Wednesday, November 10, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 88

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as fantasy author.

The Return of the King
by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings Series, Part 3)Do I really need to go into The Lord of the Rings? I mean, come on, the thing is about as popular as the Bible anymore. It seems everyone has read the books, seen the movies, played the video games, etc.

It's a quest story to save the world, okay.

There, enough said on the plot. If you've lived under a rock for the last few decades and aren't at least familiar with The Lord of the Rings epic fantasy trilogy, then you probably should be. It's like Star Wars. A common part of pop culture everyone should be aware of.

Sound a little testy there, don't I? But I don't mean to be. And no, I don't hate this series of books or anything like that. I've enjoyed them immensely over the years, and read each of the books multiple times, but I kind of feel, "been there, done that, slew some orcs, bought the T-shirt."

It's like having to listen to Sweet Home Alabama or Stairway to Heaven one more time. I don't really need to.


But that being said, The Lord of the Rings has a lot to teach writers, specifically fantasy writers. Heck, most modern fantasy fiction somehow or other has Tolkien to thank in one way, shape or form. If nothing else, his popularity and that of his books helped lead to the popularity fantasy literature enjoys today.

What can a fantasy writer learn from The Lord of the Rings, specifically the final novel of the trilogy, The Return of the King? How about immersion. What am I talking about? About making your world real to your readers. About bringing breath to your characters and textures to the world they walk in.

The story of The Lord of the Rings itself shows Tolkien's work about building a world and a plot that immerses the reader into his fictional reality. But more importantly, at least in my opinion, were all the extra appendices Tolkien stuck in at the end of The Return of the King. Remember that stuff? The pages of history about Middle Earth. The text about the languages of Middle Earth. The religions, etc.

I'm not saying a writer has to include all that information in his or her stories and novels, but some readers enjoy that stuff. And, at the least, the writer should be vaguely aware of that type of information. If not, then your world could feel sort of flat and dull to readers.

So, that's one thing I learned from Tolkien, and I thank him for it.

Up next: The Midnight Sun

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