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Discussion SoYouWantTo / BeTheNextJRRTolkien

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Mar 14th 2013 at 10:50:16 PM •••

While this is great, I think it's really instructions for writing a fantasy in the tradition that was started by Tolkien. The thing is, there are already a million books that are modeled after his works, and writing another one isn't going to make you the next Tolkien. I think that to "become the next Tolkien," you have to do the same thing he did: build a totally new world from the ground up, complete with its own geography, history, and cultures. Originally, it wasn't even his plan to write stories; he was a linguist who created his own languages in his spare time. Eventually he realized that there's no point in having a language if there's nobody to speak it, so he created the elves and dwarves and hobbits, and then of course he had to create a world to put them in and it took off from there. Language doesn't necessarily have to be the place you start; it could be history, geography, religion, or whatever. The point is, you have to create a world that's so detailed that it could be real. Sounds hard, but that's why there's only one Tolkien. Granted, he didn't make up the elves and dwarves out of his own head; he took them from the mythology and folklore that he studied, stories that were so old that most people didn't think much about them, and he made them his own. That's where so many writers fail; they're content to use and reuse the same old tropes until they become cliche, instead of looking elsewhere for something new—or, perhaps more accurately, something old that no one else has yet made new. For example, tons of books have been based on Celtic and Greco-Roman mythology, but very few have used African or Native American myths.

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