The reasons I think Maedhros and Maglor had a close relationship with each other are:
Maedhros entrusted the crown to Maglor while he went to go deal with Morgoth
When Mae has to head out to the big feast Fingolfin is throwing, Mags was the only brother he took along with him.
When the Easterlings betrayed Maedhros, Maglor was the one to personally kill their leader.
They stuck together through the end when their last brothers died.
They took care of Elrond and Elros together.
When push came to shove, Maglor submitted to the will of his brother, even though he voiced more of his misgivings.
All those things imply that even if they weren’t besties, there’s definitely a certain amount of loyalty, trust and rapport between them. So much so that they were together through the literal end.
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My Thoughts on Stakes...
I’m thinking this’ll probably be shorter than my usual posts on writing and storytelling, but we’ll see. Anyway, this is just my personal take on stakes.
Which is that *drum roll* you don’t actually need stakes to tell a story that people will read. Crazy, right? But I mean, the slice-of-life genre exists for a reason. Is it an outrageously popular genre? Maybe not, at least not in the West; Japan has s-o-l and a related genre, iyashikei (I’ve previously reblogged a definition of the latter if you’re interested), and both are more popular over there. Why? I dunno, but I suspect there’s less of a stigma against escapism in Eastern cultures; Miyazaki talks about the concept of ma in an interview, and how he works that space for breath into his movies, and it makes me think that there’s a relation between the two. I could talk about how Western culture, from our schedules to our media, encourage a constant state of doing without stopping to rest and simply be, but that’s a subject in and of itself, and I’m already off-topic.
The purpose of stakes is to introduce tension to your story, or to escalate tension. Your character(s) want x, or want to prevent x from happening; the greater the impact of not getting or preventing x on your characters, the higher your stakes. And the higher your stakes, the more invested your audience will be, so the logic goes.
Popular media of a more adventurous persuasion often takes this very literally, and puts the entire world/galaxy/universe in jeopardy, because what will affect your characters more than the entire world blowing up, amiright?
... No, actually, you’re not.
Red from Overly Sarcastic Productions (yes, I know, I reference her a lot, her stuff is just SO GOOD you should watch it) has a video on Youtube talking about the end of the world, and if I may summarize/paraphrase her, stakes don’t work like that; chances are, few things will affect your characters more than the blowing up of their personal, subjective world. In Andy Weir’s Artemis (spoilers ahead), the highest stakes throughout the book are whether or not the protagonist can save the inhabitant’s of humanity’s first lunar colony, comprising at most a few thousand people. According to the above logic, that should be a “Yeah, sure, kinda interesting”, but it was pretty suspenseful because the lives of people we knew and liked were at stake, not the whole world.
Humanity is growing more interconnected than ever before, but most of us have a few hundred people whom we perceive as having impact on our lives; everyone else is mostly treated with indifference. Not because we’re a cold, apathetic species, but our conscious minds aren’t capable of making deep emotional connections beyond that point.
Another part of this is that the audience is taking something of a gamble with every story they pick up. Does it end happily, or sadly? Marriage or death? And while there is certainly some satisfaction derived from a well-written tragedy, that’s really hard to pull off when the story’s entire world is destroyed and stays destroyed, to the point that I can think of precisely one example that did make it work: The Cabin in the Woods (and there are a few asterisks there, like it being a horror movie). So unless you can pull off one of the most difficult tasks any writer has ever attempted, you probably won’t write the end of the world, or even the end of your characters’ world, though that’s a more realistic goal. Remember that gamble the audience is taking? If you put forward the End of the World in a full-length novel (short-stories have more leeway because the audience investment is usually in the low tens of pages, and not in the mid to high hundreds), the odds of you writing it and satisfying your audience are so astronomically tiny that most authors aren’t going to actually write it. So the audience bets that your protagonists will prevail in preventing it. And they’re almost certainly right.
Let’s say you pick up a book, regardless of genre, set in a small town. There are good people, and decent people, and a few creeps. Most of the book takes place in this small town, and the author really writes characters well, to the point that there are a few characters you adore despite deep, nuanced faults, and some you hate with a fiery passion, even if they have redeeming qualities. This small town feels real to you, and while the story alludes to a wider world, grounds itself in this wider world, the meat of the story is here, wherever here is. We grow with our characters along this journey, and love this beautiful tapestry the author’s woven for us.
And then we find out that one character we love is going to die.
The world will keep on turning. This town will keep on living. In that literal, objective sense, the stakes are pretty low. But this light that’s kept us reading for five, six, seven hundred pages, will soon be snuffed out. And if the author has written this story half so well as I’ve described, the ending could be good even if, or perhaps because this character dies. In short, this character’s death is a very realistic outcome.
I’d bet the farm you’re more invested in this one character than in any number of worlds. In fact, a lot of those stories know the audience knows the EotW won’t happen, and so the suspense and shock, and plot twisting, if they’re written well, comes from which of our beloved characters will die.
And they don’t even have to die, really; even a protagonist not getting what they want can devastate your audience.
I once heard (and I wish I could remember the source of this) that in poetry, anyone can write of grand and noble ideas and objects, and sound wise, even profound, but it takes a true master of the art to appreciate and bring forth profundity in the mundane, the small, the innocuous. I think the same can be said of fiction; not that we all need to write literary fiction (good luck prising the dragons from my cold dead hands), but that maybe rather than writing grand sweeping vistas and great armies, we could write all the little happenings in a single tree. Travelling the length and breadth of an entire fantasy world can be a fun time, don’t get me wrong (Paolini was one of my favourite authors growing up), but if writing grand adventures ever gets stale for you... maybe try writing about that tree. Its breadth might not impress, but them roots might grow deeper than you ever imagined.
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