I started listening to the audiobook for the first Lord of the Rings book this morning, marking the first time I’ve ever read (?) this extremely famous book trilogy. And aside from watching half of Fellowship in 2011, I haven’t seen any of the movies since probably 2004. So this is an extremely fresh experience to me!
It’s also bizarrely, uh, not widely appealing in the beginning, to put it politely. The first forty-plus minutes of this book, and it’s still in the Shire with Bilbo’s party and all his relatives. Bilbo just disappeared right when I stopped the book. Forty minutes of Hobbit culture and random irrelevant characters talking about their quaint little British lives… it’s a little bit boring! I like it for its whimsy, but there certainly isn’t anything noteworthy going on just yet.
And that fascinates me.
So much of writing advice talks about making a strong impact as fast as possible, for your novels to leap into the most appealing parts as fast as possible or to otherwise grab readers so they don’t let go. Fantasy novels especially so, with a cutthroat market filled with thousands of web novels and ebooks and gigantic 1000-page tomes at your local indie bookstore. Boring a reader is a straight ticket to them dropping the book and never picking it back up.
At least… that’s what’s always taught. That’s the advice that’s always given. Focus on the characters and the plot and keep the action (not always literal action) moving… But then the forefather of all high fantasy spends 40 minutes of its audiobook describing an out-of-the-way town filled with simple bumpkins? It flies in the face of all that despite being, of course, one of the most successful books in all of history.
Did Lord of the Rings simply exist and gain its fame in a time before that sort of stuff would have killed a book? Is its charm just that alluring even to reluctant readers? Or is the conventional wisdom given to writers not so accurate at all?
I have no idea, but it really interests me to wonder about it.
Ever since the beginning of the decade, I’ve been super into the idea of Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month if you don’t know what that is… Though considering that there’s a 95% chance you’ve discovered this blog post via one ofmymanywebstories, surely you already know what that is.
Well, it’s finally the end of Nanowrimo 2019, and it’s also the final one of the decade.
Throughout the decade, I have made, or at least planned, a whole bunch of different Nanowrimo attempts, the vast majority of them failing spectacularly due to various reasons. Let’s reflect on them:
If you know me at all, you know that the Star Wars world is by far my favorite fictional universe and favorite media franchise of all-time. Nine of the eleven theatrical Star Wars movies are in my Top 50 favorite movies list, I have shelves upon shelves full of Star Wars books and comics (I have about 75% of all Star Wars Legends novels that were released in hardcover, and over 50% of the Dark Horse comics in omnibus or trade paperback form).
But most of all, what I love about the Star Wars universe is its ability to tell all sorts of stories, large epics or small-scale romps, and just get so weird and idiosyncratic that it can tell the kinds of stories you just can’t get anywhere else.
I’ve been listening to the Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith audiobook lately, and by golly is it well-written. I read it when I was like fourteen or something, and remembered that there was a Count Dooku POV chapter that was good, but otherwise I didn’t recall anything about it.
Which meant that when I listened to the opening minute-long prologue, I got to experience this for the first time all over again. What a way to start a space opera tragedy. I friggin’ love it.
While I absolutely adore the film–probably my #1 favorite movie ever–there is something to be said by a novelization that takes the same plot, the same material, and imbues it with such freshness that it becomes even MORE of an epic.