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LOTR one of the most harmful books for aspiring writers?

Arwen's daughter
Half-elven


May 16 2010, 4:07pm

Post #1 of 25 (534 views)
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LOTR one of the most harmful books for aspiring writers? Can't Post

http://thetyee.ca/...14/TenHarmfulNovels/

Crawford Kilian with The Tyee identifies ten novels that are "more hazard than inspiration." As they say: "They are often well-written, but their effects have generally been disastrous: they inspired younger writers to imitate them, they created awful new genres that debased readers' tastes, or they promoted literary or social values that we could very much do without."

And here's what they have to say about LOTR: "When I stopped plagiarizing Hemingway, I plagiarized Tolkien. It wasn't the old master's fault, and I got over it. But thousands of others created a literary Mordor: mass-market industrial fantasy, where the orcs, elves and dwarves march past like the North Korean army."

What do you think? Is LOTR a poor choice for writers to imitate?



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Magpie
Immortal


May 16 2010, 4:17pm

Post #2 of 25 (272 views)
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I'm not sure that's the point he's making [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Is LOTR a poor choice for writers to imitate?



I think the point he's making is, 'it's a poor choice to imitate anyone'. Not that imitating one writer is a poor choice and imitating another isn't.

But I think, as we learn a craft or skill, we imitate people. It's inevitable and may even be helpful in the learning process. It's just we need good mentors/teachers/editors to help us move past this imitation stage to find our own style. Unfortunately, money can be made off imitation so the incentive to do this pushing may not be profitable for some.



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Oiotári
Tol Eressea


May 16 2010, 4:23pm

Post #3 of 25 (257 views)
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agree in part [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien was a great writer and I have nothing against those who try to imitate his style of writing. And by all means, authors should be free to write high fantasy novels. The problem occurs when novelists in essence take characters out of LotR and place them in a different (but very similar) storyline, or use the same storyline with (slightly) different characters. As for myself, I try to give novelists credit and not immediately see another book as their book's base, but sometimes this is nearly impossible to do. Some books just scream "I'm imitating Tolkien and not hiding it well!"

Since there is no completely original novel, there is nothing wrong with using LotR as your inspiration, so long as you put your own thoughts into it too. Also, writers should try to not use one novel as their basis. Even better would be to come up with your own story and let the inspiration you have accumulated from other novels over the years affect you subconsciously.


Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens


RosieLass
Valinor


May 16 2010, 4:42pm

Post #4 of 25 (254 views)
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I can see the point. [In reply to] Can't Post

Anytime a great book is written, there are going to be (lots of) talentless hacks who try to imitate it. Unfortunately a lot of times the handful of truly talented writers who are capable of sustaining a similar quality get buried under the avalanche of dreck.

It doesn't really matter which genre.

In my case, Tolkien was detrimental to my writing aspirations, because I knew I could never measure up, so I don't even try. Crazy



Eldorion
Gondor


May 16 2010, 4:48pm

Post #5 of 25 (253 views)
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As far as I can tell... [In reply to] Can't Post

...the complaint is that the market is saturated with fantasy books that recreate Tolkien's versions of mythical races instead of modifying them as Tolkien himself did (and, while I don't read much fantasy other than Tolkien and Martin, my experiences with D&D and Christopher Paolini lead me to suspect it goes beyond just the races). I think it's a legitimate complaint against those who make Middle-earth knock-offs without much, if any originality. That said, eeing as just about all fantasy is influenced by Tolkien in one way or another, I'm sure there are some good stories that showed restraint in their "inspiration".



There's a feeling I get, when I look to the West...
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(This post was edited by Eldorion on May 16 2010, 4:48pm)


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


May 16 2010, 5:15pm

Post #6 of 25 (252 views)
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Speaking for myself [In reply to] Can't Post

I spent quite a bit of time early in my writing career imitating Tolkien and other fantasy authors. I think it's a necessary stage in learning to write, analyzing one's favorite authors and why their writing/storytelling is so successful.

