Orcs? Not So Much

I probably can’t keep writing about writing a novel without actually talking about the content of said novel, but I’m going to try for as long as I can. This week, I’m going to talk about some of the books that have influenced me over the years. Why not, right?

Unfortunately, I haven’t read nearly as many fantasy books as I would like. I’m working on rectifying that now, since I feel like somebody who wants to write a book should read as many different books in that style as possible. It helps that I have a Kindle now. In the past, one of my hesitations about buying books has been the fact that I don’t have a lot of room in my house to store books. Now I can buy as many books as I want and I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to put them.

Anyway, the first fantasy series I remember really loving was the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. It took me a while to finish the whole series, but I absolutely adored it. I used to fantasize about visiting Narnia myself. I didn’t even care about becoming the King of Narnia or anything like that. I would have been content just being a tourist.

The Chronicles of Narnia introduced me to the concept of a fictional world that was almost as detailed and believable as the real world. It’s a concept that I’ve been fascinated with ever since. Of course, the classic example of this is the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I remember reading The Hobbit as a kid, and being fascinated with the world that Tolkien had created, and being VERY excited when I discovered that he had written a much longer sequel as well.

Unfortunately, the sheer massiveness of The Lord of the Rings discouraged me from reading it for quite some time. I think that at one point, in fourth grade or so, I tried to start it, but bogged down soon after. I don’t remember when I finally did make it all the way through, but I do remember that it revolutionized the way I looked at the fantasy genre and fiction in general. And the deeper I delved into the rich universe that Tolkien had created, the more fascinated I got. In some ways, I think the Silmarillion is superior to the Lord of the Rings, because the Silmarillion delves even deeper into the mythology and history of Tolkien’s universe.

Another series that had a major impact on my tastes is the Dragonlance saga, which is in some way connected to Dungeons & Dragons. I never played Dungeons & Dragons, so I don’t really know that much about it, but I got into Dragonlance regardless. As a greasy teenager, I obsessed over Dragonlance, reading as many of the books as I could get my hands on, but I gradually got to the point where I focused on the core books written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. The original Dragonlance trilogy, Chronicles, doesn’t hold up particularly well today, to be perfectly honest. It’s fairly generic, and you can tell that the authors were just kind of making it up as they went along. But it still holds a nostalgic appeal to me, and the later Dragonlance books, especially the War of Souls trilogy, are very, very good.

Another series that has had an impact on my tastes is the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. The Wheel of Time has an interesting backstory. Robert Jordan originally conceived of it as a six volume series. 21 years and 13 books later, the series is still not finished, and the original author is deceased. Fortunately, Jordan’s widow found an author to complete the series, Brandon Sanderson, and the last volume is supposed to come out next year. Sanderson also wrote the last two Wheel of Time books, and while I haven’t read then yet, I have them on my Kindle and I’ve heard that they’re good, so I’m excited to read them and the last book and finally find out how the Wheel of Time ends.

Even though Robert Jordan’s epic saga isn’t finished yet, it has still had an impact on my thoughts about the kind of novel that I want to write. The world of the Wheel of Time is insanely detailed. Every kingdom that exists in this fictional world has its own unique culture, clothing style, accent, cuisine, etc. Each city (and there are many) has its own special flavor and style, and these different cultures come through impressively in Jordan’s writing. If Jordan mentions that a certain character comes from Cairhien, I can immediately picture what that character looks like, and I know how that character would differ from one from, say, Arad Doman.

That ridiculous level of detail is something that I greatly aspire to in my own work. While I will never be as hardcore as Tolkien (who invented his own language for the Lord of the Rings), I do want to pack as much detail into the background of my saga as possible. For example, the setting for my story is a vast interstellar empire. There are over a thousand inhabited worlds that make up this empire, and I have a spreadsheet that contains the names of all of them, as well as the year when they were colonized, and the year when they were made provinces of the Empire. I also have a 79-page, 41,000 word timeline that details the 10,000 year history of the Empire. Did I mention that this timeline is only about halfway finished?

I know this sounds a bit like bragging, but that’s not my intent. I realize that the quality of a story is not determined by how long its outline is, but I hope that my attention to detail will show through in the quality of the finished product. I suppose the only way to know is to just finish the darn thing. I’ll get to that eventually.

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