Friday, September 7, 2012
Do you have a Tom Bombadil hiding in your book?
For those of you who don’t know who the title character of this blog is, ya ain’t reading enough fantasy ;). So right now, go pick up the Lord of the Rings, and read it. Go on, I’ll wait. Back now? Great. Ok, Tom was a character in the LOTR books who didn’t make it to Peter Jackson’s movies. (For those of you who kept reading here instead of racing out to buy and read the aforementioned book(s).)
Tom was very cute and charming, sort of a nature man married to a water spirit (she got the ax in the movies as well.). When the cutting of him, his wife, and the entire scene came out, there was much hewing and crying at the deletion of this beloved character.
But I agree with the Peter’s choice. And more so, I think if the books had been written today instead of fifty years ago- ol’ Tom may never had made it through editing. The pace of the LOTR books is rather slow. I’ve been a fan of the books since I was a teenager, but I usually skip whole sections after that very first read. Tom was one of those sections that I’d re-read sometimes, but not often. To me it didn’t add much to the book. The characters were changed very little by their meeting Tom (the barrow wrights did more, but still they weren’t part of the “main big bad”). I felt like he and his lovely wife were there as window dressing, just to add more world building to an already very crowded world. He didn’t move things forward- therefore he wasn’t needed.
Now before the pro-Tom Bombadil crowd comes to lynch me, lemme say he fit the original book. Those books were written in a different time, when writers took little side trips in their literary journeys and readers followed along.
But those aren’t the times we’re writing in now. The pace of the world is far faster. Entertain me fast is the mantra of today’s readers. And if you don’t keep up the pace, they’ll wander off, distracted by something bright and shiny on the internet.
My point for this long rambling post (and I do have one ;)) is that most all of us have some Tom Bombadils in our books. It may be a person, or a place, or just a really wonderfully written scene. But if it doesn’t advance the story then it needs to go away. How can you tell if you have one? Since we as the creators might miss it, you might ask a trusted reader if you suspect a “Bombadil” lurking in your mss. Also, during editing, ask yourself if this section advances the story of EVERY SCENE. Have you ever watched a TV show where the status quo is pretty close to the same at the end of an episode as it was at the beginning? Annoying isn’t it? We read to follow a story, yes we want fleshed out characters, engaging world building, and amazing dialogue. But if the reader doesn’t keep moving forward through your writing craft, they may just walk away from your book.
So go forth and hunt your Bombadils down and rip them out of your book. Keep them in a special folder for your eyes only. Or for a great ‘added scene’ to post on your website when your book is out and published. But be merciless- you really do have to kill some of your darlings ;).