I, myself, finally broke out of the mold and moved in other directions. But there have certainly been some very successful, if blatant, fantasy/Tolkien imitators over the years -- Paolini being one of them, because his youth made a great marketing hook for the publisher.

Just the other day, I saw what appears to be a series of novels based on orcs -- in fact, IIRC, that was the title of the first one, "Orcs", with a swarthy iron-helmeted face on the cover that could well have come out of Jackson's movie.

As for Tolkien's style, well, I'm a great admirer of it and love reading and re-reading the books, but I'm not sure anyone would be able to sell a fantasy novel nowadays written so densely and descriptively and with such antiquated dialog. (Which I love, let me repeat, but I know some avid readers who've never been able to read LotR because of the style.)

Thanks for the link, A's D.

* * * * * * *
Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?

A man may do both. For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!


Kangi Ska
Half-elven


May 16 2010, 5:43pm

Post #7 of 25 (246 views)
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This is pure compost. [In reply to] Can't Post

"they created awful new genres that debased readers' tastes, or they promoted literary or social values that we could very much do without."
"
thousands of others created a literary Mordor: mass-market industrial fantasy, where the orcs, elves and dwarves march past like the North Korean army."

It is natural to try to imitate what you perceive as being good and enviable. It is part of searching for your own voice. The problem is caused by greedy publishers and bad editors that think that because "A" was great and made lots of money that any book that vaguely resembles "A" will make money as well. Then there is the serialization of dreck and the marketing and so on. Art as commodity rarely produces truly great work. Every thing becomes transient and efemeral. Books become a way to pass time rather than the exploration of what it means to be human.

Now as to the immitation of LotR. Due to its great depth and massively interconnected nature it all imitations pale beside it. It does, however suggest the idea of creating your own fantasy world and this has been done a number of times with a great deal of success by several authors.


Kangi Ska

There is no place like the Shire...There is no place like the Shire...There is no place like the Shire...

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Elrond
The Shire


May 16 2010, 6:14pm

Post #8 of 25 (238 views)
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Harmful? [In reply to] Can't Post

Not if you pick ideas/inspiration loosley from the books, and change them beyond recognition so that not even tolkien himself would be able to see it, in other words you can get inspiration from it, but not copy it.
i do agree with Kangi Ska

Quote
This is pure compost Due to its great depth and massively interconnected nature it all imitations pale beside it. It does, however suggest the idea of creating your own fantasy world and this has been done a number of times with a great deal of success by several authors.



(This post was edited by Elrond on May 16 2010, 6:17pm)


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

May 17 2010, 12:28am

Post #9 of 25 (214 views)
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Tolkien V other writers [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing that annoys me a bit about other Fantasy novels is that they try to be like Tolkien but don't succeed. Take the start, for example. No one seems to realize, but the first chapter in Lotr and the Hobbit is quite quiet really. It could almost be the start of a fairy-tale and then matters begin to kick in. In the first page of Lotr the first characters we meet are 3 old Hobbits having a chat in the Pub like 3 old Yorkshiremen!
Now, how many other fantasy novels start like that? Oh, no, it has to be in the middle of a battle or in the midst of some woe or trouble. No-one else seems to believe in the idea of starting up slowly then building up the tension out of fear that if people aren't gripped in the first few pages they won't be!


GAndyalf
Valinor

May 17 2010, 2:57am

Post #10 of 25 (200 views)
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"Imitate", yes, EMULATE, no... [In reply to] Can't Post

For me personally, there are two reasons I never wrote professionally. First, I haven't the writer's discipline to manage it and secondly, I've always felt that somehow I just wouldn't measure up to even 1/3 of the quality of Tolkien (not many do, but it's partially paralyzed me for writing for a living).

"Be good, be careful, have fun, don't get arrested!"
---Marcia Michelle Alexander Hamilton, 7 Nov 1955 - 19 Nov 2009

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GAndyalf
Valinor

May 17 2010, 3:08am

Post #11 of 25 (212 views)
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Blame publishers... [In reply to] Can't Post

Back in the days before I acquired my "Tolkien is TOO much better than I am" to write I passed a draft by a young publisher who gave it back to me in about 2 minutes saying it was "too slow" for him.

