Wednesday, July 17, 2013

An Old Story

I'd like to try something a bit different today.  No ponies in this post; they'll be back for Friday's review.  Instead, I'd like to look back at some of the time I spent writing LotR fanfiction.

My reaction to my old work is usually embarrassment--an acute awareness of flaws which seem glaring in hindsight, and a sense of disappointment for not seeing those flaws earlier.  At the same time, whenever I come across a bit of dialogue which I still like the mouthfeel of, or an emotional scene which I still think moving, I feel a distinct surge of pride.

So I thought: what would one of my old fanfics look like, if I fixed some of the more boneheaded errors and smoothed it out a bit?  Would it be something I could be less embarrassed about?  With this in my head, I went back to what I'd probably call my best complete pre-pony fanfic: The Entwives' Garden.  My goal?  To make it something I could be proud not ashamed of if I had first written it today, rather than a bit less than a decade ago.

In truth, most of what I did was fix boneheaded errors and smooth a few things out; the majority of the story I'm still remarkably satisfied with, and this project turned out to be more "editing" than "rebuilding."  Probably 90% of the original dialogue and narrative remains.  And, having exorcised that particular demon, I thought I would share the end result with all of you:

Merry and Pippen promised Treebeard that they would look for the lost Entwives when they were once again home.  Now, after peace has been returned to the Shire, Pippen seeks answers in the Old Forest.

A bit of fair warning: this is a LotR fanfic, and I doubt it will have much traction with anyone who's never read the books.  Even among LotR fans, it's a story about Merry, Pippen, and everyone's favorite Old Forest denizens... not exactly the world's most popular characters (people have no taste).  That said, within the context of being a LotR fanfic, I feel pretty good about it.  I don't want to spoil the ending, but I'm very happy with how I set it up and delivered it, and that wasn't something I changed at all in the revisions.  Not enough fanfiction uses preparatory quotes from the creator or source material--though perhaps I'd find it more affectatious with ponies than I do with literature.  

Enjoy, and if you have any comments or criticisms, I'd love to hear them.  Fixing up an old work was a new experience for me, but in this case at least, it's one I feel pretty good about.


  1. I've mentioned before that, though I adore The Hobbit, I didn't get very far into Fellowship before quitting. For that reason, there are some things I can't comment on that I'd be able to with a ponyfic

    I can, however, say that this was a good story taken on its own. It was, as I'm sure everyone expected, well written. The quotes were a very nice touch, especially that last one!

    I did have some trouble following Tom's song towards the end, but I suspect that had more to do with certain outside forces disrupting my reading. The discussion of Tom and Goldberry color-coordinating with the seasons didn't seem to add anything to the story. I'm sure I'm missing something there that Rings fans would get. The biggest problem I had - and it's really more of a nitpick - was when Tom said "... but still I can rememb'r it." How the heck can you omit the "e"?

    1. I think "rememb'r" spelled that way to follow the way he would have pronounced it--like "remem-brit" instead of "remember-it". Tolkien does that quite a bit in what I've read of his stories.

    2. More importantly, it makes "remember" a two-syllable word, so it fits the rhyme! Poets have taken liberties with schwa endings for as long as English has been around--one need only look at the number of "heav'n"s in any church hymnal to confirm this--and I'm not about to rock that particular boat.

      I could have said "recall" or somesuch, but I like the flow of "rememb'r it" better.

      And yes, this is very much a fanfic for Rings fans. It just felt like a waste not to post it somewhere after I'd put the time in to clean it up, so I thought... why not here?

    3. I don't think a comment's ever left me so confused before, excluding those severely lacking in proper spelling and grammar. While I've seen poets omit "v" plenty of times, I don't recall ever seeing that done with the schwa. I have no idea how, considering I was raised Catholic. I thought it was only omitted in speech, in order to make words like "chocolate" easier to say for lazy folks like myself. And that section was a poem, you say? Lord, I'm dense

      You're right, that does sound better. I was just confused as to how you'd pronounce it. Try just saying the word "remember" while dropping the last "e", in the same way you'd approach "ne'er" or "o'er". That's what I'd initially tried, and it's impossible!

    4. In the Bleak Midwinter comes to mind as a very well-known hymn (carol, whatever) that uses "heav'n." As for pronunciation, Nos has it: the last letter elides with the start of the next word.

      And perhaps "poem" was too strong a word, but I tried to mimic Tolkien's intermittent rhyme patterns in Bombadil's speech. Not quite the same thing, I know--my bad!

  2. Are you planning on doing this with more of your old stories, or is this a one time thing?

    1. Probably just a one-time thing. I don't actually have a very large stable of old stories that are 1) complete, and 2) conceptually solid, so I couldn't do too many more even if I wanted.

      I mostly just wanted to show myself that I could, honestly.

    2. What do you mean by "conceptually solid"? Like they don't make sense just by their premise, or... what? I mean, I've personally been of the opinion that no idea is unsalvageable if done right. It might not be as bad as you think if that's what you're talking about.

    3. The problem here is that "concept" covers so much ground! Let me give you an example of what I mean: I wrote a Thomas Covenant fanfic when I was high school about an unnamed Bloodguard (a group of warriors who came out of the north to invade The Land, but were so overawed by the magic of the Lords that they swore themselves to unending, unblinking service to them) stoically remembering the wife he abandoned when he took his vows. It was pretty much the definition of a "here's something sad, now feel sad" story, without anything to engender any investment in the character.

      Now, could you write a good story about one of the Bloodguard remembering his long-abandoned wife? Absolutely. Could you make that my specific story and make it anything more than a transient bit of downership? You'll have to take my word on this one, but: not without a ground-up rewrite.

    4. I love the Bloodguard.

      Also, good to find another Donaldson-fan.

  3. Good story, Chris! I'm only a bit short of half-way through The Two Towers in The Lord of the Rings, myself, but I certainly got the Tolkien-esque tone. I wondered myself what could've happened to the Entwives when Treebeard mentioned them in The Two Towers, so it was nice to read a story that answered my question.

    Also, I thought that comparison between Rivendell and Tom's house was very well-done indeed. It definitely felt like something Tolkien himself would have wrote.

  4. Sorry Chris, I tried but couldn't get into it. It's been a while since I last saw the movies, and even longer since I read Fellowship, and I just had no idea what was going on.

  5. What confused the heck out of me was why Farmer Maggot was off visiting Bombadil. I didn't think Maggot would be the type to even know of Tom's existence, much less go visit him. Although I can totally see Maggot as the kind of guy who, if he lived next to Bombadil, would certainly go visit him and talk with him like they were nothing more than neighbors and friends. I suppose Maggot was necessary to get Pip and Merry to Bombadil's home without the confusion of errors that occurred in FOTR.

    I love the language, I especially love the songs - they trip from the tongue beautifully.

    Also, I noticed the use of the word "unhomed" in the Ent-Wives tale and immediately thought, "Now we are Unhomed, bereft of kith and kin."

    It fits in with the themes and tone of Tolkien's work. I had a little tear at the end. Good job.