Tag Archives: Lord of The Rings

Desires and Objectives #amwriting

Several conversations in an online writer’s group has inspired me to drag out a  post on the importance of identifying desires and objectives, which was first published in June of 2016. This post contrasts the works of two authors with unique and distinct literary styles: James Joyce and J.R.R. Tolkien.  Although they were contemporaries, born ten years apart, the two authors couldn’t be more dissimilar. And yet their works have one thing in common: the protagonists want something and are willing to to some lengths to gain it.

This is the core of any great novel.


When we sit down to write a story of any length, a novel or flash fiction, we often begin with an idea, and great characters, and little more. To make those things into a story, we must first ask what the protagonist wants, and we must know what she/he is willing to risk in their efforts to achieve it.

Objectives + Risk = Story

In The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, Frodo is just an ordinary young hobbit, with no particular ambitions. On the same day as his older cousin Bilbo’s “eleventy-eleventh” (111th) birthday, Frodo (Bilbo’s heir) celebrates his thirty-third birthday.

At the lavish double-birthday party, Bilbo departs from the Shire for what he calls “a permanent holiday.” He does so by using the magic ring (that he had found on the journey detailed in The Hobbit) to disappear. He is aided in that by Gandalf with a flash and puff of smoke, leading many in the Shire to believe Bilbo has gone mad.

He leaves Frodo his remaining belongings, including his home, Bag End, and after some heavy-handed persuasion by the wizard Gandalf, he also leaves the Ring. Gandalf departs on his own business, warning Frodo to keep the Ring secret. Seventeen years or so pass, and then Gandalf returns to inform Frodo of the truth about Bilbo’s ring. It is the One Ring of Sauron the Dark Lord, and is evil. It forges a connection between the wearer and Sauron, and whoever bears it will be slowly corrupted, eventually becoming a Ringwraith.

From the moment of learning the truth about the Ring, Frodo’s goal is clear to the reader: he must get rid of the ring. In Rivendell, he learns the only way to do so is to carry it into the depths of Mordor and cast the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom.

Frodo wants to achieve this goal badly enough to walk into an active volcano and certain death to accomplish this.

At no point in the narrative is the objective unclear. The path is blocked many times, and each of the characters is tested by the evil ring, some beyond their ability to resist it.

The objective creates the tension, which drives the plot forward.

But what about a book where the goal is not so clear? Let’s talk about Ulysses, by James Joyce.

Ulysses chronicles the wandering appointments and encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin, taking place over the course of an ordinary day, 16 June 1904. Ulysses is the Latinized name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s Odyssey. Joyce established a series of parallels between the epic poem and his novel. This book has one of the best opening lines of all time:

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.

Structurally, there are strong correlations between the characters and experiences of Leopold Bloom with Odysseus, Molly Bloom with Odysseus’ long-suffering wife, Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus with Odysseus’s son, Telemachus. It is set in early twentieth century Dublin with the events and political tempests of the time. Themes of antisemitism and the impact of Ireland’s rocky relationship with Britain as it was felt in those days are the underlying pins of this novel. It is highly allusive and filled with allegories.

There is no obvious quest, although many minor quests are completed in the course of living through the day. The book opens with Stephen Dedalus, the first protagonist, having breakfast with Buck Mulligan, who is perhaps a friend, or maybe a rival. Stephen is not Leopold’s biological son as Telemachus is Odysseus’, but he fulfills that role. Unconsciously Stephen wants a father.

But what do they want? It’s James Joyce, so it’s complicated.

Stephen shares his opinions about religion with Buck Mulligan, speaking of how they relate to the recent death of his mother, and Buck manages to offend him. They make plans to go drinking later that evening.

What does Leopold desire? He wants a son. In Episode 4, the narrative shifts abruptly. The time is again 8 am, but the action has moved across the city and to the second protagonist of the book, Leopold Bloom, a part-Jewish advertising canvasser. He and his wife have a daughter, Milly Bloom, who, at the age of 15, has left home to study photography.  As the day unfolds, Bloom’s thoughts turn to the affair between his wife, Molly, and her manager.

He also thinks about the death of their infant son, Rudy Bloom, who died at the age of 11 days. The absence of a son is what leads him to form an attachment to Stephen, for whom he goes out of his way in the book’s latter episodes. He rescues him from a brothel, walks him back to his own home, and even offers him a place there to study and work.

Finally, we come to Molly. Within the city of Dublin, Molly is an opera singer of some renown. She is the mother of Milly Bloom, who, at the age of 15, has left home to study photography. She is also the mother of Rudy, the son who died at the age of eleven days. A significant difference between Molly and Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, is that while Penelope is eternally faithful, Molly is not. She is having an affair with Hugh ‘Blazes’ Boylan after ten years of her celibacy within her marriage.

