Today, January 3rd, is JRR Tolkien Day. From his creative imagination came modern fantasy as we know it, filled with magical creatures from Elves and Dwarfs to Orcs and Ents.
Modern Lessons From an Old Master
I’m not the biggest fan of Lord of the Rings, although I do love the story, and acknowledge the genius, the sheer grandness of the scope and breadth of the tale, and deeply respect the storytelling ability of JRR Tolkien.
It’s the storytelling I’m most interested in. I came across this video on YouTube, which features a short snippet of an interview with the man himself.
He talks briefly about his writing of fairtales, and about what he learned from having his children read his work.
Show Don’t Tell
It’s not one of the most famous of Tolkien quotes, but here’s what he says about his children’s feelings about his writing:
They hated asides… they loathed anything that made it sound as if you were talking to an actual audience.
In other words, “don’t tell me, show me”.
It’s something that’s as relevant today as it was then, and all writers need to learn how to recognise when they slip into telling rather than showing.
We all do it occassionally, and it’s reassuring to know that even writers of JRR Tolkien’s calibre did it too.