What The Hobbit Taught Me About Writing
Unless you have been living in a hobbit hole, you probably know J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novel, The Hobbit, has been adapted for film and is coming out this Christmas season. If you’re a die hard Tolkien fan, you may have already bought your tickets for the midnight show (I haven’t, but I did make plans to see the Friday matinée).
The Hobbit is one of the best selling books of all time, selling over 100 million copies since it was published in 1937. Needless to say, every writer, regardless of their genre, can learn from it.
My first experience with The Hobbit was when I was seven. My father read the book to me aloud, and I still remember laughing about the silly trolls who want to eat Bilbo, but who get turned to stone by the sun.
Here are five serious (and not so serious) lessons from The Hobbit.
1. Write with Whimsy
Trolls simply detest the very sight of dwarves (uncooked).
I like to think of The Hobbit as a children’s book written for adults. So much of modern life, including what we read online and in books, is serious. Sometimes, we need reminders to be a little whimsical.
Every time you put the pen to the page, you have the opportunity to take readers on a strange, funny, magical ride and remind them there is more to life than productivity, competition, and being a “responsible” adult.
2. Use Exclamation Points
“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.
Writers are often told not to use exclamation points. I read an article recently that said you only have two or three exclamation points per 100 pages, so you’d better make them count.
Clearly, these writers haven’t read The Hobbit, which is filled to the brim with exclamation points. I’m not saying you should revise your Romance novel and put in a dozen exclamation marks per page, but if someone tells you you’re using too many, tell them to go read The Hobbit.
3. Write Like People Talk
This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighboursí respect, but he gained—well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.
What I love about The Hobbit is that it feels like Tolkien is sitting beside your bed, telling you a fairy tale to help you sleep. The narrator is right there with you, clearly enjoying the story as much as you are.
When you’re in school, you should write formal prose with complete sentences and all the proper punctuation. When you’re writing fiction, though, you’re not writing for your teachers. You’re telling a story. Avoid sounding too formal, if you can.
4. Include a Few Monsters
Is it nice, my preciousss? Is it juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?
Every story is better with a monster, don’t you think?
5. Take the Reader on an Adventure
There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.
I appreciate literary fiction, with it’s thoughtful, realistic stories and insights into the human condition. But sometimes you just need a good adventure. The Hobbit reminds us that adventure is just a moment away if you have the right attitude.
In honor of The Hobbit, let’s practice writing a good adventure story today.
When did you first read The Hobbit? What did you learn from it?
Write a short scene for fifteen minutes inspired by The Hobbit. There should be at least one dwarf, elf, wizard, or hobbit involved.
When you’re time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to comment on a few pieces by other writers.