"Be good, be careful, have fun, don't get arrested!"
---Marcia Michelle Alexander Hamilton, 7 Nov 1955 - 19 Nov 2009

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Oiotári
Tol Eressea


May 17 2010, 3:16am

Post #12 of 25 (221 views)
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sounds like what a lot of people say about Harry Potter [In reply to] Can't Post

I've heard many people say something to the effect of: "I read the first chapter, but it was boring, so I stopped"
I always want to say: "Well, if you had the patience to read farther, you'll soon realize that it is anything but slow"

Often times novels need the chance to lay down the base for the rest of the book to build on and refer back to
What would LotR be without us knowing what the hobbits gave up when they left?


Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens


Darkstone
Immortal


May 17 2010, 3:23pm

Post #13 of 25 (224 views)
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Hmmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

This statement is telling:

“…they created awful new genres that debased readers' tastes, or they promoted literary or social values that we could very much do without.”

Who died and made this bozo the arbiter of tastes and values? It sounds like this guy wants to make sure the unwashed masses only read “uplifiting” and “instructional” works as defined by Mr. Clifford Kilian.

As for the rest, anything that inspires a writer to write is a good thing. The best way to become a writer is to start writing and keep writing.

Some people dream of being writers. They sit around and fill dozens of folders with original ideas and one-of-a-kind characters and brilliant plots, dreaming of the totally unique stories they will write. But they never get past the dreaming stage.

As Jimmy Hoggard always said, “If you keep writing crap, there’s a good chance you’ll get better. But if you never write at all, you’ll never write anything good.”

And that’s an encouraging thought: If this Clifford Kilian guy keeps on writing this sort of thing, there’s a chance that one day he’ll get better!

******************************************
Yes, Chuck Norris does simply walk into Mordor.


weaver
Half-elven

May 17 2010, 4:11pm

Post #14 of 25 (177 views)
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The other side of the coin... [In reply to] Can't Post

Several really wonderful writers like Leguin and Gaiman site Tolkien as an influence on them...I guess I don't see anything wrong with Tolkien inspiring people to write, and with the wide range of results that come from that.

Tolkien also inspires people to read...my son is not a reader, but went on from the Hobbit and LOTR to . Tolkien hooked him on the power of imagination and books.

I know that some college professors, also, like Tolkien because they can get kids to take an interest in things like Medieval Studies and linguistics by starting with a class on LOTR.

Tolkien is not only applicable -- he's very "accessible", and that makes his works a great model and starting point for all kinds of things...

Weaver

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NottaSackville
Tol Eressea

May 17 2010, 5:04pm

Post #15 of 25 (191 views)
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Ahh, Darkstone - ever the Pollyanna // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Lunamoth
Rohan


May 17 2010, 9:48pm

Post #16 of 25 (154 views)
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I think it's a fine choice to imitate... [In reply to] Can't Post

...so long as the writer doesn't outright lift the story whole cloth, change the names and tell the same story over again.

Well, let me amend that. They can do that if they wish, but I probably would put it down as derivative and would colour my view of the writer's talents.

But you know, once upon a time, artists were taught their craft by imitating the Masters. As in, they'd look at a painting, and copy it, in order to get the idea of what that artist did to achieve what he did. Hunter S. Thompson wanted to know what it was like to write a best selling novel, so he sat down with one (Hemingway, I think it was) and re-typed it, the whole thing, word for word, to see what it was like to write a masterpiece. Now I don't know if I'd learn from it the way he did, but apparently in so doing, he was able to see what the author did that made the book a success by being a participant instead of just passively reading it. *shrug*

And yes, Tolkien's work starts off slow, and yes today that'd never float. Because the agents and publishers want you to start with a dead body; it's been their mantra for at least the past 10 years or so.They all seem to want action flicks in their books, instead of the quiet build up of a standard drama.

