Tolkien, artist

Because I've Never Yet Met a Cliff I Haven't Wanted to Leap From...

Well, everyone else I know (practically) has done this writerly analytic meme lately, and I couldn't resist joining the pack. So here's nothing - my Writer's Meme, for better or worse...

1. of the fic you’ve written, which are you most proud of?

Within a Tolkien universe, I wrote a series for B2MeM 2012 ending up as sixteen chapters spotlighting the life of Maglor through various events and timeframes of world history. The prompts ranged from the destruction of Numenor through the Vietnam War. I loved the way the various parts, exciting and/or more mundane, all fit together and I adored doing the research for the various historical events. It's a personal favorite, and although it may not be my best work, I really loved writing it and still love re-reading it.

For published works, I have to go with “Dragon Seeks a Wife” which was published in “Dragonthology” by Untold Press. I wrote the story on a whim after an LJ-friend posted about the open call and was surprised and delighted when it was accepted. The royalties I get for my part of the book will never make me rich, (probably not even giving enough money for a McDonald's meal), but it was the first fictional writing I had accepted for publication and I am proud of the story.

2. favorite tense (past/present/future)

I tend to write in present or past tense. I don't think I've ever written anything in future tense and I'm not sure I could manage it. I might try something short some time just to try it, if nothing else it would push the boundaries of my box. However, I do seem to use present tense most frequently.

3. favorite POV (first/second/third/etc)

Unlike others, I'm not averse to first person stories, although I always have to edit again and again to make sure I'm not messing up my POV. Third person is my second favorite and I've been trying to use it more frequently now to break out of a first person rut. Second person, although I've tried to write in it, totally defeats me. I just can't seem to get the hang of it.

4. what are some themes you love writing about?

I love certain characters – some of the sons of Feanaro, the relationship between Thranduil and Legolas, even Gimli gets his spot in the sun in my fics. I am not particularly fond of writing about humans within Tolkien, but I have done so. I also don't particularly like writing about hobbits, but have done so and will again.

But that said, I am not a theme-oriented author. I write to a theme as it is provided to me. I don't write massive novels within the Tolkien universe - If I'm going to spend that amount of time and effort, I want it to be for writing original fiction. But I do love trying to meet the criteria of a challenge and write something that meets the parameters, the provided elements, or the theme assigned to all who are participating in the challenge.

5. what inspires you to write?

I am a deadline-oriented challenge-inspired author. I write stories to meet criteria. I read about something that someone may want, or have an assigned theme and my muse starts running. She's fairly quiescent until prodded by an outside force which can be something as simple as a phrase or a word. The prod to my muse can be a specific request or a challenge issued or assigned in a challenge such as Slashy September or Yule Exchange. However, once she starts running, Molly bar the door. I never quite know what paths she'll lead me down and some of them are doozies.

6. thoughts on critique

I like thoughtful and insightful critique because that's what helps me to grow as an author. I'm looking for a local writer's group that I can join because I really miss that interchange and it's harder to improve when self-crit is all you're running on. I used to work within an online writer's group, 'The Lizard Council,' and they were absolutely wonderful. Eventually personalities got intervened and crits turned personal, not story-related or centered on the techniques of writing. That killed it for me. I hope that eventually I can find another group that is as valuable to me as the interchange I shared with other lizards. I owe every one of them a large THANK YOU for all of their help when I was just starting out.

I can't emphasize enough to those reading through these memes, (both mine and others), that thoughtful critique is valued, treasured, and studied by each and every author when it is offered. Don't be afraid to ask if the author would be willing to have a crit in a private message. It is a rare author who will turn it down.

7. Create a character on the spot…. NOW!

Well, I'll push a few boundaries and write about a hobbit...

Posey Silverstream carefully worked her way from tree to tree as she attempted to bypass the Big People patrolling the road. She had put away her colorful dresses and shining hairpieces, and had borrowed her brother's old knit stocking cap and his ratty jerkin and trousers. She held her breath as a ruffian walked across her path, just a few feet in front of her. She just couldn't be caught; the Home Guard was counting on her stealth to scout the number of men who were stationed between Brockenborings and Scary.

8. is there a character you love writing the most? the least? why?

I love writing about Maglor. I suppose it's the musician in me that feels a kinship to the musical child of Feanaro. But I also love writing about Melkor, so go figure – LOL.

I'm not fond of anything about Numenor at all. I don't really have a good reason for my dislike, but there it is and if I will spend time writing and honing a story, I'd like it to be spent on characters I enjoy instead.

9. a passage from a WIP

From my current LOTR Community Challenge fic for February - “The Box” (editing still pending)

He walked around the statue again, shaking his head as he realized how truly bad the sculpture was. “I suppose I'll have to compliment Callie on what a wonderful job she did with this piece of trash,” he muttered. “I'll need to figure out what I can say that will be truthful without making her feel that she has any real talent for this medium. I could talk to Nerdanel I guess; but I have a feeling Feanor's wife would just use the call to ask me to convince Callie to find a different instructor.”

