1. Galadriel says:

    Hmm..I don’t think I’ve noticed that before, but it’s a fair point.

  2. Kessie says:

    What twenty-first century books get it right, then? LOTR is half a century old. To our shame, people don’t write that way any more. But how, then, shall we write?

    • Kessie, I don’t know as I’ve thought about this long enough to come up with contemporary books that get it right. From what I’ve heard, there are a number of YA titles that do the movie thing and get it wrong. They are instant successes, real page-turners, but they aren’t realistic. They are missing a big part of what is True.

      So I guess we Christian writers need to consider how we should write. Can we incorporate the writing principles of the 21st century while still creating stories that are spiritually realistic? Or should we break from the advice of writing instructors and create a story that is less caricature and more real, a la Tolkien? Can the latter sell in today’s market?


      • I happened to like the LOTR adapts. In the Making Of, Fran explained why they changed Faramir’s reaction to the Ring. It’d been a serious temptation to every other character in the story thus far–then Faramir comes along and says he would not take this thing, even if he found it beside the road. She said it completely destroyed the dramatic tension of the Ring up to that point, if somebody resisted it so easily. So they changed it. And Faramir eventually lets the Ring go, something Boromir couldn’t do.
        LOTR, as it stands, is unfilmable. They had to make changes, and although I don’t really buy some of them (like Frodo suddenly trusting Gollum enough to follow him into Shelob’s lair in movie 3), it does make for the Scene of Awesome when Sam shows up with Sting.
        I’m not sure how this relates to Truth. Good verses evil? Check. People making good and bad choices and dealing with the consequences? Check. Seems pretty truthful to me.

        • Fran’s comments about Faramir actually serve to illustrate my point. In the present movie making process, every person is treated like every other person. What makes Boromir so tragic is that his brother did resist what he could not and what he regretted not resisting as soon as Frodo vanished.

          In other words, there are no real heroes. Everyone has to be in equal danger at all times of the worst happening, beyond their control or their strength or their courage or their determination to do right. When I read the book, I never thought it was easy for Faramir to refuse to take the ring, just as it was not easy for Galadriel to refuse or for Gandalf to refuse.

          I agree that Lord of the Rings, told in the omniscient voice as it was, could not be filmed as such. I had the sense that some of the scenes of conflict were put in to convey some of the inner struggle that Tolkien was able to convey through narrative. I don’t object to that. What I’m questioning is the instruction from a number of sources to write novels in this same way.

          Novels are not movies. Each media has its own strengths. By imitating movies, I’m thinking novels may lose more than they gain, and I think that loss may be tied into spiritual realism.

          The Truth aspect is the idea that heroes do exist–loyalty is possible, a person can love sacrificially. Sam and Frodo arguing with each other undermines the friendship and sacrifice, I think. (Granted, I’d like to qualify that by saying, because of Christ, loyalty is possible … 😆 But Tolkien didn’t make such a qualification. However, as far as it goes, I think it offers hope–an answer to the nihilistic tendencies of society, and is therefore truthful.)


        • I had the sense that some of the scenes of conflict were put in to convey some of the inner struggle that Tolkien was able to convey through narrative. I don’t object to that. What I’m questioning is the instruction from a number of sources to write novels in this same way.

          Yes. One example is The Hunger Games series. It’s basically a screenplay in novel form; even the first-person present-tense evokes a screenplay. All the ingredients are there: the musical cue, the Icon with Family Significance (i.e. the mockingjay pendant), and enough description for the set-dressers.

          I’m not faulting The Hunger Games series, only saying they don’t all need to be that way. Why skip the strengths of a book only to instruct screenwriters?

          For a while I’ve had a little personal slogan, not creative, but punchy:

          Write like they’ll never make it into a movie.

          Now I want to adapt it (ha ha!) to focus on our readers-first audience at SF:

          Read like they’ll never make it into a movie.

        • Aragorn didn’t seem to struggle. And, as he said to doubting Sam, “If I were after the Ring, I could have it – now.” I think the Ring held especial appeal for those who were proud, wanted power, or were afraid.

          Others would find it easier to resist – especially those wise enough to recognize that the Ring could do worse things to them than Sauron, and those humble enough to know they were too weak to safely wield the Ring. No temptation is equal to everybody. Some people get snared, others struggle, others walk on by.

  3. R. L. Copple says:

    Good points. I’ve always heard that the goal of fiction writing per realism isn’t to make it realistic (that would be boring), but to give the appearance of realism.
    I like your point about conflict and tension. 20th examples? Star Wars, at least the originals, you have OWK and Yoda. Many of these types of “hero journey” books have a mentor, who usually dies at some point, that seems to “have it all together.” That contrasts against the failings and growth of the protag. The success of Eragon probably points to that type of story as still able to make it in today’s literary world.
    Uniquely, even though he goes through struggles, my protag in Mind Game and Hero Game is a teen with some old-fashioned morals, and if the reviews are any indication, still well liked. Still far from a best seller, but who knows? 😉

  4. Bainespal says:

    Hmm… forget discussing controversial content like vulgarity.  It seems books  can be spiritually “gritty,” with or without any reference or use of any particularly kind of content.

    Do friends always turn against one another? Does the hero always fall to his apparent death? Do the once mighty always succumb to discouragement and despair? Does doubt and fear always push loved ones to leave?

    When I read this, I answered “yes” in my head.  Then I realized that you mean literally.  Not everyone literally dies by falling.  So, I agree that it was cliché and overly dramatic for the movie-makers to have Aragorn nearly get killed by taking a literal “fall.”
    I think this may come to down to melodrama.  We don’t need excessive melodrama about secondary issues.  Too much melodrama takes away from the characterization and therefore the realism.

  5. The best stories have external conflict that mirrors internal conflict — or makes the internal conflict worse. For instance, in The Lord of the Rings (books and films), the most gripping and poignant moments come when external events drives inner turmoil. Troops move in Mordor — Frodo is driven to despair. Despite mockery from Sauron’s emissary, Aragorn charges into battle, a self-sacrifice to give Frodo more time. Etc.

    People mock a newer example, the superhero film Spider-Man 3 (2007), but it tried to follow this same motif, with its poster slogan of The Greatest Battle Lies Within. Where it failed was only in over-complicating this wonderful central theme.

What do you think?