But you know, if your book starts of quiet, and it's working for you, then it's working for you. There's lots of "rules" about writing that people repeat obsessively, but again and again, very successful authors manage to "break" all the time.

tl;dr version - this guy's full of judgement and disdain, and I would pay him little mind.

Wandering in the Elven Wood


Anorien
Rohan


May 17 2010, 11:44pm

Post #17 of 25 (156 views)
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LOTR definitely helped inspire to me write [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know if it's saying Lord of the Rings is a poor choice, I think it's just saying that trying to imitate a writer's style in general isn't a good idea.

Before I saw the movies or read the books I had never been interested in writing. Afterwards, I began to take more care with my words and wanted to see what I could create with them. It has helped me develop a love of language and words. It has definitely influenced my style, but I'm still developing it as a young writer. I think works of literature can always influence us, it's just taking the bits and pieces you like and making it your own. Copying another writer's style is another thing, and is something people should be aware of.

The Lord of the Fellowship of the Return of the Two Towers of the Hobbit King of the Rings...with the Silmarillion!



Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


May 18 2010, 9:23pm

Post #18 of 25 (138 views)
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You know what they say [In reply to] Can't Post

If you plagiarize from enough sources, then it becomes research Wink

* * * * * * *
Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?

A man may do both. For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


May 18 2010, 10:47pm

Post #19 of 25 (133 views)
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Well, I couldn't agree more. [In reply to] Can't Post

I sure have trouble gulping down the idea that this guy is the arbiter of all good reading (and social values! I'd love to know which one we are to do without.Tongue)

C.S. Lewis in one of his published letters to a young writer advised against reading "the women's magazines" (hey!) because it would "spoil your ear," while Bradbury said he read everything, good and bad, and thought it helped him (sorry, I can't remember where I read that--it was an interview I found somewhere years and years ago).

I like the idea of a writer needing an "ear" as if they were writing music--as a musician and also a reader, I agree with the concept, and think it deserves more attention. And I think Lewis gives some other really good advice in these letters. But unless a new writer is reading "tin-ear" publications exclusively, I can't imagine it would have a permanent effect unless the writer wanted it to sound that way, or didn't care. And with Tolkien, initially one's "ear" might be so captivated that everything comes out sounding like an imitation. But I agree with everybody here who seems to be saying that a determined, thoughtful writer would use a favorite author to gain skill and new thoughts, and then synthesize them and go beyond into his or her unique style.

Exactly the same thing happens with composers. In music school we studied just that phenomenon: how "early" [Beethoven, Dvorak etc.] sounded very much like their most immediate famous predecessor or contemporary. "Everybody" sounded like Wagner for awhile for instance, and then we got Mahler being Mahler. But the thinking is (and I mostly have to agree) that Mahler would never have found those sounds without Wagner opening up the doors to some completely new ways of combining and structuring notes. (I really don't like Wagner myself, just for personal musical likes and dislikes reasons; and the Nazi connection makes one gag--but it was an example that came up easily Unsure). Early Beethoven sounds like Mozart in many ways--but it's wonderful stuff in it's own right, nonetheless. And then there's Tchaikowsky who maybe should have branched out from himself!Smile
They say he wrote the same symphony 6 times . . .Crazy (I like 'em though.)


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


May 18 2010, 10:53pm

Post #20 of 25 (135 views)
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Just as an aside: [In reply to] Can't Post

not at all a complaint--just maybe our laugh for today (and some *very odd* writing advice)!

This is really funny: The spell checker here has never heard of "gulping," "Tolkien," or "Tchaikowsky."

It gave me this:

"gulping [golfing, gloving, galloping, galvin]"

"Tolkien [Talking, Telecommunication, Telecommunications]"

"Tchaikowsky [Tegucigalpa, Texases]"


How 'bout a story contest using those suggestions as substitutes?Evil


dreamflower
Lorien

May 19 2010, 9:06pm

Post #21 of 25 (171 views)
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Harmful? Depends on why you want to write... [In reply to] Can't Post

*snort!*

Honestly, imitation is how everyone learns. If you want to be an aspiring writer of commercial fiction, imitate the most successful *current* examples of your chosen genre. Pick something you can formulate into three books of 70,000 words at least, no matter what length the actual story is. You then find someone to tinker with it until it's marketable. However, if you emulate JRRT's style, expect to get edited to death, and have all your poetry and songs yanked out. Be sure you don't take decades to write it-- publishers take deadlines seriously these days. Men of the caliber of Stanley Unwin are an endangered species in the publishing world.

