Ripping Off Tolkien


I haven’t written much here about my writing lately. I have been writing—really, I have. But I have been distracted. Today, however, is a weird day. A hard day. A day on which all I want to do is escape.

Jubilare shared today on her blog about her own fantasy stories, (a post inspired by Mere Inkling’s musings on the death of Boromir in The Lord of the Rings). Looking for a momentary break from today, I took the Fantasy Novelist’s Exam I found at the end of the link on her page. I was greatly amused by my answers. I’m also very proud.

So here, have a glimpse into the story that has preoccupied me for several months.

I will get this story done. I will.

The Exam

Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?

Things happen. Within the first fifty pages. And then nothing happens. No, just kidding. Sometimes I catch my characters sitting obstinately at the table eating. Or walking through long hallways thinking. That’s when I start battles.

Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?

Young? Yes. Farmhand? No. Mysterious parentage? I’m flirting with it, but more than likely, no.

Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it?

No.

Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?

There are two young characters who come of age, gain great power, and defeat a bad guy.

Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?

No.

How about one that will destroy it?

No.

Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about “The One” who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?

Sort of? It’s not so much that there is a prophecy as it’s the destiny of the main characters. That destiny is revealed throughout the story by one who knows it, but there’s never really any prophecy spoken.

Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?

No. Well, ye—no. He’s more of a Hermione Granger. Her role was a little bigger than that, right?

Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?

Maybe.

Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?

NO.

Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?

Maybe, maybe not.

Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?

No.

How about “a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior”?

No.

How about “a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons”?

Would you consider someone like Haymitch Abernathy to be a wise, mystical sage? Because I have a character who is less like Gandalf and more like Haymitch.

Except sober.

Clean cut.

Actually nice to the dynamic duo.

Perhaps Haymitch isn’t the best comparison.

Do the female characters in your novel spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, especially when the male main character is around?

This story was originally inspired by the Biblical account of Esther. What do you think?

Actually, it depends on the female character. My protagonist often causes problems for me because she does not care enough about how she looks when the male main character is around. Given her circumstances, that probably isn’t very smart of her.

Having said that, I can’t force myself to push the issue. I’d rather not hate my own protagonist, thank you very much.

Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?

No.

Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?

I’m not sure. I know my own worldview has bled into this writing, but I don’t consider myself to be a feminist. I am concerned about women’s issues. Hmm…

Would “a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword” aptly describe any of your female characters?

Kam isn’t clumsy.

Would “a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan” aptly describe any of your female characters?

No.

Is any character in your novel best described as “a dour dwarf”?

No. All my characters are human. Well, most of them. Okay, I don’t have any dwarves or any dwarf-like characters.

How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?

She’s not an elf, but Noor is a bi-ethnic child, so the sentiment is the same.

Did you make the elves and the dwarves great friends, just to be different?

Haha. No because I don’t have elves and dwarves. My characters are of different ethnicities, however, and some are friends.

Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?

No.

Do you think that the only two uses for ships are fishing and piracy?

Haha. No. [Quickly makes a note.]

Do you not know when the hay baler was invented?

Excuse me. I have to Wikipedia something.

Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like “The Blasted Lands” or “The Forest of Fear” or “The Desert of Desolation” or absolutely anything “of Doom”?

There is a map, but my place names are a little less dramatic. (I like “The Blasted Lands,” though.)

Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you’ve read the entire book, if even then?

Prologues annoy me. And they annoy publishers. At least that’s what I have been told. I do not have a prologue nor an epilogue.

Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?

Yep. You got a problem with that?

How about a quintet or a decalogue?

No.

Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?

No, and I am determined it won’t be.

Did absolutely nothing happen in the previous book you wrote, yet you figure you’re still many sequels away from finishing your “story”?

I’m determined that even though I want to write a trilogy, each book will be its own individual story. I might even change protagonists for each one.

Are you writing prequels to your as-yet-unfinished series of books?

No. I’ll leave that to the fanfiction writers.

Is your name Robert Jordan and you lied like a dog to get this far?

Hahahahahaaha!

Is your novel based on the adventures of your role-playing group?

Okay, I can’t get that far into fantasy. I just can’t.

So no.

Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?

Do you mean, is there a wardrobe involved?

No.

Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?

Nope.

Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?

Surprisingly, no.

Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same small isolated village being named “Tim Umber” and “Belthusalanthalus al’Grinsok”?

I actually laughed out loud at this one. I have nothing as bad as that, regardless of my multiethnic communities.

Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?

