Life used to be so much simpler and the author had so much more time to grab a readers’ attention before they decided to put the book down and do something else (those who were literate anyway). There is always something threatening to grab our attention away from the book like the latest PS3 game, the latest movie starring that mother of orphans Angelina Jolie (or is that Jolie-Pitt?) or the latest great television series (the Files, Lost, etc.) and it’s becoming more important for the author to include snares and traps in his work to grab the unsuspecting reader.
I sometimes wonder whether the Lord of the Rings would have been as popular as it is if it had been published in the last few years rather than when it had been. Of course, such a change would have meant a huge change in the fabric of existence and the publishing landscape could look incredibly different. My point between the waffling is that The Lord of the Rings doesn’t start with a hook and the great important first line wasn’t something which blew our minds. The Fellowship of the Ring spent pages and pages and chapter upon chapter expanding on Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday and the repercussions of it. But would it have enough to grab a reader’s attention?
I’m not so sure. I’m pretty sure that everything before Gandalf telling Frodo that the Ring is indeed the One Ring would have been excised and most of the preparations for Frodo to leave as well. Great scenes like the Meeting in Rivendell and the creation of the Fellowship would have been curtailed. Tom Bombadil, like the movie versions, might have been scrubbed out completely and chunks of the discussion with the ents would have been obliterated. The finished product would have been vastly different and the soul of the novel might have vanished.
The conclusion is that it would have been so different it might not have made as great an impact as it actually did.
Now, if you think of the limitations placed on a great like The Lord of the Rings above, what lengths would the modern author have to go in order to have such an effect? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if there will be any work which can be as influential as Tolkien’s great work.
The only conclusion I can make is that we are writing under greater limitations in the current day to attract more readers. We would need to meld the great world-building of Tolkien voer chapters into a shorter period and layer the world-building with hooks to grab and hold the reader.
Not an easy task.
How could I write a piece about inspirations and not include one about the great Doyen John Ronald Reuel Tolkien? If there is any writer who can claim a place amongst my inspirations then Tolkien stands foremost amongst all others. But then what self-respecting Fantasy author would not claim Tolkien did not influence them in the slightest? He probably created the whole genre of Epic Fantasy.
For the longest time, I was under the mistaken impression he had been born on 3 April 1892, which meant we shared our birthday and I took it as a sign that my future as a fantasy author was destiny (I was young). His real birthday was 3 January 1892, which means that if he had lived to see the travesty of The Hobbit being split into two movies, he would have been 119. The other fact which provided me with the greatest motivation was that he had been born in Bloemfontein, South Africa which is only a four hour drive from where I was born and live. Granted, he moved back to England with his family when he was still a young boy. But the fact he came from South Africa seemed to show to me that it was possible for someone to come from South Africa and be published in the UK and US markets.
My grandfather had urged me to read The Hobbit since I was very young but I had turned the book away and left the book with him while I read other childish novels like Willard Price’s Adventures series. I forgot about the novel and only read it after my grandmother gave it to me after my grandfather’s passing when I was 10 because he wanted me to have it. I still didn’t read it and put to one side until the day when I came home from the best English test I have EVER written.
The test had been a comprehension test and the teacher used part of the Hobbit. I didn’t want the story to end. I asked the teacher where the piece had come from and rushed home to pull the book out. I couldn’t stop reading it and when I had finished it, I knew I wanted to write stories exactly like it. My first story I wrote after reading it had the first line “In a hole in the ground…” it was incredibly derivative and I never finished it. There was no possible way I would be able to do justice to the work at that young age.
I followed The Hobbit with The Lord of the Rings and read it once a year every year for twelve years until the movies came out. Sadly, while I enjoyed the movie I think it took away from pure enjoyment of the novel and I haven’t read it again since.
But the Hobbit and J R R Tolkien inspired me to write and it is a debt I will never forget.
Well, I’ve still heard nothing from anyone about Pecan Hill from any of the agents which I queried, so I guess that I’ll have to take it as a hell no from them. It feels as though I have to revise my query letter again to try and hook them. Sometimes it feels stupid to try and explain what happens in the story. Is it possible that my logical mind is screaming that what I’m writing about is stupid and that the agents and anyone who reads the query letter will think it’s pathetic. I suppose I’m still trying to grow that thick skin which all authors need to have.
But it’s when I get to trying to write Spoil the Child that I’m finding myself hitting the wall. I know where I want to go but it’s getting over that wall or smashing through the wall which is proving to be a problem. I’m starting to wonder if I should start from the beginning again – like J.R.R. Tolkien with the Lord of the Rings and the slow progress of waves crashing up the beach, a little further each time. I guess you could say that I’m a little insecure with the whole setting. New York was the right location for Pecan Hill I knew it as soon as I started.
But I’m starting to wonder if Florida is the right location for Spoil the Child. I’ve only spent a week in Florida compared to living for four months in New York. I thought it would be fine in I created a small town which I could then terrorize, a little like Stephen King.
I’m starting to think if I should go back to Where Angels Fall which is a fantasy story for which I have finalised the first draft. I know at least in that world I will be in charge and have created the entire world already