Post by The Blue Collared Philosopher on Dec 3, 2008 15:59:51 GMT -5
Ok, i was just talking to someone about books and stories and stuff...and the question came up - is it ok to copy authors like J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in some for your ideas? For example, i'm writting a fantasy story, and so, i of course modeled my elves off of how J.R.R Tolkien made his. Or is it better to try and make something completely original?
Live Pure, Speak Truth, Right Wrong, Follow the King
It's impossible to make something compeletly original. I don't think there's anything wrong with modeling it after another author's ideas. It happens a lot, elves are generally tall and lean, handsome and fair haired, and a good shot with a bow. Dwarves are short and hairy, angry and good with axes. Orcs, which don't exist, I would suggest goblins because Orcs are Tolkien's creation. I digress. I see no issue with borrowing ideas, they're out there for a reason.
Post by morganlbusse on Dec 3, 2008 20:34:20 GMT -5
Yeah, unfortunately nothing is new under the sun, so my suggestion is take what you want to copy, then twist it into your own. You don't want someone to pick up your book and go, "Its just another Narnia knockoff." Figure out how to make it your own.
On a side note, I thought I had a totally original idea for my book (I've been working on it for over 4 years now) and had a total shock/breakdown when I discovered someone else wrote on the same idea. However, the more I studied the other author's work, I discovered that though we had some similarities, mine was still different (especially because I was writing from a christian perspective and his was from a objectivist philosophy).
"The book may or may not succeed. I wrote it for love, not money, but very often such books are the most successful, just as everything in the world that is born of true love has life in it, as nothing constructed for mercenary ends can ever have." L.M. Montgomery [br][br]www.morganlbusse.com[br][br]Daughter of Light, April 2012[br]Son of Truth, April 2013
Post by The Blue Collared Philosopher on Dec 3, 2008 20:43:57 GMT -5
Yes, i would agree with you guys for the most part. The only thing i would disagree with is the Orcs. I actually have Orcs in my story...but they are VERY different from Tolkien's Orcs. I actually used the name Orc because Goblin didn't seem to fit the race very well. I thought that i should use Goblin too...but it didn't flow and didn't fit the story. So i made them Orcs instead.
Now that i think about it...the word goblin brings up so many expectations as to how the race was supposed to look...that it didn't sound right when i made my goblins do things that seemed out of character for a goblin. And since no one uses Orcs and there wasn't like a standard view of Orcs in my head, i used that instead because i could tweak the race to look how i wanted it to and it didn't seem to take the Orc race out of character.
I wrote a fantasy a long time ago, this was after I discovered orcs don't exist (Tolkien created the term, probably the only original idea ever, unless you go waaay back to when there was nothing) where there were goblins, trolls, and ogres. I bent their descriptions and avoided using orc, simply because I think that's Tolkien's baby, I didn't want to take that. I also had human crossed ogres, I gave them a new name, but even that was taken from a Douglas Niles novel.
The Summa Elvetica includes Orcs along with all these other fantasy races y'all are posting about.
For more on this, see the other thread where we hashed out this same question. It was a poll, I believe, "To Tolkien or Not To Tolkien" or some such.
There's no rule against writing stories about space marines, is there? or talking badgers? or warriors with magical swords? Or magicians who cause storms (elemental magic)? Why would there be a rule against using elves or orcs or trolls or whatever? Sure, Tolkien set a standard, and everyone else followed him more or less, but that happens whenever someone's work becomes especially popular.
I honestly don't see the problem. As a reader, I'm not looking for original ideas, or I'd look at a new genera. I'm looking for someone to tell me a good story, and to do it in a way that keeps my interest. I'm totally okay with reading another story that reminds me of Tolkien, or Star Trek, or whatever, as long as the author does a good job of it.
Some struggle through the desert because He said . . .[br][br]". . .If you would be my disciples, you must take up your cross daily and follow me"
At some point some writers' works enter into the culture in a measure beyond just stories. Though there were many predecessors, Tolkien basically invented (or popularized) the fantasy genre. Now when you write about orcs or dwarves in a fantasy novel you're more or less copying Tolkien. But not when it becomes the conventions of the genre.