The final chapter of Ulysses, often called “Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy,” is a long and unpunctuated stream-of-consciousness passage. During the monologue, Molly accepts Leopold into her bed, frets about his health, and then reminisces about their first meeting and about when she knew she was in love with him. It is comprised of some 20,0000 words of her thoughts as she lies in bed next to Bloom. What does Molly want? She wants to be loved.

In The Lord of the Rings, we have a clear and obvious quest, straightforward and seemingly impossible: Destroy the One Ring and save the world.

In Ulysses, we have a group of people who all want something, but just as in real life, what that may exactly be is not as clear as we would like it. But there is an objective: they just want to get through the day and in the process they find they are a family, thus achieving their individual goals.

Once we know what our protagonist wants and what he/she is willing to risk to achieve it, we have our plot.

How we dress it up is up to us—I admit James Joyce’s rambling is too daunting for me to read for pleasure. I had to read it in the environment of a college class to make it all the way through the novel with some understanding of it.

I am a huge fan of Joyce’s magnificent one-liners, though.

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

Ulysses, Episode 2


Credits and Attributions:

Desires and Objectives © 2016 – 2018 by Connie J. Jasperson was first published on Life in the Realm of Fantasy on June 13, 2016.

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#amwriting: Desires and Objectives

LOTR advance poster 2When we sit down to write a story of any length, whether a novel or flash fiction, we often begin with an idea for a plot, the possibilities of great characters, and little more. To make those two things into a compelling story, we must discover what the protagonist desires most, and find out what she/he is willing to risk to achieve it.

Objectives+Risk=Story

In The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien, Frodo is just an ordinary young hobbit, with no particular ambitions. On the same day as his older cousin Bilbo’s “eleventy-eleventh” (111th) birthday, Frodo (Bilbo’s heir) celebrates his thirty-third birthday.

At the lavish double-birthday party, Bilbo departs from the Shire for what he calls “a permanent holiday.” He does so by using the magic ring (that he had found on the journey detailed in The Hobbit) to disappear. He is aided in that by Gandalf with a flash and puff of smoke, leading many in the Shire to believe Bilbo has gone mad.

He leaves Frodo his remaining belongings, including his home, Bag End, and after some heavy-handed persuasion by the wizard Gandalf, he also leaves the Ring. Gandalf departs on his own business, warning Frodo to keep the Ring secret. Seventeen years or so pass, and then Gandalf returns to inform Frodo of the truth about Bilbo’s ring. It is the One Ring of Sauron the Dark Lord, and is evil. It forges a connection between the wearer and Sauron, and whoever bears it will be slowly corrupted, eventually becoming a Ringwraith.

LOTR advance posterFrom the moment of learning the truth about the Ring, Frodo’s goal is clear to the reader: he must get rid of the ring. In Rivendell, he learns the only way to do so is to carry it into the depths of Mordor and cast the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom.

Frodo wants to achieve this goal badly enough to walk into an active volcano and certain death to accomplish this.

At no point in the narrative is the objective unclear. The path is blocked many times, and each of the characters is tested by the evil ring, some beyond their ability to resist it.

The objective creates the tension, which drives the plot forward.

But what about a book where the goal is not so clear? Let’s talk about Ulysses, by James Joyce.

Ulysses chronicles the wandering appointments and encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin, taking place over the course of an ordinary day, 16 June 1904. Ulysses is the Latinized name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s Odyssey. Joyce established a series of parallels between the epic poem and his novel. This book has one of the best opening lines of all time:

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.

Ulysses cover 3Structurally, there are strong correlations between the characters and experiences of Leopold Bloom with Odysseus, Molly Bloom with Odysseus’ long-suffering wife, Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus with Odysseus’s son, Telemachus. It is set in early twentieth century Dublin with the events and political tempests of of the time. Themes of antisemitism and the impact of Ireland’s rocky relationship with Britain as a it was felt in those days are the underlying pins of this novel. It is highly allusive and filled with allegories.

There is no obvious quest, although many minor quests are completed in the course of living through the day. The book opens with Stephen Dedalus, the first protagonist, having breakfast with Buck Mulligan, who is perhaps a friend, or maybe a rival. It’s James Joyce, so it’s complicated. Stephen shares his opinions about religion, especially as they relate to the recent death of his mother, with Buck Mulligan, who manages to offend him. They make plans to go drinking later that evening.  Stephen is not Leopold’s biological son as Telemachus is Odysseus’, but he fulfils that role.

What does Leopold desire? In Episode 4, the narrative shifts abruptly. The time is again 8 am, but the action has moved across the city and to the second protagonist of the book, Leopold Bloom, a part-Jewish advertising canvasser. He and his wife have a daughter, Milly Bloom, who, at the age of 15, has left home to study photography.  As the day unfolds, Bloom’s thoughts turn to the affair between his wife, Molly, and her manager.

