Writing Lessons From The Hobbit

I wasn’t a fan of The Hobbit. There, I said it. I loved Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, but The Hobbit felt bloated, poorly paced and, quite frankly, it bored me. But there’s writing tips in everything, even ill-judged sequel/prequel trilogies.

It’s got spoilers in its pocketses, preciousss…

Don’t Overwhelm the Audience with Characters

There’s a lot of dwarves in The Hobbit and they’re all introduced in a matter of minutes. Even if their names weren’t similar that’s a lot for the audience to take in. Try to ease your audience in or, if that’s not possible, remind them who’s who throughout the story.

Give Your Audience What They Need, Not What They Want

The work that Jackson and co. did on Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy was unsurpassed. A sequence in The Hobbit was expanded to give the people what they wanted: more Gollum. But he didn’t reach his former glory because he just didn’t have enough to do to warrant his screen time. Had Peter Jackson limited Gollum to a cameo, the audience would have been left wanting more. That leads me into:

Exercise Restraint

As you write your story you may fall in love with the kooky wizard who talks to animals more than he does people. But what is he doing to move the story along? If the answer is “not a lot”, get out the red pen and cut the scene where he tends to hedgehogs. You’ll hate to see it go but your audience will thank you for it.

Clarify the Hero’s Motivations

Bilbo’s decision to join the dwarves on their journey is pivotal to the story. Yet the film doesn’t really explore why he joins them. There’s a brief reference to his younger self being a lover of adventure. But the decision itself seems abrupt and baseless and so the rest of the story is based on a whim. If your hero takes action, make sure it gets explained at some point.

Let the Heroes Be Heroic

It seemed that when the dwarves encountered a problem (be it trolls or warg riders or goblin kings) they never escaped through their own wits. They escaped via a deus ex machina (be it Gandalf, elves, Gandalf again). Consequently they all seemed weak and unable to determine their own fate. Allow your heroes to save themselves once in a while.

I’ve been quite harsh on The Hobbit. But who knows? Perhaps I’ll look back on it fondly when they make six Silmarillion films…

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