It's like when "escalator" could no longer be used exclusively by the company that first created it. It became owned by the people.
So it is with the conventions of the fantasy genre.
With Summa Elvetica, the author was specifically trying to bring one new element to the genre--whether or not elves (et al) have souls. To create wholly new races that fantasy readers don't recognize and then ask if they have souls would've been far less effective.
So don't worry about using orcs or elves. Know that this is what your reader expects--and that she thinks Tolkien when she sees it. But you CAN innovate...
I think that it is OK to model your elves after them, but don't make them the same as his. For example, many people call Paolini a copier of JRR Tolkien (which I agree for the most part) with his elves and dwarves and such. You DON'T want to be known as a copier though, so be careful.
Post by waldenwriter on Sept 24, 2009 13:05:43 GMT -5
I have had trouble with this idea too - in fact, I think I inadvertantly blocked my writing by worrying so much about being derivative. Dostoevsky made a good point about this: "There is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it."
My whole world of Walden is influenced by Tolkien, with noble elves and a great long-ago war between good and evil (like the war of the Valar against Morgoth, and the later war against Sauron that ended in the Last Alliance of men and elves). The world's name itself comes from Thoreau. But I've tried to make some changes - making the dwarves different, making the bad guys a Satan-like Marek and dark elves rather than goblins or orcs, making the sea-people (mermaids, water sprites, etc) and fairies more prominent, creating the dwelves (half-dwarf, half-elf) and the Kannarah (created from captives of the dark elves who are made to mate with animals and have offspring by them). Also, instead of using Norse and Old English for names and such, as Tolkien did, most of my names come from words I found in the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries in the back of a Bible concordance, while others (like Kannarah and Marek) are simply made up or come from other languages (like Chaimvin, made up of the Hebrew word "chaim" [life] and the ending "-vin," which means "friend;" and the fairy language, Nadalangue, made up of a variant of the Russian word Nadia [hope] and the French word langue [language]).
So it is possible to make some changes to the typical fantasy world. There are many possibilities. The tragic Pillar System of Cephiro in Magic Knight Rayearth, my favorite manga, is an example of an excellent twist on this idea.
For example, many people call Paolini a copier of JRR Tolkien (which I agree for the most part) with his elves and dwarves and such. You DON'T want to be known as a copier though, so be careful.
I noticed that too reading Paolini...his works seem rather deriviative of Tolkien - the elves in his story are VERY similar to Tolkien's Eldar and their main city, Ellesméra, is very similar to Lothlórien. The dwarves are pretty similar too though they have some differences. The only major difference really is the dragon riders. Also the humans are portrayed differently.
One way Paolini does differ from Tolkien is that his works are rather tedious in style; granted, Tolkien's books are long, but there is enough action going on usually to keep the story flowing. Paolini does not have enough action going on most of the time -- or, in the case of Brisignr, he has too much going on. Then again, he's young (a year older than me) and hasn't written very many books, so maybe he will get better with time. One has to wonder though considering he decided to split Brisignr into two books because it would've been 2,000 pages otherwise.
Post by beckyminor on Sept 24, 2009 17:35:26 GMT -5
In an e-mail bulletin I receive from David Farland (Runelords), he's been talking about this to some degree for several days. What he asserts is the good reason for "copying" Tolkien is in order to create resonance with your readers. For people who love Tolkien's work and the emotions it ellicits in them, to read a work that has undertones that pay homage to Middle Earth gives them a similarly gratifying experience. Being able to tap into a reader's sense of wonder in a way that is comfortable sells books, so says Farland. (I'm inclined to listen to him! )
This resonance with Tolkien is what David Farland claims has given Robert Jordan such huge success with his Wheel of Time and other books. No one denies that Jordan's world hits many of the same notes as Middle Earth, but Jordan puts enough of his own spin on it that people can feel like they are reading something fresh and not fan-fic. Yet they get that underlying sense of nostalgia.
So, I say, giving a few nods to Tolkien and other pioneers of the genre isn't only okay, for a certain readership, it's smart.
I'd also say that's my two cents, but I guess it's really David Farland's two cents, so I give that nod to him.