He also thinks about the death of their infant son, Rudy Bloom, who died at the age of 11 days. The absence of a son is what leads him to form an attachment to Stephen, for whom he goes out of his way in the book’s latter episodes. He rescues him from a brothel, walks him back to his own home, and even offers him a place there to study and work.

Finally, we come to Molly. The significant difference between Molly and Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, is that while Penelope is eternally faithful, Molly is not. Molly is having an affair with Hugh ‘Blazes’ Boylan after ten years of her celibacy within the marriage.  In Dublin, Molly is an opera singer of some renown. Molly wants to be loved.

Ulysses_(1967_film_dvd_cover)The final chapter of Ulysses, often called “Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy,” is a long, un-punctuated stream-of-consciousness passage, which is arguably the most difficult passage to read and/or follow in the Western canon. (The body of books, music and art that scholars generally accept as the most important and influential in shaping Western culture.)

At the end of the day Molly allows Leopold into her bed, and worries about his health. She reminisces about their first meeting, and about when she knew she was in love with him. This long-winded monologue is comprised of some 20,000 words of her thoughts as she lies in bed next to Bloom, who is unaware of her internal rambling.

In The Lord of the Rings, we have a clear and obvious quest, straightforward and seemingly impossible. In Ulysses, we have a group of people who all want something, but just as in real life, what that may be is not as clear as we would like it. But there is an objective: they just want to get through the day and in the end, they each want to love and be loved, and perhaps be part of a family.

Once we know what our protagonist wants and what he/she is willing to risk to achieve it, we have our plot. Personally, I like a certain amount of literary prose, but I prefer reading books that are a little more straight-forward than Ulysses. That’s why Tolkien’s work spoke to me when I was still in grade school.

How we dress it up is up to us—and, while I admit James Joyce’s rambling is too daunting for me to read for pleasure, I am a confirmed fan of his magnificent one-liners.

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

Ulysses, Episode 2

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Cover Reveal Darkness Rising 5–Broken, by Ross M. Kitson

Darkness Rising 5 - BrokenOne the best aspects of my life is to be involved in the process as some of the finest fantasy authors out there make their work ready for publication. A longtime friend of mine is Ross M. Kitson, author of the Prism Series. Several years ago I had the privilege of working with him on Darkness Rising 3–Secrets, and I recently had the absolute joy of working with him on the soon-to-be-released Darkness Rising 5–Broken, the new cover of which has just been unveiled.

This new cover completely speaks to what is inside this book. And let me just say I LOVE that series of books–Kitson’s world is dark and dirty, and yet it teems with vibrant, colorful life. His characters leap off the page, and for those like me who love a really deep fantasy read, he creates an epic-fantasy that is truly original.

The Blurb:

‘Beneath the veneer, beneath the beauty, there is always the coldness of stone.’

Tragedy has torn apart Emelia and her companions, a terrible betrayal instigated by the Darkmaster, Vildor. A devastated Jem struggles to control the fearful power of the crystals, becoming distant from his closest friends. Hunor and Orla are tested by a secret from the past, a revelation that will change everything between them. In the Dead City, Emelia begins a search for her past, a journey that will plunge her deeper into the darkness of Vildor and his twisted schemes.

Desperate to seek aid in their battle against Vildor, the companions travel north to Belgo, capital of North Artoria. But everything is not what it seems in the palace, and danger lurks in every shadow, whether cast by friend or foe.
Separated and alone, can Emelia, Jem and Hunor hope to prevail? Or will the evils of the present and the past overcome them at last?

Darkness Rising 5 – Broken is the fifth in the epic fantasy series that reviewers are calling  ‘epic and spellbinding.’ It is a must read for fantasy fans the world over.

That’s pretty intriguing. But let me just say that Ross Kitson doesn’t rely on the great bastions of fantasy, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn for his inspiration, although he is a great fan of theirs. Kitson’s world is nothing like anything I’ve ever read, yet it is familiar enough that the reader becomes immersed. His characters are  uniquely individual, with great strengths and each with weaknesses that can and do create tension within the group.

If you are looking for a new, truly epic fantasy series, book one of the Prism Series is currently on sale for .99 for the ebook

Darkness Rising (Book One: Chained)

 

Ross M. KitsonAuthor Bio

Ross M Kitson is a published author in the fantasy genre, with an ongoing series (The Prism Series), a number of short stories on Quantum Muse web-zine and several stories in Steampunk and fantasy anthologies.

His debut series for Myrddin is due for release in October 2012, and is a sci-fi series set in modern-day York. It is written for ages 12+, although its combination of killer androids, steam-powered airships, kick-ass heroines and action packed chases will appeal to all ages.

Ross works as a doctor in the UK specializing in critical care and anaesthesia. He is happily married with three awesome children, who nagged him incessantly to write something that they could read. His love of speculative fiction and comics began at a young age and shows no signs of fading.

