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Why Do You Write Tolkien Fanfic?

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Why Do You Write Tolkien Fanfic?

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My Mythmoot proposal is due in about one month (eeeeeeeeeek), and I have an idea, but I need to make sure that what I'm planning to write and reality actually bear some resemblance to each other. So I have a simple question for all my Tolkien fanfic writers out there:

Why do you write Tolkien fanfic?

Thanks in advance to anyone with a moment to answer. (As always, private responses are welcome as a PM or email to DawnFelagund@gmail.com.)

And yes, this means that this year's presentation will not be about cosmogony ... ;)

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • Why do you write Tolkien fanfic?

    Because I wanted to change the original :) Some of it any-how. It's not in me to accept a story if I don't agree with it. It does not mean I don't enjoy it - I wouldn't have read the Silm or LOTR so many times if I didn't, but I still didn't accept them, if that makes sense. (That happens with all books, not only Tolkien's. My head will go off and start making other stories - the ones I wanted to read).

    This is why canon arguments just cut no ice with me. I really don't care. I've always mentally altered stories, up to and including the Bible. I've only cared enough to write fanfic about Tolkien's works, though.

  • OMG! I would have no idea where to start. That would be an autobiography or my memoirs. I suspect it is not the same as writing stories for "Teen Wolf" this year and next new TV show the following year. Or maybe I am being pretentious or overrate my passion in compassion to those of others.

    Edited at 2014-07-27 08:57 pm (UTC)
  • I write fic because I’m a storyteller. I have stories in my head I want out or they want out. It’s really that simple.

    As for specifically why Tolkien?

    I fell in love with the characters and the world. I like exploring what happens after canon ends and what happens if something occurred differently. And writing outside of a handful of characters is difficult for me-- not because I dislike everyone else (my OTP is Lúthien/Beren, but I can’t write them), but because I write the characters whose stories grabbed me: aftermaths for Maglor, Elrond’s life in general, the happy ending and subsequent consequences that occur if Indis becomes involved in Finwë and Míriel’s relationship before the pregnancy.

    (I read your comment with Oshun-- it’s really not that different than why I write fic in other fandoms: I love something. Why I keep coming back to Tolkien, on the other hand, is much harder to answer.)
  • Not only do I write Tolkien fanfic, for the most part, Tolkien fanfic is the only fandom I write for. The only exceptions are a few challenges or exchanges, and a handful of crossovers with Tolkien.

    There are a lot of reasons I write Tolkien fanfic, but most of it has to do with a need to explore his world and characters, to figure out the whys of some characters and hows of certain events.

    While I sometimes write AU, that's also from a need to explore, in this case the "what ifs", unlike some people who are dissatisfied with Tolkien's canon, I'm not, at least not when it's The Hobbit or LotR. But I do want MORE of it than we were given.

    Some of my other reasons have to do with my love for the Shire and for hobbits and a wish to figure out from the hints in canon what its culture might have been.

    Also, there's the sense of community and belonging. I have friends I have known online for over ten years because of Tolkien fanfic, some of whom I subsequently met in RL. (And that's something else I've noticed; a lot of people will flit from fandom to fandom, but Tolkien fans are remarkably durable, and even when they may find a new shiny fandom, they never totally abandon Middle-earth, or they come back after a while. And I can name off the top of my head at least three other friends on my flist who have NEVER shown any interest in ANY other fandom, over the course of knowing them for nearly a decade.)

    So, yeah, I'd say the Tolkien fandom, and the Tolkien fanfic writers are different than most other fandoms.

    (BTW, Dawn, would you like me to link this post in my LJ, to see if I can get some of my friends to comment?)

