I went to go see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey not too long ago, and suddenly my younger life has begun to flood back to me. It definitely took me on my own unexpected journey.
When I was younger, I wrote a story. First, it was because my sister wrote one and I wanted to be just like her (it even had the same title - oops!). It was a book about a boy from the forest who had to rescue a princess with the help of his red-headed friend who lived on a ranch. Sound familiar? It is. It's the goddamn Legend of Zelda. In fact, it was even named "The Legend of Ayona." It was little and meaningless, but it gave me something to do and got my eleven year old brain to start getting creative. It was poorly written, but looking back today, the ideas were actually pretty cool.
As the time rolled on, I began being influenced by different forms of media. Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings was a huge one for me. After I watched Fellowship of the Ring, I was hooked. I would stay up after school all night and write, listening to Howard Shore's majestic score until I was told to go to bed. This continued for a long, long, long time. I was still writing by the time The Two Towers came out, and the creative sensation ran over me again. My story began to take the shape of a Legend of Zelda/Lord of the Rings hybrid, even including Black Riders and five different magical rings.
I continued to write nonstop and pour my ideas down on paper. By the time I was thirteen, I was doing intricate character building exercises and had created a stable and sturdy world for my story to take place in. It had so many different elements to it. Unbeknownst to me, it was filled with themes such as political strife, rebellion, and the search for one's inner self - themes that I would begin to flesh out when I was actually able to recognize what I had been writing all those years. Most important, however (and again inspired by The Lord of the Rings), my land had history. My story took place in the year 1081, after several different era's that I had decently fleshed out, including the Prawler Era (0-411), Divination Era (412-598), and the Aggressive Era (599-623). My world was growing organically right before my eyes, all thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien. My story provided many easy jumping points during school. Write a five page short story? Sure, I just picked an event from my timeline and wrote it out in its long form. It was then all added to my master compendium of the story.
I began to realize that I began having the most fun when I was creating the world around my story instead of my story itself, so at around fourteen, I began to lose my drive to write. Instead I turned my attention to the only history book I really knew at that point - The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. For my childhood, The Lord of the Rings was like breathing to me. I needed Howard Shore's music as a soundtrack to my life, and the Fellowship were my closest friends and role models. It made sense that I turned to an almost origin story of The Lord of the Rings with The Hobbit.
For fourteen, I found it incredibly dry, but the story got my mind moving again. It was then that I began to spot the actual importance of developing a history and backstory. It was then that I began seeing what my work actually was - a struggle to ultimately find MYSELF. The only problem was that I never figured out the ending, and I still haven't.
High school and girls happened. I left the fantasy genre pretty jarringly with the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which tore my heart away from Tolkien and threw it in the lap of George Lucas. My story collected dust in high school. Although it would sometimes come back to me, it was always in small urges, and ones that would pass in a few short days. When university came, I was too busy with school, friends, and my girlfriend to give it a good look over until around second year University when I discovered a little program called RPG Maker. Myself, being a creative person, set out to create the most ambitious RPG that program had ever run. After I was through with it, I wasn't even sure if the program would be able to run it! Oh, and by the way, I know nothing about programming.
So what did I do? I learned. Using my story as a template, I taught myself basic programming and video game development. Included in all of this, I began photoshopping all of my graphics and popups. I began to understand the technology and how to tell an engaging story that someone has to actually play through. RPG Maker captured my attention for a solid six months. My project was never even close to being finished, but I rediscovered my story, and all the secrets I had laid within its text all those years ago.
Rebellion. Uprising. Political corruption. Unchecked power. I had all the ground work to create a thrilling, unique, and mature story set in a fantastical universe - one that already had a history thanks to eleven year old me. Since then, it's stayed with me, if only a little. I go back from time to time to read about my story and flesh out a few more ideas. Obviously, other things had my attention, such as all of my movies which I had been writing and getting lost in their own universe. So when I agreed to go see The Hobbit, I couldn't have guessed what I was in for.
From the get-go, from the first note played, and the view of the Shire at the very beginning, it hit me like a sack of bricks. My early life flashed before my eyes. I was eleven again. I was awe-struck.
For two weeks, I haven't been able to stop listening to the soundtrack. I started listening to the Fellowship of the Rings audiobook, and once again J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson grasped my heart and held it triumphantly above Lucas' head. I thought that was it - maybe I was just obsessed again. But I felt so antsy still. The audio book, the music - I still needed something.
All of that changed two nights ago when I played a sloppy but fantastically fun game of Dungeons and Dragons with the most unlikely group of friends. Although plotting through a beginner and generic story, something in my brain went off. The story teller inside of me awoke. Two days later, I sit with dozens of windows of fantasy pictures up, old story documents, and surprisingly well developed characters in front of me. I'm back. And this time, I hope they're here to stay.
I never realized until a few days ago that I probably owe J.R.R. Tolkien more then I've ever given him credit for. I believe that he is the reason I love history and storytelling so much - both of the things I now have a degree in from University. He drove me to write my story and develop my world - I owe him who I am today. So, Mr. Tolkien - it's been a long time coming - thank you.
Unlike when I was eleven, I have so many things to do now. I work, I have a girlfriend, I have a strong social life, I have video games that MUST be played, and I'm in the middle of production in a movie I've written. I'm knee deep in busy, but that's no excuse. Even if I put it on the side burner, my story will never be locked away again. This time I'm keeping it out beside me, because it's too good and I've come too far for it to all lead to nothing.
I'm off, to begin my quite unexpected journey in to the past.
- Daniel Stefanovich
Listening to: My Dear Frodo - Howard Shore
Eating: Three Cheese Kraft Dinner