we really? I know for a long time I thought romance was restricted to love
affairs and such things, but then I had no word for these other things,
things which I mostly encountered in Lord of the Rings. Like the way your
heart leaps when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli chase that one-hundred odd
band of Uruk-hai who've captured Merry and Pippin. Or how Tolkien's notoriously
long descriptions, can sometimes be absolutely enthralling. What we don't
realise is that this is actually romance as well.
I looked up many dictionaries in research for this article, and whilst some of the definitions of romance were incomprehensible to me (one of the reasons for this articles delay in the writing) but I have finally found some from dictionary.com which had perfect clarity. "A mysterious or fascinating quality or appeal, as of something adventurous, heroic, or strangely beautiful. A long fictitious tale of heroes and extraordinary or mysterious events, usually set in a distant time or place." Sound familiar? The fact is, the whole of Lord of the Rings, not just the bits which Aragorn and Arwen, and Eowyn and Faramir, is romantic, and that, in my opinion, is one of the many reasons why it's such an amazing story.
People read Lord of the Rings because they want heroism that you don't get in real life, and bravery that we seldom get a chance to see or to be. They want loyalty to friends and leaders that we don't see so often these days. They want to read about noble characters and amazing feats of courage and endurance and all these romantic notions that we dream our own lives could be more like. That's one of the reasons we read it anyway, there are of course many more, but I don't think the romance of it is down the bottom of the list.
The fact is, at times our own lives and world will seem to be entirely bereft of romance, and I think it's at these times that we need something to fill the gap. It is important for our imagination and emotions to be excited and often the real world is somewhat disappointing in that area. Now knowing the true nature of romance, I don't think there's one person here who can't say they're not romantic. You wouldn't be reading this if you weren't, because Lord of the Rings wouldn't have such a strong appeal to you. I'm not trying to say that this is the only reason people like probably one of the greatest stories of all time, but now we can put a name to that myserious emotional appeal Tolkien's great works of fantasy have on us all.
While writing, an individual is drawing ideas not out of nothing
but from his or her own mind. No, there is no secret vault with all the
books unclaimed waiting for an authorís name to be tagged upon them, nor
a toga-clad woman who will appear in oneís room and tell a story in such
a way that they one who later writes it down never forgets a detail. At
least, not that I know of. If you do find either, let me know.
So how do writers like Tolkien come up with such original ideas if they cannot be attributed to superhuman sources? Is it merely the result of an avid imagination? In a sense, yes. But do not mark it off to that solely either. As a stand-alone tool, the imagination is on weak foundations. You can picture thousands of different situations, but without a wealth of information from which to piece together those imaginings you will be left with a drab and unoriginal tale.
The truth is that for such works of fantasy, or even simply fiction, to come out of your mind, something must first be put in. Tolkien wasnít exactly original, as we and others have mentioned many times before. Dragons are part of many cultures, the Dead Marshes stemmed from WWI experiences, the language of the Rohirrim is almost purely Anglo-Saxon. His wealth of knowledge and experience flowed into his writings. Not as allegory or deliberate intellectual steals, mind you. No, simply as the elements he was able to use. Better known by the titles research and inspiration.
This use of his own knowledge created a rich setting and story in which to place his equally colourful characters. Every nuance is so precise that if you study it in detail, examine the myth surrounding it, the experiences which led to it, the symbols within it, you will find another world connected to it. This creates a story with so many layers that it can be read again and again, each time with new insight flavouring the experience.
Thus, the key to good writing is not originality, but to amass knowledge. To shape it in such a way as to be unique. To make ordinary life (as seen in things like the loss of the Rover puppy or the style of his daughterís favourite doll) into something extraordinary (the story Roverandom or the character Tom Bombadil.) More important even than all of these is to have a thorough understanding of not only what you are writing, but the language in which you are writing it. While writing you may have an image in your mind... let us say it is a nautical scene. You see a man tying ropes, but you do not know what the terminology is. You do not know the words "rigging", "yardarm", and "starboard". In not having the words you are unable to put to paper what you wish to express, and so the image never goes beyond your own mind. You see?
In order to create a world which does not exist, you must first allow it access to as many realistic details as possible, be they facts, myths, experiences, or words. Observe sensations and emotions that you might better relay them, draw conclusions about situations based on what you perceive. Write down what you think could be interesting in the future in a journal, be it a thorough recounting of an encounter with a friend, or a poetic description of a frosted branch. Use these, look closely at everything you have so long taken for granted, for what goes into your mind shapes what will come out.
The small company travelled for four uneventful days, until at
last they arrived in Minas Tirith. Pippin was becoming rather excitable,
but Merry was still sulking. When they reached the highest level, Aragorn
was there to greet them.
"My friend! Mae govannen!" he cried, walking to them.
"King Elessar." Eomer and his men bowed, but the hobits only nodded their heads, thus receiving strange looks from the three other men who had ridden with them.
"Come. We have much to discuss," Aragorn said, leading them in to the audience chamber. A table had been set up, four chairs around it. Eomer dismissed his men as he, Aragorn, Merry, and Pippin each took a seat.
"Am I finally going to learn what this is about?" Merry asked. Again Pippin laid a warning hand on his cousin's shoulder, silencing him for the time being.
