I signed up for the iversity MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on storytelling that started around the end of October to learn more about transmedia storytelling, including stories for RPGs, movies, and episodic TV. Not to worry, I’m not abandoning my novels, but as readers become more accustomed to these forms of stories I thought it may help to understand them and see what I could adopt or reflect on for my own work.
The course involves a “creative task” each week and, when I can keep up with them, I’ll post my results here. Week 1 is about remembering a story that influenced you.
Of course, it’s nearly week 3, so I’m not exactly keeping up, but let’s ignore that for now, shall we? Here’s the assignment from iversity’s website.
YOUR TASK IN GENERAL
Your Creative Task for week 1 is:
Please think about which story you have read, seen, listened to, played or experienced has impressed you most in your life. Which story can you still very well remember? Write down both, the summary of this story (what you remember of the story, not what Wikipedia says.. 🙂 and – on the other hand: – what made it so special to you that you can still remember it.
YOUR TASK IN DETAIL:
Retell this story by giving a short summary of what you can remember of it. (in less than 400 words)
Think about (try to remember) and write down what fascinated you most about this story. What can you remember best? What impressed you most? Its characters? The locations? The plot? The style and voice of the story? Or maybe even the surroundings of how this story was told, maybe by your parents, grandparents, or maybe in your first self-read book? Tell us the story OF the story so-to-speak. (less than 500 words)
Lord of the Rings.
Yes, it’s the typical answer for a fantasy writer, and one I suspect that editors cringe to see. The stereotypical fantasy writer, I’m told, “wants to be the next Tolkein and hasn’t read anyone in the intervening years since LotR was published.” I’m not that guy, but I cannot deny that Lord of the Rings had a more profound impact on me than any other book I’ve read. There’s a reason I’ve read through the series nearly a dozen times.
I’m assuming that none of us need a summary of Lord of the Rings at this point. (You do? Seriously, how big is that rock you’ve been living under?) So, I’m going to skip right to what stuck with me.
For me, it was the narrative, the plot. Everything about Tolkein’s world seemed so real, especially the danger, that I couldn’t help but keep reading. I don’t know that I ever really became invested in the characters, though there was a time that Aragorn was as close to a celebrity idol as I ever had in my life. (Go ahead, ask me what my cat’s name was.) More than what I knew about the characters, I was attracted by what I didn’t know (which is probably why I like the hobbits least- they’re pretty much all there). The mysteries, secrets, and unpredictable future captured me.
In early grade school, I read a lot of mysteries, like the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown books, but in fifth grade, a teacher read The Hobbit aloud to us, and I soon followed with my own reading of LotR. It was certainly the largest work I had tackled at the time, and I was still very attracted by trying to unravel all the mysteries and stories within. What was Aragorn’s background? What was Gandalf, anyway? How would they get past the might of Saruman and Sauron? What had Moria been like in its glory? How had Gondor fallen to its current state?
At this point, it’s probably unnecessary to note that I own multiple copies of The Silmarillion.
I wanted to explore the world of LotR, to know more. And, when the characters were in life or death situations, I held my breath until they were free, because I’m a romantic and I always want the good guys to win (thought the more drama the better).
I still like involved worlds and mysterious plots, which is why I’m a huge fan of the Game of Thrones series, now. I have no intention of writing a clone of either series, and to be frank, at this point in my writing career, I don’t have the ability, but I will certainly try for that kind of involved world and work to build an intriguing, mysterious environment for my readers, because that’s what I would want to read.
So, what are your thoughts? Leave the name of the most significant book in your life in the comments below. It doesn’t have to be your favorite now, just one that had the strongest impact when it first appeared in your life. Cheesy answers are acceptable (Hey, I said LotR, right?)