Epics of LOTR Proportions

My hubby read Sandra Boynton’s “The Belly Button Book” to my pregnant tummy every night for several months before our youngest was born.  Then we switched to “The Wizard of OZ” and the other books in the OZ series.  Although our newborn daughter wasn’t really comprehending the intricacies of the plot, she loved hearing Mommy and Daddy’s voices.  Now that she’s three and insists on hearing something like “The Magic Tree House” books, I miss the days when we could read something huge and epic, like Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

End Epic it is.  We switched from OZ to LOTR around the time she was beginning to talk.  She would still lie there in her bed at night, listening rapt to the next chapter of the story.  She would even ask for “Gandalf”, pronouncing the “Alf” correctly, instead of rhyming the name with “Golf” like so many do.  We stopped reading LOTR to her somewhere towards the end of “The Two Towers” because she told us it was scary.

I never have been able to get all the way through the books.  I read “The Hobbit” and “Fellowship of the Ring” somewhere around sixth grade, but I was so angry that “Fellowship” ended with, not just a cliffhanger, but a completely unfinished story, that I refused to go on.  Later, when I realized that the author himself intended the story to be one large book, and it was the publisher who insisted on breaking it into three, I wanted to go back and finish it.

Both my husband and I were somewhat relieved when our daughter decided she wanted something lighter for her bedtime chapter book.  But I felt guilty that I still didn’t finish what is undoubtedly one of the most renowned and deservedly celebrated works of fiction from the last century.

I can understand why the publisher insisted on splitting the story into three parts.  It’s huge!  “Fellowship” is 187,o00 words, and the others are almost that long.  But unlike many lesser works, the LOTR tells a story that takes place over many years.  Sometimes, when they stop somewhere, they spend weeks or even months there before moving on.  That’s realistic, and it’s nice to see that in a fantasy!

Many of the paperbacks I enjoy so much these days take place over the span of just a few weeks or months.  Understandable, a writer must present a story that will fit into a convenient 50,000-100,000 word book.  But I feel that romantic story lines suffer for this.  They become unrealistic.  Yes, true love sometimes hits people over the head, and I love those stories.  But more often, you don’t get your “happily ever after” till the people involved have been figuring their own story out for a couple of years.

(On a side note, hubby and I figured it out in six months, were engaged for ten months, and just celebrated our sixteenth wedding anniversary yesterday!)

My WIP is called “Under the Radar”.  I like Scharona’s story, and I want to tell it.  But it’s dragging on too long.  The story opens with about 500 words that take place when she’s a child (important) and then skips to coming of age.  There are a lot of ups and downs, and an important part of her story is the “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…” theme.  But although I’ve almost reached what might be the climax of the book, the denoument is where you actually get your happily-ever-you-know-what.  I have faith that I can condense the story when I go back to edit, but the problem is that I don’t want to put my energy into slogging through the writing of it when there’s so much else to do.  It’s April 3, and I haven’t written a single word for Script Frenzy.  I want to re-write my “Someone who annoys you” post for The Red Dress Club.  I let myself take a break from the WIP to begin “Lahla Land”, and I want to finish it.  It’s a short.  It’s funny, and fun.  I’ve also been thinking a lot about what I want to do for a “first” Kingdom Come story, and it’s already cooking in my brain, wanting to get out.  And even with all this, I have a lot of research to do in order to write some interview questions worthy of Patty Wright and Rhiannon Ellis.

Here’s the plan.  I’m going to short-hand the rest of Scharona’s story; sort of make it a glorified outline.  When I edit the story, I’ll cut way down on the back story, and expand the part I’m condensing now.  Then I can put my time into these other projects.

When do I get paid again?  Oh yeah… I’m doing this because I love it.  Because if I didn’t, my head would explode.  You other writers know what that’s like… don’t you?

About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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4 Responses to Epics of LOTR Proportions

  1. Jane Kindred says:

    Yup. Know exactly what that’s like. 🙂

    As for time passing and word counts, all of my books take place over a significant time period (my first was 30 years). I was always under the impression epics should be, well…*epic*. But the advice I got from Connie Willis at last year’s Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s conference was that “the passage of time diffuses tension” and should be avoided. (Or was it “defuses tension”? Damn spoken homonyms.) So now I’m kind of flummoxed. Events in my current WIP seem to be unfolding somewhat precipitously. Hard to find the balance in this era of “get my attention in the first five seconds and keep the tension constantly mounting or forget it.”

  2. @Jane… many of your characters have rather long life spans, don’t they? I can understand how the passage of time both diffuses and defuses tension, but it’s a choice and a chance a writer must sometimes take. Remember in the LOTR movie version of “Two Towers” where the heroes watch as King Théoden miraculously recovers from his affliction as they stand there? I’m pretty sure that, in the books, that recovery took days, if not weeks.
    And what if it’s not epic? What if it’s a rather simple, almost cliché story of “He did me wrong, can I really trust him again?” I don’t want to just “refer” to those times when they were in conflict before.
    I hate thinking about marketability while I’m writing.

  3. Erica M says:

    Hooray for rewriting! I admire you for diving back into a TRDC prompt. Even with small projects, it’s not finished ’til it’s finished.

    • I remember WAY back in High School, when I was considered a “good” writer, and enrolled in the advanced creative writing class. This was my first introduction to the concept of revising. Before then, the only reason to rewrite something would be to fix something that was wrong.
      The teacher was wonderful. She showed us how collaborating, critiquing, and revising led to a far better end product. It is the work of writing!

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