"Yes, my friend. You will be brought to light on the events that have brought you here this day," replied Aragorn, smiling down at him.
"Finally," Merry muttered, heaving a sigh of released frustration.
"Now, Eomer knows the reason we are here-"
"So why couldn't he tell us when we arrived!?!"
"Merry..." Pippin warned.
"I couldn't tell you because I was told not to."
"Who told you not to!?!"
"Thanks, Aragorn, you wasted four days of my life for that!"
"You have much of your life left to live, Master Merry." With that, the hobbit went silent again. Aragorn continued without hesitation. "A band of pirates from the south have been working their way up rivers and channels, destroying villages and killing innocent people along the way."
Pippin went wide eyed. "I've never heard of pirates from the south..."
"Nor have I. That's what frightens me. And it seems they are headed this way."
"You mean they're making for Minas Tirith?"
"It seems that way, yes," replied Aragorn.
"Wait, wait, wait..." Merry interrupted again. "You're saying their making their way here by way of the Anduin?!"
"Yes," Eomer answered, "we believe so. We think their plan is to then make their way to Rohan by way of the River Entwash and into the tributary River Snowbourn. By that way they can come to Edoras. They will have supposedly taken Minas Tirith by then, and then there would be nothing to stop them."
"That's what I fear..." Aragorn replied gravely, "We may not be able to."
Xara: Your two best friends have been kidnaped by orcs during a camping trip by the river. You're miles from anywhere and they could be dead by the time you find help. You know you'll have to pursue them. To run at the pace you'll need to catch up with them, you work out you can only take with you three items, what are they?
LMS: HA! If you saw me, lol, you'd say, LMS, hon, you're gonna need
at LEAST a horse. If not the buggy, too. But, since this deals with a fantasy
book/movie, let's all pretend that I'm in shape.
I'd definitely have to take a sword, but, not one of the types in the movies. The kind you see in movies about the Middle East....the ones with the looong curved blade. Like in The Mummy. THOSE could take off the head of an orc, no problemo. I'd take rope...a LOOONG rope. I have to carry my friends with something, right? Just kidding. It's for tying up the remainder of the idiot orcs that decided to mess with me. And, of course, my staff. What, you're surprised that I have a staff? You've never heard of LMS the Burgundy? Tsk tsk. Maybe you should read a bit deeper into the books, eh? *Giggle.*
Xara: Every day as you walk to the bus stop you pass a mountain. No big drama, except this mountain seems to have it in for you and keeps hurling snow and lightning and boulders at you as you walk past. There's no other route to the bus stop! What to do?
LMS: Of course, I'd glare at it. That's a given. BUT, I'd also have
a semi-plan. Since it's a whole mountain and more than likely has NOT been
too deeply mined by the dwarves, I'd start building a tunnel. I mean, seriously,
who REALLY needs to be on time for the bus? Are THEY ever on time?? Anyway,
I'd start building a tunnel, mostly with spoons, and see what was up with
the mountain. If, indeed there were a Balrog, it probably wouldn't mind
hanging out across the street in Compton (the nickname we gave to the houses
across the street, lol) But, since there are people who would make me put
it back, I'd have to wait until the snow came back, so the flames would
be at a minimum, and put him back in the hole...sealing it by tumbling
Wait, I haven't answered your question yet, LOL. Since Saruman got his booty whomped by the Hobbits, I'd have to make sure it wasn't Paddy up to her 'dark lordess' tricks. Then, if that wasn't her....I'd probably have to find another bus route. Who wants to walk by a mountain that doesn't like them?
NOTICE: The world needs more hobbits! Where are they? Why aren't they
coming out to help us in our hour of desperate need!! If anyone has seen
any hobbits, please contact me (email@example.com) so we can get together
and recruit them for populating amongst our society. Thankyou.
PERSONALS: Young Orc looking for love. Enjoys senseless violence, toilet humor, and long walks in the dead marshes. If any of these tickle your fancy, drop me a line at: dank hole # 36, Mordor.
Of Places and Geological Features, Part V: (Key: q. = Quenya, s. = Sindarin.)
formen (q.), forn (s.): (noun) north. Formenos, Fornost.
gaer: (s., noun) sea. Belegaer.
gil: (noun) star. Osgiliath, Dagor-nuin-Giliath.
girith: (adjective) shuddering. Nen Girith.
Ah, thankee! I got the inspiration from the most odd place... Hopefully more comes soon, and there really will be a follow-up article!
Wow, Quickbeam that was such an interesting article! I wouldn't even have thought of doing a comparison if it were me! Thank you so much for writing that! Hehe Perian, as soon as I started reading your article I was blinking profusely, but I enjoyed it very much! I know I'll be constantly scrutinising Elijah/Frodo for blinks now... And Ivy, for a minute there I thought you were going to say Estella was Pippin's secret desire but I'm glad to be proven wrong!
*Gasp.* I have research to do!
Teeheehee... Blinking is like yawning. Once mentioned, it becomes impossible to avoid. I wish I could claim the noticing of it as my own, but it was by observing the conversations of others that I realised Frodo is neigh upon being the owner the second and third Lidless Eyes. As with Legolas in the "statements of the obvious" relisation. It is amazing what one can discover by eavesdrop- er, listening.