Learn from the Masters

He drew a deep breath. "Well, I'm back," he said.

Cover of the edition we have.
Yesterday afternoon at 1:15pm, after nearly three years, I finally finished my first ever read-through of The Lord of the Rings. I started reading The Fellowship of the Ring in 2009, when I was pregnant. I read through that and had just completed The Two Towers when Monkey was born. At that point, I put it down. Then, in late January of this year, I realized we had these books on audio. I loaded my iPod and jumped into The Return of the King

So here I am: done.

I feel like a weight is lifted from my back. I'll be the first to say that Tolkien crafted an incredible world and story. Not to mention history, languages, and so much more. However, this is a work I would classify, for me, as "heavy reading."

I realize some might disagree, but hey, to each their own. This was a tough book for me to get through. I tried reading it when I was a teen, and didn't make it past Tom Bombadil.

The one thing I really loved though, were the vivid images Tolkien produces. When I say this I don't mean the country, or the landmarks, or even the events per se; but the people.

The first time we see Strider at the Prancing Pony. That image sticks in my mind. King Theoden under Saruman's spell, and his transformation after it is lifted. Pippin running to Merry after the battle of Minas Tirith. Eowyn looking to Faramir as her heart changes. Saruman sneering as he leaves Bag End for the last time. Rosie Cotton telling Sam to hurry back. Sam staring into the West, as Frodo sails away...

These are the things I remember. The individuals, and their relationships.

Which perhaps tells me something about my own writing. I really love my characters. The more I work with them, the more real they become to me. My stories are about my characters. That's where the heart is.

I can't say that's how it ought to be; in good writing everything is balanced, right? Characters, setting, prose, dialogue, events, emotions, etc. But everyone has their strengths. I'd like to think mine is my characters.

What is your strength in your stories?

And if you're not a writer, but a reader, I'd love to know what you think -- do characters make the biggest difference, or do you prefer strength in a different element when you read?


Have a great weekend!

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