Hobbiton 2.0 (aka Rule #10)

hobbit 019

This isn’t really a post about Hobbiton. Alas, my friends, I have inundated you enough about that special locale, but I do want to talk about The Hobbit, that most famous story many of you know (even if you haven’t read the book). Let me recap.

The Hobbit is about a naive fellow, Bilbo Baggins for those of you remiss in your learning, who embarks on a grand journey. He’s lead down ever darker paths, relying on his wits and good-sense to save himself and his comrades. In the end, Bilbo learns to negotiate the tricky space between elves, dwarfs and men.

For me, The Hobbit is about adventure and exploration. About friendship. About discovering a world that is none to keen to see you alive while preying upon your innocence. And it’s also about overcoming fear.

There’s also the dragon, of course, representing greed, terrible strength, and something else sinister. But for now, let’s just concentrate on Bilbo’s story.

When I first read The Hobbit, oh, about 30 years ago, I remember focusing on Biblo’s outer journey. The incredible characters he discovered (rock trolls!), the foreign lands traversed (Mirkwood is both alluring and scary), and the dragon’s hoard! Who can forget the very reason Bilbo set out in the first place – for a bit of treasure.

Soon after I read it, I saw an animated version of the story. It was one of those weeknight movies (or maybe it was a series?) that I had to fight my siblings to watch. My brothers and sisters suffered bruises for my right to watch that cartoon instead of Three’s Company or whatever other sitcom was popular at the time. What I remember most about the animation was Biblo’s relationship with Gollum, that ill-fated hobbit.

Years later, sometime during my undergraduate incarceration at university, I re-read the book. I was a bit stunned by its simplicity. The book had had such a profound affect on me, it hadn’t occur to me until then that one of my favorite tomes was a children’s book. But there it was, with a start as simple as “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.” Though some may complain about Tolkien’s long-winded descriptions and forays into Middle-Earth’s lore, there remains a good, simple story told in the simplest of prose. Who wouldn’t fall in love with the story and the characters?

Adventure and Strange Bedfellows

I bet you’re wondering when I’m gonna get to the rule, huh? Okay, no need to start throwing anything…

The tenth suggestion in Pixar’s 22 Storytelling Rules is as follows:

Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

So what is it that I like about The Hobbit? What part of me is in that story?

I like adventure with a purpose. I like finding strange characters, and discovering where our lives, and thinking, intersect (or not). I want good to overcome evil, but we all know the world is a lot more complicated than that. In the end, I’ll settle for what is morally right (by my standards).

We all want our stories to reflect what we like, but until we take the time to pinpoint exactly what that is, we can flounder. I know I did just that in my first novel. Armed with this new knowledge about myself and what I like, I feel my next novel will shine (or, at least, not suck so much).

Until later, write with a sense of adventure.

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16 thoughts on “Hobbiton 2.0 (aka Rule #10)

  1. I love this rule! I asked myself a similar question some time back – what do I really, REALLY, enjoy about stories? I made a list and I’m thinking I should blog about it. Thanks for the inspiration Nila!

  2. This is a good rule! The only one so far I haven’t taken exception too. What’s great about being a reader or a writer (or both) is that sometimes we can all take something different from the fiction we read and let it influence us in different ways.

  3. I was kind of interested to hear that Tolkien went back and revised the scene with Gollum to retcon it to the Ring Trilogy. Apparently, Gollum was a bit nicer in the first draft, and less obsessed. I haven’t read it lately, but I do seem to recall a tonal shift in that scene.

  4. I like that rule as well- it’s made a material difference in my writing over the last two years. While I’ve looked at what works for me in a lot of media and genres, where it has been very clear are the Pixar stories. I think that’s because since they are targeted at both children and parents, there’s less clutter to get in the way of analysis plus, of course, they just do a really good job with the characters. It’s the Pixar stories more than anything that have caused me to focus on premise + characters changed by the story.

  5. There is a Hobbit spirit in all of us. We just need to recognize it and listen to what it says. If you, a new world of adventure awaits. Thanks for this inspiration and love this one, “For me, The Hobbit is about adventure and exploration. About friendship. About discovering a world that is none to keen to see you alive while preying upon your innocence. And it’s also about overcoming fear.” To all the Hobbits at heart, keep your adventurous heart always open for possibilities.

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