Little Hope to No Hope, Part 1

Submitted by James on Fri, 01/01/2010 - 04:04

The mind of J. R. R. Tolkien amazes me.  Here is a man who developed his own fictional world, with history, peoples, languages, stories, and legends to an extent that no other author has ever been able to do.  I will not even say that Tolkien is the Homer or Virgil of our day – in my opinion, he far surpassed both of them put together.
I have long wanted to do what Tolkien has done – author my own world, with its own unique history, its own languages and peoples, a place where my own fantastical epics could live and thrive.  I have wanted it to be like Tolkien’s Middle-earth is some ways: exotic races, mythical creatures, and things too extraordinary to be a part of our world.  Yet, in other ways I have wanted it to be more like our world:  Eru llúvitar, that is, God as represented by Tolkien in the fictional setting of Arda, is in my opinion too far removed from his creation.  Although he made man and elves and awoke them, he then left it to the Valar to deal with them, and delegated much of his creation to them.  In my opinion, this seems inconsistent with God’s nature – although this is perhaps subjective; some might argue with that, and Tolkien’s history of Arda is still beautiful.  I nonetheless can not bring myself to create a world where God is not relationally involved with his creation, without layers of Valar in between.
Differences aside, I must admit that Tolkien has forged the path for epic medieval fantasy that I am now traversing.  And I find myself repeating many of his footsteps.  Long before he published The Hobbit, Tolkien was working on his languages, and the mythical history behind them.  After he wrote The Hobbit, he wanted to go back and write an account of the history of Arda and Middle-earth, although he had little hope of anyone taking interest in it beside himself.  In his own words, “Those whose advise and opinion I sought corrected little hope to no hope.”
In some ways, I face the same dilemma.  The Érenyel is my Silmarillion.  It is a history of the world I am trying to create, and its function is not that of a novel.  The little that I have thus far written seems awkward in many ways.  As Kyleigh pointed out in a comment, “It does seem a bit like ‘It happened’ … there could be more conversation and action instead of just ‘They did this.’”  And I agree.  I think it bothers me more than it does all of you kind generous readers at Apricotpie.  I am not sure what to do about it.
Having my brother Ezra home for Christmas, I asked him for advice.
“Stop writing it on Apricotpie.  You’re wasting your time.”
“What?  Come again, Ezra?” I said.
“Apricotpie does not matter in a writing career except to continue interest in writing,” he replied.
“Interest on whose part?”  (Never mind that, like Tolkien, I’m not interested in writing as a career.)
“I mean, except to incubate interest in writing,” he said.
“You still didn’t answer my question, Ezra.  Interest on whose part?”
“Yours.  Well, maybe some others as well, but mainly yours.”
I explained to Ezra that I was primarily writing this to force myself to hammer out a history for my fictional world.
“Excuses,” he said.  (He clearly did not understand where Tolkien had gone.)  “You need to draw yourself a map.”
“Ezra, you know I’ve spent hours and hours drawing maps.”
“Not that kind of map!!”  Ezra shook his head in exasperation.  “I mean notes.  Jot down an outline of your world’s early history – don’t actually write a work like the Érenyel until you’ve written a good novel or two.  You’re putting the cart before the horse.”
“Chronologically, Ezra, The Érenyel is the horse’s nostrils.”
“Chronologically, but not practical in order of publishing.”
Well, I asked my brother for advice, and he gave it, so I thank him.  But I don’t agree with his conclusions for what I should do with The Érenyel.  Neither would Tolkien, for that matter.  My brother's goals are very different from mine: he's always thinking about publishing and practicality; I'm concerned with developing a universe, as Tolkien was.  I am not interested in publishing The Érenyel, not at least until (and if) the other stories I have come up with gain their own merit, as did Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
So why am I writing The Érenyel?  And why am I posting it on Apricotpie?
Because, as I told my brother, I want to hammer out, for my own sake, a history and foundation for my world.  And I am posting it on Apricotpie, because there I can receive comments and criticisms of it, and perhaps also bring some enjoyment to those who read it.
I nonetheless still face a problem:  The Érenyel is thus far an awkward read.  In some places, it gives novel-like detail; in others, it just states what happened.  I am unable to fill out some parts, or take out other parts, and thus it has an inconsistent style.  I am not sure what to do.
Yet, I am determined to press on.



Thanks for sharing the workings-out of your mind with us, James. I'm glad you decided to keep posting The Érenyel on Apricotpie.  I understand about not writing to publish -  I don't write to publish, either. If someday my stories do get published, great! But the purpose of my writing is to glorify God, and to provide theologically-sound stories for my children and grandchildren to read. (I'm excited - in a few months, I'll start reading Love Victorious to Nate and Candace!)
I'm excited to keep reading as you press on; you've got my support.



This all raises some very key questions about story-telling (isn't that what fiction writers do?). But, of course, James, you have since told me that you are more interested in developing a complete world than in telling a story. And that draws the difference between us.

"There are no great men of God. There are only pitiful, sorry men whose God is great beyond measure." - Paul Washer [originally Jonathan Edwards]

Thank you for saving me from venting by doing it all yourself!

I would say that I'd rather tell a story, but mostly I wonder if maybe I'm too lazy to develop a world. I don't like constricting myself to times and places... which doesn't signify that I'd rather tell a story; it rather hinders that as well.

Interesting to know that Ezra is thinking about publishing...

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

I love that phrase..."the horse's nostrils."

I totally understand the difference. I want to publish someday, but even though I think I finally have some original enough ideas, I know I'm not good enough yet. That's why I use sites like Apricot to spur me on.

Formerly Kestrel

Well, thinking about finishing, anyway. An unfinished story is as good as a two legged stool.

"There are no great men of God. There are only pitiful, sorry men whose God is great beyond measure." - Paul Washer [originally Jonathan Edwards]

I think I'm with Ezra on the 'publishing and practicality', at any rate, for myself. But I am very impressed with the Erenyel, so I would love it if you would keep on hammering it out for us to see.

The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --

I spent at least 30 minutes to think of what to say to this. But really it was captured in what my good friend Anna said.

I'm glad you are going to keep up with the Érenyel, James.  It's very fascinating.

I'm with you: I want to create a universe.  I always like to know the background of a story, which is maybe why I would want to do so.  I'm not that serious about publishing...I mean, it would be something I'd love to do someday...but I think I'll wait until the time is right.  For right now, I just write because I love to do it and I love sharing my work with other people.

After all, it took Tolkien 11 years to write The Lord of the Rings.  I'm in no rush. :)

"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 Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]