Two of my favorite series are Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.
As much as I’ve read and loved some others books/series, these two are unhesitatingly my favorites. They are stories I continue to come back to and read over and over again for different reasons. I’ve had quite a few conversations lately about why I like these books so much (okay, mostly for The Lord of the Rings), but my answer today applies to both series.
People go on and on about the characters in books and why they love/hate them, or about the plot or stories contained within those pages. I enjoy all of those things too, but recently I realized something new about these two series. A huge reason why I love these two series is because of how rich their worlds are. The characters are not just there as plot devices, they are truly part of the worlds Rowling and Tolkien have created. The characters have secure spots and stories in them. They are clearly meant to exist.
A great example I like to bring up in these discussions is Gollum. No one has created as vile a villain as Tolkien has in Gollum, yet his story intrigues me. It adds depth not only to his character but to the world Tolkien has created. Rowling did something similar with Voldemort. She created a valid background for him that reached beyond “I am the supreme villain” and showed his family and their connection to the Harry Potter universe.
This world building it one of the things that draws me into these stories. I love uncovering this type of depth in a book/series. I’m not looking for something complicated. A story does not need to be complicated to be good. I am looking for depth and meaning, which is very different from complicated. It’s easy to understand yet there is so much left to discover in these types of stories. It allows me to immerse myself in them, over and over again. If you ask me, that is why these stories are so brilliant.
I like seeing not just what’s currently going on, but also the why. Why are the characters where they are? Why is the world brought to this point of near destruction for the characters? What choices and individual stories contributed to this climax? Because, for stories like this, these series act like a climax for the world’s they reside in. They are not the beginning of these universes, but they are a significant historical landmark for them.
I love that and it informs the way I like to write and build my own stories. I like to figure out what the world is like. What environment do my characters live in? How has a shaped them? Perhaps I should have realized this a while ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able to put it into actual words.
This is why I will recommend stories like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings all day long. It’s hard for me to find stories like this. Yes, there are stories with huge worlds. Example: The Mortal Instruments and Falling Kingdoms. However, I find stories like that to be more character focused, rather than it being focused on the world. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with it, but it makes a different type of connection.