Everything You Wanted to Know About LotR

...But Were Too Afraid To Ask. The ins and outs of the fandom.

I'm AzureSkye23. I'm a sophomore in college, studying history. I read the Hobbit around age 8, and didn't like it all that much. I read the Lord of the Rings at age 10, and fell in love. That was the extent of my knowledge about that universe until last year, when I read the Silmarillion. Since then, I've read the Unfinished Tales, the Narn I Chin Hurin, reread the Hobbit (and liked it better), and am working my way through the History of Middle Earth series. I have been reading fan fiction for three years, writing it for close to a year.

Hey, there! I'm CrackinAndProudOfIt, or Crackers, for short, and I'm one of those weird people who are obsessed with words, meaning that reading and writing are my passions. It's only natural, then, that my love for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, which I've possessed since reading The Hobbit for class several years ago, has spilled over into a niche for writing fanfiction based off of these beloved stories. I love the historical background of Middle-earth, so The Silmarillion is something I know lots about. I'm not a professional at writing, only somebody who wants to help out my fellow fanfic authors as much as I can.

So, I know I have about two sentences to convince you to read this fic. The truth is, both Crackers and I are rather obsessed with the works of JRRT, and love to read and write. Too many seem daunted by the complexity of the legends that Tolkien came up with, and thus don't read The Silmarillion or his other complementary works. So, we decided to write this, to try and give some basic knowledge that any self-respecting author needs to know to write well in this fandom.

*Self respecting* That's the key. I've noticed a rather odd trend; it seems like people no longer care about what they write. They don't want to know about the characters, or the story, or the world, or anything. They just write stuff that has no bearing on the actual story besides names (and sometimes, not even then) and is poorly written with no attention paid to style or grammar. If you're going to write something like that, just change the names and go publish it over at fiction press. If you struggle with grammar, or places, or political circumstance, or history, there are wonderful people called Betas who will be happy to help you. Both Crackers and I Beta, if you need someone to do so, you can PM either of us, or there are long lists of others. But please, get the assistance you need before you post your stories.

You're so right, Skye! There's something to be said for writers who care about their work enough to take the time and effort necessary to make it the very best they possibly can. It only makes sense to do so, to my mind: Why write if it doesn't matter to you? If it doesn't matter to you, why post it online to share with the world? If one is going to take the time to create stories based on Tolkien's writings (or anyone's writings, for that matter) and put them on a website like our dear FFn, why wouldn't they want to craft work to be proud of, that other people will read and enjoy for its quality?

Well, after reading a paragraph of obnoxious rhetorical questions from Crackers Truly, you're probably wondering what it all means and what point I'm trying to get across. Maybe, if you're one of those genuine writers I mentioned, who wants to work to make their stories the best they can be, you're even wondering how to go about doing so. Skye has already mentioned the Beta-factor, which is very important, useful, and beneficial, but there is something even more basic that a fanfic author can do on his or her own to make their story a thousand times better: respect canon.

Canon is ridiculously important. We are so privileged to play in a fandom that we can say with fairly good confidence that the author of the original work would not only be tolerant of our playing in his universe, but actually be delighted we're doing so.

Of course, canon is a bit difficult for us, especially when you start playing with the facts found in the Silmarillion. Canon is technically what the author actually wrote. Our problem comes that Tolkien spent his entire life creating and recreating his mythos, which is another reason you should respect it: it was literally his life's work.

But the changes do cause some problems. For instance, some of the stories mentioned in the Hobbit can be found today in the History of Middle-earth series. They were later changed and revised by Tolkien. So where does that leave us little fanfic writers?

My stance is about the same as it is on AUs. Know it all, and then know what you want to change. In my opinion, the three major books of the canon: the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion should usually be considered the final authorities. However, there are somethings, like the genealogy, where I follow the History of Middle-earth canon. And there are some where I switch back and forth between the two depending on how it fits with my story.

But the key is, I know both. I'm not just making it up as I go along.

Exactly! It seems that at times many fanfic writers somehow get the idea that just because Tolkien's realm is considered a "fantasy" world, anything goes. The Professor, however, as Skye mentioned, dedicated his whole life to perfecting his "legendarium" (as he called it), and it has defined rules and boundaries, which we'll discuss in later chapters. When an author follows them, he or she not only shows respect for Tolkien and the canon but for his or herself as a creative individual.

A story that has been thought and laboured over, with research to back it up and give it depth, is something a writer can be proud of. Readers will notice when a lot of 'TLC' has been put into a fanfic, and it sets an author's story at a much higher caliber of work than others'. Who wouldn't want to write a fic that stands out because of their own dedication to making it the best they can?

Everybody wants to feel proud of him or herself, and if you're into writing, that's one place you can find some of that sense of accomplishment. One of the best feelings in the world can be derived from knowing that you've put 100% into a story and seeing that others notice that and appreciate your hard work.

If you're reading this, I know that you're capable of producing that kind of excellent writing. How do I know this? Because if you're on FFn, that means that you think writing is fun, fun enough to have as a hobby and spend your spare time on; you wouldn't love writing that much if you weren't a talented and creative individual.

So here's what we're planning to do to help you. First, we're going to make a forum where you can ask your questions. Crackers created it, and it's called: LotR Fanfic Writing: Help Wanted? If you have a question, you can ask us there. If you know a lot about the works of JRRT and want to hang out there and answer people's questions we'd love that too. And of course, you can always just PM me (AzureSkye23) or Crackers (CrackinAndProudOfIt).

With regards to this fic, we're going to give you a brief rundown on the races found in Arda, an overview of the languages Tolkien invented, important people, tips for writing good OCs and AUs, and some in-universe history that will help your stories. Also, if we get a lot of similar questions in the forum, we will probably write a chapter covering it.

Please, if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask! We would love to help you further explore the wonderful world JJRT created; the world we love to play in, and spend so much time researching, reading, dreaming, and writing about.