    Edited at 2014-07-27 10:35 pm (UTC)
  • Because if I don't those muses will never ever shut up? Trust me, I tried, but to say no to a Fëanorian muse like Celegorm is just asking for trouble ;)

    A better academical answer will follow when I got more sleep, I promise
    • Rhapsy, just like I told Oshun, it is no worry if you don't get to it! :) This is the very earliest phase of research; I suspect a survey (based partly on the conversation here) will follow later with more time to respond, etc. You have tons going on right now, I know, on top of needing more time for yourself. (I very much agree with you from your LJ post the other day. ;)
  • (*deep breath, attempts to put things 'known' into words*)

    I suppose it's about writing being something I love and not having any great compulsion to get published, which means it's fine if I stay with fan fiction and just plain enjoy myself. Why Tolkien? Most books I've read and loved and movies/tv series that have spoken deeply to me feel 'complete' - I might even read their fan fiction, but I have nothing to add, nothing I urgently want to change or expand upon. A handful though have always been different, and of them all, Tolkien is the one that made me write. There are wide open spaces to fill, personalities to develop, actions to explain, bits and pieces that don't join up or that mutually contradict - it's the ultimate sandpit, and in it I have found characters I've grown to know and enjoy playing with and a personal headcanon (don't like the term, but anyhow) that has its own logic. Also, the more I write, the further that headcanon grows, the more questions I ask and the more I find to write about.

    The only other works where I've had ideas I might have done something with are X-Files (got my computer a bit late for that) and the Mary Renault fandom, which I found long after the voices in my head had quietened down. I love Marvel, I grew up on the comics and I had stories running through my head about those characters for years (my first fan fiction probably). but somehow I find I prefer reading to writing there. Looking at the above, I suppose what they all have in common for me are that Marvel and X-Files both have plenty of space to go off at a tangent or fill in vast dark corners, rather like Tolkien, while Mary Renault's ancient world characters called to me for filler and 'what happened after' type fics.

    Somehow nothing else I've read or watched has had quite the same impact. I don't think it's about being drawn into a world while reading/watching it, which was what I thought as I began typing this. One of my all time favourite novels is set during the Mongol invasion of Europe, and when I reread it, I am living in that place and time with those people, but I cannot imagine writing fan fiction about it. Writing fic is (for me, can't speak for anyone else) about concepts and characters that grab me and ask questions and demand more, and a type of source material that allows space for it.

    Did any of that make sense?
    • It made a lot of sense! :D I'm going to reply more fully this weekend; I'm wanting to keep my contributions to a minimum at this point so as not to bias people who wish to comment, but I loved your response.
  • To spend more time in that world. It works that way for the other fandoms I've been in as well but Middle-earth is the one with staying power. I don't write much these days and I've shifted from writing primarily slash to all gen, but it's still for the same reason, to spend a little more time there.

  • I write Tolkien fanfic because, for one thing, it's my favorite fictional world. Hell, it's my favorite world, period, a lot of the time. On top of that, there's really not that much extant story given that Tolkien's world-building is so rich that I feel like there must be a million stories just simmering below the surface, waiting to burst out. I do my best to coax some of them out myself because for me, there can never be enough. Last but not least, I write Tolkien fanfic because my favorite stuff is the more obscure material (Sil/UT/HoMe) and I know very few people well-versed enough to gush with me...and who are non-purist enough to appreciate the uncanonical and, at times, the downright crackified. I need an outlet!

    I'm registered for Mythmoot, too, so I really hope I get to meet you there! :)
  • Here via Dreamflower... I've drifted out of writing new exclusively-Tolkien fic for the time being, though I keep meaning to get back to some of the WIPs that have gone wayyyy on the back burner. But I think my basic answer's pretty much the same as Dreamflower's. More adventures, or things the Professor didn't get to, or character studies; occasionally I'll follow a what-if. But mostly it's a way to engage the story that's wholly different from academic analysis, even if I'm working from the same basic idea.
    By contrast, for Supernatural, almost everything I write is AU, and I've got... well, over 25 different AUs, if you count co-authored pieces and one-shots. The difference, I think, is that with SPN, I love the characters but hate the world they're in, whereas with Tolkien, I love the characters *and* the world. (And in fact, I've dumped SPN's characters into Tolkien's world and been much happier with the result than with SPN canon!) My fic for other fandoms isn't nearly as AU-heavy, but there's also not as much richness to those worlds to be digging into as there is in Tolkien's (she says, looking at her Tolkien shelf, over half of which is taken up by various volumes of HoME...).
  • Please to forgive the demanding question, but do you have a deadline for the response to this excellent question? Sorry. I am all about deadlines these days. :^)
    • Ack, it's hard to say! No time super-soon, as I have a lot of schoolwork this week and the SWG newsletter coming up too ... Probably a week at the earliest, I might be able to start compiling responses.
  • I only intended to write one story when I started 10 years ago but as readers seemed to like what I wrote I kept on. I like to write about friendship rather than romance and I like the values that Tolkien prizes such as friendship and loyalty. I feel at home in his world. I feel too that Tolkien's works are like a mythology and we fanfic writers are adding to it. I hope the internet will allow our stories to be read long after we are forgotten.

