Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Weight of History

If there is one thing that Tolkien is still the unmatched master of (as far as fantasy writings go) it is capturing the weight of history in his works.

Of course, by the time he actually wrote The Lord of the Rings, he had already formulated much of the history of Middle Earth. Doriath, the Dagor Bragollach, and the Fall Of Gondolin were already in his head, and when he referenced them his readers could feel the completeness of them. I remember reading the dialogue between Sam and Frodo somewhere in Mordor, where one of them mentions Morgoth and Beren, saying something like "that was a greater deed in darker times."

Wow. Here I was with the most incredible tale I'd ever read, and the characters within are telling me that Middle Earth has seen worse. Somehow, it did not detract from the present situation. It did not really make it seem lighter in comparison. Instead, the world became just that much more real to me, knowing how much history I had yet to learn.

This has, and likely always will be, one of the feelings I most wish to capture in my own writing. I don't know that there is really any short cut but to simply have that history for my worlds. Not that this is a problem. Practically every writer I've ever spoken to makes up more to their creations than ever makes it out onto a page.

With all this in mind, I sometimes find it amusing that my currents planned novels are largely separate from each other. Except for the Wandering Tale, few of the projects I have planned are interconnected. Clanless is set in a new continuum, as will be the book directly after that. It isn't that I don't want to expand those worlds - I always do. I have a couple "BIG EPIC TALES" that I want to write someday. Their length could easily rival Jordan or Martin (though, being independant, I intend to have them done faster).

One especially has been living in my head for over a decade already, and I have pages of notes, scenes, drawings, etc for it. The history is expanding, growing, both back and forward from the main story. While I tell other stories and sharpen my skills, it ripens, until the day I'm ready to bring it fully to life. Just as Tolkien did.


  1. History does add depth and texture, as elements of a story's current action and plot almost certainly reflect something that came before. And I agree, the vast majority of the history and backstory of a created world never grace the pages of a novel...but having it there can make a huge difference.

  2. I'm a big fan of The Appendix (or Appendices, more likely). Some readers love "historical" matter, some do not. Tolkien (or his publishers) had it exactly right. Give the readers that material in an unobtrusive way. Those who want it have it, those who do not need never notice it.