From one of my o-fic novels that I'm writing when I have a few minutes here and again...

When I was seventeen, what had been a very good idea turned into a very bad one.

10. what are your writing strengths?

I get into the character's head and see the action as he/she/it does, which can allow for a true description/depiction of what the character is doing or feeling. In essence, I write what I see and copy the dialog that I hear. Every story is acted out in front of my inner eye.

11. what are your writing weaknesses.

Show don't tell. It's deadly. I keep trying to shift things and often it works, but when it doesn't, it sometimes isn't very easy to fix.

12. what’s your favorite place for writing, resources?

I have an extensive library of texts on creative writing, notes from college writing classes I've taken, and e-books on editing, publishing, and methods of character exploration. I keep my ears and eyes open for more resources and check them out when they are mentioned. As all who love research, I fully believe an author can never have too many resources.

13. who are your favorite writers?

Tolkien, of course, because of the vast universe he created that leaves so much space for us to play in. My other favorite authors are an eclectic group.

Ayn Rand – For years and years I read “Atlas Shrugged” every year and I still love it. Its technology is dated, but the human emotions, the politics, and the efficiencies and inefficiencies that are described, ring as true today as they did in 1957 when she first wrote it. I've always been envious of Dagny Taggart, having the love and friendship of three different intelligent and good looking industrial tycoons, while being respected for her own intelligence. She was a strong and independent woman written in the days of the idealized housewife. I also admire Ayn Rand having asked the central question of “What happens if the creative minds of the world go on strike?”

TJ Klune – “Into this River I Drown” is an homage to language, character development and emotional interchange, wound up with angst, a good mystery, and a wonderful love story – the love of two people for each other and the love of a town for two of their own. It's a relatively new book, (March 2013 for the paperback version), but it immediately shot up to my top ten list and won't leave without a fight. It is beautifully written.

Ursula Le Guin – I adore her Earthsea trilogy and “The Left Hand of Darkness”, and her book on creative writing is one I treasure and refer to time and time again. She is thorough and detailed without being picky, chooses her words for maximum effect, and has a strong background in cultural exploration which allows her to develop new societies and cultures with a foundation in realistic economic and societal interchange. Brilliant.

Kenneth Grahame – “The Wind in the Willows” amazes me more and more whenever I read it. I always discover something new, although I've read it 100's of times. The book resounds with the lyrical quality of poetry, and the chapter “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” catches my soul every time I read it.

Dante Alighieri – “The Divine Comedy” is such an amazing piece of literature. Not everyone has read the entire work from front to back, but so many use quotations from his work and it has influenced hundreds of pieces of art and literature over the centuries since he first wrote it He just amazes me every time I read it. I own several different copies, I love each and every one.

Rudyard Kipling -- “The Jungle Books” Although I've read other works by Kipling, it is Mowgli and his companions who pull to my heart time and time again. Why do I love these so much? The setting is exciting, the councilors and teachers are wise and not always safe, and the lessons shared had to be shouldered and internalized as he leaves the teachers of his youth and makes his first steps forward into the society of men. I always wished the last chapter had never been written. I didn't want Mowgli to leave his animal brothers and enter into human society. But it is that change that he must face that allows Mowgli to grow and the book to transcend the borders of the jungle.

There are many others that I find equally amazing and if you asked me on a different day, my list would be different (except for the first three who are always on my list of besties), but that's a good start...

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Thanks, hun. I assume, from this, that you survived your day of meetings :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
I rather like your hobbit character and am actually curious about what happens next.
Thanks. I have written hobbits before, but I don't write them often :-)

She did turn into an interesting little thing, didn't she? Who knows...there might be a story there for a later time.

- Erulisse (one L)
I don't write massive novels within the Tolkien universe - If I'm going to spend that amount of time and effort, I want it to be for writing original fiction.

In a perfect world, so would I, but alas, RL right now doesn't lend itself time nor energy (nor desire, if I'm honest) to face all the pressure and challenges that come with trying to be A Published Author. But someday, I hope. So for me, writing long-form fics in the meantime is a way to keep those skills honed, to a certain somewhat limited degree, in case some day I *do* have opportunity to pursue original get-paid-to-write-it stuff.

and if you asked me on a different day, my list would be different

Same here. My reading interests tend to change over time--sometimes a favorite from ten years back will suddenly become a current favorite, or an old favorite becomes something I'm no longer interested in at all. But there's always a few that stand the test of time... I return to those again and again as beloved old friends.
Oh, I'm not sure I will ever get a novel published, but here's my thoughts on the matter. To write within an already-established universe takes some of the thought and development issues away and allows the writer to operate within an accepted landscape populated by familiar characters, or at least by familiar character types. If you mention "hobbit" to a person familiar with Tolkien, they will automatically visualize a smaller humanoid with furry feet coming from a rustic, agrarian society. Those facts don't need to be established. But when working in o-fic, nothing already exists. The author needs to pick and choose what facts to share and what structures to build from to make their case for a universe, a plot, and the characters within it. I find that pushes me into new and really interesting directions.