OTOH, if you don't really care about getting paid for your work, but would rather just have fun and share it with other people, write what you want. And post it online.

And if you want to write in Arda, then do that, call it fanfic, and enjoy yourself! You will soon find a lot of friends eager to be your readers.


Anorien
Rohan


May 19 2010, 11:36pm

Post #22 of 25 (155 views)
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Lol [In reply to] Can't Post

Definitely don't want to do that.

The Lord of the Fellowship of the Return of the Two Towers of the Hobbit King of the Rings...with the Silmarillion!



jan-u-wine
The Shire

May 20 2010, 3:33am

Post #23 of 25 (149 views)
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that's like saying....... [In reply to] Can't Post

that knowing a couple who has a successful and loving marriage spells doom for your own attempts at navigating wedlock.

Tolkien has been called "the writer of the century" by some. Whether that title is deserved or not, he certainly is a writer worthy of being emulated by those attempting to enter the magical world of words (most especially in the fantasy genre). But the writer of the article is not complaining (exactly) about those who emulate Tolkien, but rather those who do so.......poorly, creating worlds that are shoddily put together, universes that the Professor would never so much have deigned to sneeze upon.

To this I say: shame, not on the writer, then (who is, after all, a *bad* writer, and might learn to be better), but to the publishing house that buys their book and the legions of books-as-fast-food fans who buy them (not to mention the movie studios who make movies from them).

Validate a poor imitation of Tolkien today by buying it, and tomorrow you'll have a poor imitation of the *imitation* (and so on and on).

One might say, then, that there *are* no bad writers, only bad editors that allow Word-Emperors to walk the streets with no clothes upon their backs.

I will not say the day is done,
Nor bid the stars farewell.


Arwen Skywalker
Lorien

May 23 2010, 5:17pm

Post #24 of 25 (117 views)
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from my experience [In reply to] Can't Post

I recently started The Hobbit and I learned a lot about my own writing from that. People have told me that one of my weaknesses is that I neglect physical descriptions in favor of characterization and dialogue. Maybe it comes from my unpleasant reading experience of Great Expectations. While I haven't read it since eighth grade, I do remember that I hated the amount of time Dickens spent on describing settings. The problem was I went too much in the other direction.

Tolkien's descriptions of the Shire and Rivendell are so beautiful that I don't feel like they slow the story down. That is something I hope to imitate in the future. However, I would never put songs in my stories since I have no patience for writing rhyming poetry. I have never tried writing in second person and I don't think I ever will. I enjoyed the conversational tone Tolkien used but I'm not sure if I can pull that off. There have been a few stories that used second person well but I hated the vast majority of those that used this type of perspective.

I wonder if I would have wanted to emulate more aspects of Tolkien's writing if I had read the novel as a teen (or a tween). I remember churning out crap stories when I was around 13, and I don't think most people at that age are good at taking something from another story and "making it their own." I guess that since I'm now older (in my early twenties), I now have a better idea of what I want to write. But then again, I have written LOTR fanfiction without ever reading Tolkien.


GAndyalf
Valinor

May 26 2010, 1:25am

Post #25 of 25 (108 views)
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<smile> Your post made me smile AS... [In reply to] Can't Post

And you make good observations about balancing a story according to the sensibilities of prospective readers. Enjoy your journey. "....Once you set foot outside your door, there's no telling where you might be swept off to!"

"Be good, be careful, have fun, don't get arrested!"
---Marcia Michelle Alexander Hamilton, 7 Nov 1955 - 19 Nov 2009

sample

 
 

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