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I know how it feels to resist reading a cult series; I've been avoiding Lord of Rings for years now and am still holding my ground, despite protest from friends and aquaintances alike! I'm just not a fantasy-lover, and I am much happier reading an historical biography or a well-written historical fiction novel. I did like the "Tales of Rowan Hood" series, however, because the writing was so good and because I am a Robin Hood fan. I was forced to read the first two Narnia books for school, and then abandoned ship and have not picked up the series again!I must admit that I have enjoyed reading my friends' fantasy writings, but that has a great deal to do with the fact that we have personal relationships and so the writings come to life for me. I much prefer fantasy stories that are set in a far-away land as opposed to ones that throw in wild creatures and fantastic happenings. That's an interesting point your making about tone-twists in stories. I really must keep that in mind with my historical fiction. The novel I'm currently working on starts out with a mood of tension but also playful romance. The plot gets much darker as war breaks out and two of the main characters are maimed/killed. I want to make the ending hopeful, however. Do you think I'm throwing my readers through too many emotional twists? I'd value your opinion!
For what it's worth, Lord of the Rings really does read like a history book. It doesn't "feel" like a novel, but rather a historical retelling of actual events. The characters are, admittedly, rather flat in comparison with more modern fantasy works, but Tolkien originally wrote the story to give a place for his Elvish language to run free. He was a linguist and scholar, not a writer, and was always a little unnerved by the popularity of Lord of the Rings. But yes, I totally understand having genres you really like to stick with. If you ever do get the urge to find out the story, I would suggest watching the movies, the Extended Editions if you can, because it's very accurate and far more exciting to watch than read. ^_^Yes, I liked Rowan Hood too! I've only read the first book in the series, but it was quite nice. Narnia, like Lord of the Rings, is another one that I prefer to watch than read. And by "watch" I mean the older BBC versions, not the new, flashy ones. With regards to tone-twists in your story, I think that may depend on the execution. You should be okay with a mixture of tension and playfulness than turns darker as long as it doesn't change too abruptly and completely loses that playfulness. I would be careful how much playfulness is present though if you are planning on maiming or killing characters, especially main ones. If the world is established from the beginning as a place where important people are not immune from death, then I think it'll be fine. I'm sorry if that sounds contradictory or vague, but it's hard to tell without actually reading it to know if such a change in tone is too abrupt or not.