To go on my own tangent, following Farland's philosophy, this idea gives some reasoning why Paolini's work has sold like it has, despite the way so many cry "Rehash!" It has very surface parallels to both Middle Earth and to Star Wars (I found the Star Wars similarities to be more glaring, at least in Eragon), but as Waldenwriter said, hes' quite young, so it's hard to expect him to build a lot of depth on his own. Life just hasn't thrown that much hardship and range of experience at your typical college-aged kid. Tapping into people's life experience...loss, joy, struggle, also resonates, so I think once Paolini has a few hard knocks in his pocket, his writing will grow.
Very interesting discussion!
Last Edit: Sept 24, 2009 17:38:54 GMT -5 by beckyminor
My books are available on Amazon. Search Rebecca P Minor, or else, The Windrider Saga, or Curse Bearer. [br]
Post by tonylavoie on Sept 25, 2009 8:54:00 GMT -5
I had composed a reply to this, but I must not have hit the "post" button. Duh!
The reason it's okay to borrow from Tolkien and not from, say, Star Wars, is that Tolkien himself borrowed heavily from widely-known (and occasionally lesser-known but still nonetheless known) mythologies. So when we borrow from Tolkien we are, in effect, borrowing from the "public domain".
Lucas (and his crew) invented his creatures and worlds and stuff, so he in effect owns the trademark on those creatures etc. (Well, in nearly all of those cases he owns the actual trademark as well , which is why we're not allowed to use his creatures and worlds and technology without permission.
I'm hitting the "post" button now.
The Ballad of Scabbard Pete - Sail-and-sword adventure spanning Heaven and Hell! [br]http://PaperGizmo.com
One way that I differ in my book is through elves. Two main reasons so far are that in Tolkien's and most other authors is that their elves are immortal and depressing. In my book my elves mood will be different, and they actually die.
I'm with you, smr...my elves die too. They live a long time, which contributes to conflict in my "world." The shorter lived races react with anything from awe to suspicion to animosity, whereas the elves (for the most part) have come to realize that, while beauty is sometimes fleeting, that fact in and of itself is no reason to dismiss the joy in the world around them.
My biggest challenges have been to really think out what the result would be if you had hundreds of years to perfect your gifts, and to make sure my elven characters have foibles and flaws, so that they're not annoying. We'll see how well I do.
My books are available on Amazon. Search Rebecca P Minor, or else, The Windrider Saga, or Curse Bearer. [br]
I used to have elves, dwarves and even a black tower if you go back far enough. Surprise, surprise, I started writing that story at 15. I also stole kenders from Dragonlance and a boatload of elements from Jordan, Lackey and anything else I had read. I didn't have a copy - I had a regular patchwork quilt. If you knew what books I read, it probably wouldn't have been hard to track most of my ideas. Slowly, I like to think that through rewrites and me growing up my ideas have developed into something a bit more unique and that book particularly. However, some of it was more of an evolution where if you know earlier versions, you can see the crossovers. For instance, dwarves were painlessly axed from my world, but the characters created as kenders became too involved and I simply changed them, especially physically. The civilization that used to be elven couldn't be simply cut either. Instead, I took a few concepts and created my own spinoff race that several people have related to races/civilizations of sci-fi books. However, I hadn't been exposed to those civilizations so even if people found similarities, I certainly didn't model them. They live in a forest and are tall, but I think the elf trappings have been dropped. Maybe you could relate them to a cross between druids, monks and the "Borg" from Star Trek.
The irony? When I told one of my fans/friends that I was taking elves out of my world, she about flipped, threatening me and trying to change it back. In my opinion, my world and book are stronger for the change, but it seems some readers are quite emotionally attached to things like that, particularly races/cultures. As long as that is true, there will always be some sort of market for "tolkienish worlds/books" no matter how the critics howl.
I say do what is best for your story. Some need to start from scratch and some seem to do best by evolving while others are best suited for the old conventions. As was pointed out, much of what Tolkien used was merely his own twist on folklore creatures. The tighter you interweave the borrowed elements into your storyline, making them essential to your plot or characters, the less likely people will complain about it. If it's just thrown in there because it's cool, cliche or popular will be waving that red flag infront of the bull.