No. I made the conscious decision that my characters were to be very human. And if they’re not human, they look human.

How about “orken” or “dwerrows”?

No.

Do you have a race prefixed by “half-“?

NO.

At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?

No.

Do you write your battle scenes by playing them out in your favorite RPG?

No.

Have you done up game statistics for all of your main characters in your favorite RPG?

I don’t do RPGs.

Are you writing a work-for-hire for Wizards of the Coast?

The what?

Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?

Now, there’s an idea…

Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don’t?

Yep.

Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?

Not this book.

Could one of your main characters tell the other characters something that would really help them in their quest but refuses to do so just so it won’t break the plot?

Yep.

Do any of the magic users in your novel cast spells easily identifiable as “fireball” or “lightning bolt”?

Yep.

Do you ever use the term “mana” in your novel?

I don’t know what that means. Quick! To Google!

Oh. No.

Do you ever use the term “plate mail” in your novel?

No.

Heaven help you, do you ever use the term “hit points” in your novel?

No.

Do you not realize how much gold actually weighs?

Haha.

Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?

No, but I did read The Horse and His Boy.

Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?

Haha—yeah, no.

Does your main character have a magic axe, hammer, spear, or other weapon that returns to him when he throws it?

Lord, no.

Does anybody in your novel ever stab anybody with a scimitar?

Sigh. No. [Makes another note.]

Does anybody in your novel stab anybody straight through plate armor?

No.

Do you think swords weigh ten pounds or more?

Uh…

Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?

Define “unattainable.”

Does a large portion of the humor in your novel consist of puns?

Nope.

Is your hero able to withstand multiple blows from the fantasy equivalent of a ten pound sledge but is still threatened by a small woman with a dagger?

No.

Do you really think it frequently takes more than one arrow in the chest to kill a man?

No, but it sure is more interesting.

Do you not realize it takes hours to make a good stew, making it a poor choice for an “on the road” meal?

Yep. Have you ever tried to make stew?

Do you have nomadic barbarians living on the tundra and consuming barrels and barrels of mead?

Nomadic barbarians? Check. Barrels and barrels of mead? Nah.

Do you think that “mead” is just a fancy name for “beer”?

It’s not?

Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?

Yes. Sort of.

Is the best organized and most numerous group of people in your world the thieves’ guild?

Hmm…

Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?

No.

Is your story about a crack team of warriors that take along a bard who is useless in a fight, though he plays a mean lute?

No.

Is “common” the official language of your world?

Palm, meet face.

Okay, so I’m terribly ashamed that I—having spent eleven years of my life dealing with language barriers—never considered that my different countries and ethnicities would probably have their own languages, not just cultures.

Sigh. I’ll make a note.

Is the countryside in your novel littered with tombs and gravesites filled with ancient magical loot that nobody thought to steal centuries before?

Haha. No.

Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?

No.

Read that question again and answer truthfully.

No.

Rip-off of The Hunger Games and The Chronicles of Narnia, yes, but The Lord of the Rings? No, not at all.

Hmm. What’s my grade?

Links to check out:

Jubilare’s Post: Progress?

Mere Inkling’s Post: Avoiding Fantasy Cliches

The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam

Note: None of these GIFs are mine.
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12 thoughts on “Ripping Off Tolkien

  1. Heheheh, bravo!

    The exam isn’t exactly fair, as there are valid reasons for “incorrect” answers to questions, but it’s a great makes-me-stop-and-think list. I’m glad it gave you a fun (and hopefully constructive) escape for today.

  2. “Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don’t?

    Yep.”

    I laughed so hard at this.

    I had a hard time with the “unattainable” woman question, too. Vague!

    “Hmm. What’s my grade?”

    According to the exam, we both fail mightily. Of course, the exam states that if we answer “yes” to any question, we automatically fail. Luckily, that’s way too simplistic, but it is good food for thought, no? 😉

    • Ha. I’m glad you enjoyed that. I like to think that my elementary school education and my personal childhood love for princesses and knights in shining armor have made me knowledgeable on the subject. 😉

      The unattainable woman–it is vague. Plus, I feel like with this story there’s a reversal of genders. It’s the heroine who falls in love with an unattainable man. But not really.

      Oy vey.

      It is very good food for thought.

      • That should be the case, shouldn’t it? 🙂

        Reversal can be a lot of fun! In my case, one male character falls in love with a woman who is perceived as being unattainable because of her personality, but all of the barriers are personal, not social, so…

        🙂

  3. Pingback: The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam: « Alex Wells. The Blog.

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