I’ve always been a reader – from reading such classics as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to girlhood favorites such as Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables when I was very young – to today, when I have access to a wonderful library system and have been blessed enough to have a Kindle now so, on vacation, my reading time won’t be cramped!
I was reading through a series today recommended to me by a friend. It was ridiculous. Her characters were shallow, insipid, uninspired and frankly, made me sick. The writing style was annoying – as I told my father, characters in a book should be so well written that you are able to understand the character fully through their actions and spoken words. When you, as this author did, feel the need to include their thoughts through badly written italicized segments, the characters lose any mystery you might have wanted to create and it starts to become corny and.. old. Especially if this writing style continues through three or four series of books.
Now, I can understand why the average reader would enjoy the books. They were short (less than 200 pages), about paranormal things (I read a lot of fantasy/sci-fi) and had hunky men in them. But, frankly, where that would have satisfied me 10 years ago, I’m past it now and I want substance.
That’s my rant. In closing, I’d like to share something with you. After putting aside the horrible book and tossing all of that author’s books back into the bag for return to the library, I sat down with Cole to read two more chapters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit . We’re nearing the end of the book now, and as I was reading at one point tears filled my eyes and goosebumps made their appearance. Here is a man who knew how to write a character. Read this, and tell me if you could not tell exactly what type of man Bard was:
But there was still a company of archers that held their ground among the burning houses. Their captain was Bard, grim-voiced and grim-faced, whose friends had accused him of prophesying floods and poisoned fish, though they knew his worth and courage. He was a descendant in long line of Girion, Lord of Dale, whose wife and child had escaped down the Running River from the ruin long ago. Now he shot with a great yew bow, till all his arrows but one were spent. The flames were near him. His companions were leaving him. He bent his bow for the last time.
Suddenly out of the dark something fluttered to his shoulder. He started- but it was only an old thrush. Unafraid it perched by his ear and it brought him news. Marvelling he found he could understand its tongue, for he was of the race of Dale.
“Wait! Wait!” it said to him. “The moon is rising. Look for the hollow of the left breast as he flies and turns above you!” And while Bard paused in wonder it told him of tidings up in the Mountain and of all it had heard.
Then Bard drew his bow-string back to his ear. The dragon was circling back, flying low, and as he came the moon rose above the eastern shore and silvered his great wings.
“Arrow!” said the bowman. “Black arrow! I have saved you to the last. You have never failed me and always I have recovered you. I had you from my father and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the Mountain, go now and speed well!”
The dragon swooped once more lower than ever, and as he turned and dived down his belly glittered white with sparkling fires of gems in the moon- but not in one place. The great bow twanged. The black arrow sped straight from the string, straight for the hollow by the left breast where the foreleg was flung wide. In it smote and vanished, barb, shaft and feather, so fierce was its flight. With a shriek that deafened men, felled trees and split stone, Smaug shot spouting into the air, turned over and crashed down from on high in ruin.
In those few short paragraphs, Tolkien took a man that we had just been introduced to, and made it so I not only knew what kind of man Bard was, but who he was, and he became a hero to me – not just because of the dragon he slew, but because of his strength, his fearlessness and his unwillingness to forsake his town and people. That is a well-written character, and that is what I look for in books I read today. Every now and then I find one, but not as often as I want to.
Credit to The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien. Passage taken from Chapter 14