Follow Ross on Twitter:          @rossmkitson

Find Ross on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/TheNuKnights

http://www.facebook.com/ross.kitson.9

Websites:

For the infinity Bridge:         http://thenuknights.weebly.com/

Blogs:

http://mouseroar.blogspot.co.uk

http://rossmkitson.blogspot.co.uk

http://skulldustcircle.blogspot.co.uk

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What I’m reading

The_Girl_with_All_the_Gifts m.r. careyI just finished reading a great book, The Girl With All the Gifts, by UK author M.R. Carey (Mike Carey, of X-Men Legacy fame). I loved it as much as I did The Martian, by Andy Weir. At first glance the two novels have nothing in common other than they are both considered speculative fiction, but they do have one common feature–they both really rang my bells.

My friend, who also does not normally read dystopian fiction, directed me to it. The action is intense, and it is at times gory, but what makes this book so significant is not the fact it is about Zombies and the war against the undead (which is a theme I don’t usually gravitate to.) The truly powerful character of Melanie, the ten-year-old girl is the real driving force behind this novel.

I really get into character-driven works. That’s why I enjoy such a wide variety of genres in my eternal search for a good read.

The main character in this tale is Melanie, a girl who loves school and her favorite teacher is Miss Justineau.  Melanie is multi-layered and despite the horrible truth of what she is, she is innocent and trusting.

BraveNewWorld_FirstEditionSo what is dystopian fiction? The core plot of dystopian fiction revolves around the premise that society has crumbled for one reason or another, and details the struggle to survive and raise humanity from the ashes. According to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge:

Dystopia is defined as a society characterized by a focus on negative societies such as mass poverty, public mistrust, police state, squalor, suffering, or oppression, that society has most often brought upon itself. Most authors of dystopian fiction explore at least one reason why things are that way, often as an analogy for similar issues in the real world. In the words of Keith M. Booker, dystopian literature is used to “provide fresh perspectives on problematic social and political practices that might otherwise be taken for granted or considered natural and inevitable.”

FellowshipOfTheRingNo matter the genre, stories are all driven by one of two elements, plot or character. A plot driven story is one where the plot defines who a character is. Take J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: Even if you remove Frodo, who is the main protagonist and replace him with another hobbit, the event, which is the battle for middle earth still takes place, the call to action still exists. He is an awesome character who leaps off the page, yes–but this is a plot-driven tale.

But in  The Girl With All the Gifts, the plot is completely driven by Melanie. Her emotions, her love for her teacher and the innocent faith she has in both Miss Justineau, who sees her as a child, albeit a dangerous one, and Sergeant Eddie Parks, who sees her as a monster, but who nonetheless does the right thing–take these away and you just have a book about humanity dealing with zombies and the collapse of society.

In all of the books I have lately read, several that were character driven really stand out. Characters who are not flat, who leap off the page and grab you–characters who strike some chord within you and who stay with you long after the last page. When I close the book after the final paragraphs, if those characters are still with me, that book is a winner.

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Philosophy and Crafting a Tale

buddha-225x300The Buddha once said, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”  I believe this to be true, and try to live my life accordingly. I am a basically happy person.

I think a certain amount of my personal philosophy finds its way into my writing. It’s only human nature to want to make the world to fit your idea of what is good and beautiful. In my worlds, good people always find themselves in bad situations, but through the drama, heartache and violence, what I hope to express is the beauty of life, the emotions that are experienced when joys are contrasted against sorrows.

If you have never felt hunger, you can never understand what it is to have plenty. In the same context, if you have never known sorrow, how can you know joy? The contrasts of life are the flavors, the textures that give it meaning.

The LOTR advance posterBuddha also said, “There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it.”  This is a fundamental truth for all writers of traditional fantasy fiction when devising plots, one that J.R.R.Tolkien understood quite clearly. After all, what would have been the point of Frodo and Sam going to the depths of Mordor, suffering the hardships they endured if not to destroy the One Ring and negate the power of Sauron? And why would they do this, if Sauron was not the embodiment of evil?

sam-frodo-frontdoorIn the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we have one of the most enduring works of modern fiction. It is an epic quest where through it all, we have joy and contentment sharply contrasted with deprivation and loss, drawing us in and inspiring the deepest emotions. This use of contrast is why Tolkien’s work is the foundation upon which modern epic fantasy is built.

If I can create a tale in which the reader experiences the full gamut of human emotion, I will have done my job.  The longer I am at this craft, the more I see that the rest of my life will be a training ground, teaching me new things, and widening my writing horizons everyday. With each thing I have written over the years, my work has evolved. Because the universe follows certain fundamental laws and nothing is static, my work and that of all dedicated craftsman-authors will continue to evolve.

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