So, here’s what I hope will be an interesting post (hopefully the first in a series) and something a little different. I’m going to post quotes from the Lord of the Rings and then talk a little about various aspects of writing that the quotes relate to in my mind.
A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to. ~ Gandalf
Now, Gandalf certainly speaks some sense here when it comes to writing. When I write, I think of the characters as all going about their own complicated lives as I am writing a scene for a different character. For instance, when you go into a butcher’s to buy some sausages, you are not a trigger which causes him to suddenly spring into life. Writing fiction is not like watching a play. Characters are not just there to drive the story onwards, they are living, breathing things that act independently of the story and the main character(s). So, getting back to the quote, when you are fitting together a scene, the characters arrive precisely when you mean them to. They are never late or early, at least in terms of your planning, they arrive at the moment that causes the story to progress.
From the ashes, a fire shall be woken. A light from the shadow shall spring. Renewed shall be blade that was broken. The crownless again shall be king. ~ Arwen
This is one of my favourite quotes. It perfectly describes the steps that form a good story. First we start with ashes and shadows. From this, a hero/anti-hero comes forward (fire) and brings a promise of hope and change (light). Next, he/she sets out on their mission and usually has to gather allies/power/experience to help them face the final challenge. This is like forging a broken or incomplete blade. Finally, the world is put to rights and everything is back in a (hopefully) good place.
I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. ~ Bilbo
This is what readers might find themselves thinking if you, as a writer, fail to handle your characters well. Especially if you’re thinking of becoming the next George R. R. Martin. A badly introduced character is the same as failing to introduce someone at a party. They will mill about aimlessly, perhaps insinuating themselves into a group at some point, but they are ultimately destined to be ignored. It’s exactly the same if you create an unlikable character with no redeeming features. ‘Excuse me everyone, this is Bob and he’s a serial killer who hates parties. Enjoy!’ Make sure the reader can sympathize with some aspect of every character’s personality, or you’re setting yourself up for failure.
He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: it’s springs were at every doorstep and every path was it’s tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” ~ Frodo
Our final quote can also apply to the way that a plot develops. I’ll twist the quote around for our purposes:
There is only one Story; it is like a great river; it’s springs are every character and every plot thread is it’s tributary. It’s a dangerous business, writing a novel. You start writing, and if you don’t have a plan, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.
What’s the message? Don’t get too caught up with a really cool idea/world before you’ve planned a basic story to go with it. It’s basic hobbit commonsense and far more hobbits survive Sauron’s onslaught than elves or men.
Next time I do this, I’ll choose a different sort of book/movie to quote from and we’ll see how that turns out. Thanks for reading.