    I feel Tolkien left so many tantalizing hints about his characters, such as the mention of Aragorn's Thorongil years, which are just begging to be explored, also his brief mentions of other cultures.

    I wanted to know what was in the gaps in the stories that Tolkien didn't fill in, so continue to fill those gaps for myself.

    I also want to be able to entertain people. I love telling stories but know how hard it is to be published traditionally. This way I can share my stories. My greatest pleasure is to hear that one of my stories brightened someone's day.

    It is important to me to try to stick to the values Tolkien expressed in his books. I want to expand his universe but not change it.

    Edited at 2014-07-29 07:11 am (UTC)
  • I realize that my opinion may not be useful, but would you like a note from someone who used to write Tolkien fanfic, but no longer does it?
    • Absolutely! You were around before I was, so you represent the opinion of us oldtimers. ;) I would love a variety of responses, not just from people who are devoting tons of time to it right now.

      I am sorry that you are not writing Tolkienfic anymore, but I do want to say thank you for so many years and lovely stories. You were always one of the most generous people in the fandom--you are still on the Top Ten list of reviewers on the SWG!--and I know I am not the only person who thinks the world is a better place because you're in it. :)
    • (no subject) - binkaslibrary - Expand
    • (no subject) - binkaslibrary - Expand
  • I write Tolkien fanfic - or, specifically, Silmfic - because there are so many ways to interpret the characters. On the one hand, many of them, particularly the Fëanorians, do some very relevant, sometimes immoral things, yet are not particularly fleshed out. Essentially, I write Silmfic to create my own interpretations of characters I'm drawn to. I also write it because I like to see certain things happen to/with those characters, so on a more frivolous level it's a form of wish-fulfillment.

    Sorry if my reply is generic. :)
  • For me, it's to spend more time in Middle-earth with my favorite characters. There was something about the very first time I read LOTR and the end. It gutted me and I just wanted more, I wanted to spend more time with the characters and in the world. I didn't want Frodo to leave, I wanted the characters to interact in different ways, to deepen their friendships and their adventures. Sometimes I just wanted to play and be silly and write ridiculous scenarios. But whatever the case, I am always grateful to Tolkien for creating this "playground" with its marvelous backgrounds, diversity, and history, in which I can play. For all of us have limitless stories to tell, and between all of us who write fan fic, we can make Middle-earth and its characters go on and on and on. :)
  • Full disclosure: the only Tolkien fic I've written for years is drabbles (literally, 100-word drabbles), with the exception of my B2MeM prompt.

    Why do I write Tolkien fanfic?

    a) It's fun. I enjoy descriptive prose and Tolkien's stories, even in drabble form, tend to fit that.

    b) To remedy the limited amount of page time we get with various characters. Often this comes from a desire to basically get into their heads, get to know them better and 'spend' more time with them, especially given the rather remote tone of the Silm. This is why I often write slice-of-life. For example, the Arwen-and-Elrond piece I wrote for B2MeM this year is because I always thought Tolkien neglected Arwen. I think she's got endurance in spades, she fascinates me (esp. her childhood in Lorien) and I adored the way the films showed her bonding with her father. Note that this is *not* a
    Heretic Loremaster-type thing where I deliberately set out to subvert canon because I have an issue with what constitutes canon or its reliability in-universe. Nor do I aim to redress what some see as the male-centrism in Tolkien fanworks and fandoms. I write Tolkien fic because I want to see particular characters in offpage, daily situations. I also write it because I want to really connect to a character beyond the very distant style they're often written in.

    Sorry, that was probably a much longer answer than you needed!

    Edited at 2014-07-28 06:15 pm (UTC)
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