I'll write within a Tolkien universe for a long time, but probably nothing much longer than 20,000-40,000 words. The pieces of 100,000 words or more, I'll try to reserve for o-fic. It's just a personal preference.

And yes, reading interests are always shifting. Books I loved when I was in my 30's aren't of the same level of interest now that I'm entering my 60's. Still, there are standouts, Tolkien primarily, that will always be in my "best loved" list. *hugs*

Beloved old friends is a great definition of a good bood :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
Those facts don't need to be established. But when working in o-fic, nothing already exists. The author needs to pick and choose what facts to share and what structures to build from to make their case for a universe, a plot, and the characters within it.

*nods* That's what I was referring to when I said "to a certain somewhat limited degree"... you're building on another writer's work, and so you don't have to work *quite* so hard with fanfic, though I do think that if you want to write really good fanfic, it's almost as much work but in a different way--you have to work to understand the original canon and make sure your own story works within that framework (or, conversely, if you deviate from canon, you should know *why* you're deviating, sort of like the old adage of having to know the rules of grammar before you break them in the name of creativity). With Tolkien especially, learning the canon can turn into a huge research project!

But it's definitely a different set of mental muscles to create and express All Of The Everything in an o-fic. :)
I must admit that I have a problem with the occasional story I'll read that is AU but so far off the mark that it makes no sense within the universe. When the person is asked why they chose what they did, they fall back on the "It's AU" argument, and I just don't buy it. I think that even AU has a basis in canon and that to do AU effectively, you have to have a good understanding of canon before you jump off the cliff. :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
I've seen long arguments for and against this. All I can bring to it is if you write historical fiction you are writing within confines more soundly established than any fan fiction -- certain events happened, they cannot be glossed over, the geography has to be exact, people wear specific clothes, eat specific food, there is no margin for error if you're doing it right. A cowboy is a cowboy, a sixteenth century English noble is --- well, anyone who watched the Tudors has a (not wholly accurate) mental image. If you write something set in present times --- if the hero is travelling from Turkey to Greece, you need to be absolutely clear how (for example, when did the train system stop, has it started up again). So really, you are taking an established, well documented world and inserting your characters. And you can research exactly what sixteenth century Florence or present day Cairo look and sound like, how people spoke, what they did for leisure - you can't say the same for mid Third Age Harad: you have to create that from scratch. I get the sense the only genre where you have more world building to establish then fan fiction is science fiction or fantasy. Now THAT is work!
I think that any world you put someone in requires work, research and world-building. To take your example, although a cowboy is generally considered to be a man of the western US during specific a time period and probably working within a particular range of careers, it can also describe a man who performs a similar type of work in other nations or time periods.

One of my o-fics has a miner as a major character and he is mining for silver and gold in Colorado. I have nightmares about the time period, the history that I have to have accurate, and the people he may or may not have intersected with. But, when it came to researching the actual act of mining, I pulled from many different sources including Cornwall because the tin mines were operated very similarly to the Colorado silver mines and many of the miners also came from the Cornish mines.

I do think that in many ways when I write within Tolkien's universe, it is easier in some respects because I can say that Legolas is riding to Aglarond to meet Gimli and I don't have to explain who Legolas or Gimli are or even where Aglarond is or why Gimli would be there. Those are facts that have already been established, so I can save my word count for the plot of my story instead of the background. That can be a wonderful timesaver.

But no matter which way things go, I love writing within Tolkien's universe and I adore writing my own fic as well. So it's all good no matter which way I turn. *hugs*

- Erulisse (one L)
I suspect it evens out anyway, because I can (but won't) send Gimli and Legolas to Harad, and would have to create Harad, the society, customs, religion, type of language, from the ground up with nothing to reference. Or be writing about Elizabeth l going on progress with the intention of meeting Rob Dudley at Kenilworth... no need to fill in the basics there either.

It's all pretty much work, when you think of it, lol. It's just a matter of what appeals most at the time, and I do love the special challenges of fan fiction.

Talking of loving things ---- The Jungle Books!!!!! I have my childhood copy and would never part with it. And I also wished it hadn't needed to end as it did, even though all the lessons had built to that conclusion.
My heart just broke when Mowgli was told that he had to leave his tribe and return to the human settlement with its odors, trash, poor nutrition, and inexplicable explanations. Just the thought of hearing the roars of the jungle and being unable to rejoin his 'family' was heartbreaking to me.

You're right - writing (at least writing well) is a lot of work. If we didn't love it, we wouldn't do it. But you and I and most/all of our friends who write in fanfic DO love it - work notwithstanding :-)

(Trying to wave cool breezes your direction.)

- Erulisse (one L)