It is official: The Silmarillion Writers' Guild is now over one month old. Given all that has been accomplished in that month and all the wonderful, new people I've had the chance to meet, it is hard to believe that it is not much longer!

As you know, one of my goals for this group is to have regular challenges and to promote discussion (or at least thought) about topics related to both The Silmarillion and writing. Given this, I am going to do my best to present the group with a new writing challenge every month, as well as any relevant essays that I can find related to the challenge or discussions going on within the group.

I will say up front that I do not always agree with the material I am presenting to you. It is my feeling, though, that all sides should be heard and all advice considered equally. That said, the essays I offer the group on what constitutes good (or less-than-good) writing are the opinions of that author only. You are welcome to disagree: This group is all about discussing The Silmarillion and writing, so throw your complaints out there and see what others have to say about it. (You might be pleasantly surprised to find that more agree with you than with the purported experts!)

In addition, I will use our monthly "newsletter" to remind members about ongoing projects within the group. If you are interested in helping with any of these projects--or if you have ideas of your own for something new to do--please do not hesitate to contact me.

Have a great September and may the Muses smile upon you!
Dawn Felagund

September's Challenge

Many thanks to Jenni (Digdigil) for this month's challenge!

Choose a female character from The Silmarillion or related texts. It could be someone like Galadriel, one of the Valar, or someone barely mentioned, such as Nerdanel or Elenwë. Write a story--any length--about this character, developing a strong personality for her. Her strengths could lie in many different areas: Perhaps the woman would be a good mother, perform an act of heroism, or be a healer or a teacher, but she must contribute something of value.

Tolkien is often criticized for the lack of strong female characters in his work. In doing my research for this challenge, I found my way to a lot of discussion forums, where the dominant opinion was that The Silmarillion not only incorporates more female characters than Tolkien's other works but that they more often serve in strong or influential roles than the women of LotR. The stories of Middle-earth would be vastly different without characters like Varda, Galadriel, Haleth, and Lúthien Tinúviel.

Nonetheless, there are still many women who recieve only glancing acknowledgment or appear only as "footnote" characters--regardless, their influence on their husbands, children, and the world around them is undeniable.

Jenni's challenge allows both for the development of strict canon characters within the confines of Tolkien's world or for those more AU-inclined to create wholly new characters from those women whose canon role extends little beyond being the wife or mother of someone more important.

Still at a loss? Consider the vast number of women who appear in The Silmarillion and it affiliated works. Or maybe your feeling like taking on a truly challenging challenge, writing a character you've never tried before? Choose at random one of the women from the list below, give her a significant role, and bring her to life on the page.

you ever wondered, what if just one thing had been done differently in the canon? Maedhros had decided to hold off on meeting Morgoth? What if Oromë had taken a different road and hadn't discovered the Elves for another five centuries? What if Haleth had taken Caranthir's offer to stay in Thargelion? What would have changed?

This challenge asks you to think about just that. Choose a single moment in Tolkien's canon and have the character make a different choice. How does history change? Or how does fate fulfill itself? The response may be any length and format--poetry, drabble, or fiction--but should ask what might have happened if one thing had changed.

Women of The Silmarillion
This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it should get you started.

Aerin Haleth Nerdanel
Amarië Hareth Nessa
Aredhel Idril Nienna
Anairë Ilmarë Nienor
Arien Indis Nimloth
Eärwen Inzilbêth Rían
Eilinel Lalaith Silmarien
Elenwë Lindóriê Thuringwethil
Elwing Lúthien Tinúviel Uinen
Elmeldir Melian Ungoliant
Estë Míriel (FA) Vairë
Finduilas Míriel (SA) Vána
Galadriel Morwen Varda
Glóredhel Yavanna  

Featured Essay for the Month

Because this month's challenge asks you to create a strong personality for a canon female character, this month's essay focuses on characterization.

Strong characters can make a reader care about the blandest plotline. Likewise, a wonderfully suspenseful tale full of creative twists and turns is easily forgotten if the reader doesn't care for the characters forced to struggle through the intriguing plot. Good characters are people with whom we empathize--even if we disagree with their motives and actions--and who seem like real people.

One of the chief complaints about female characters in Tolkien fan fiction is that they are too perfect: the dreaded "Mary Sue." Readers cannot relate because the character is an inhuman construction of pretty words, not a real person.

In "Unforgettable," Sara Ann Freed offers some suggestions on how to make your characters more believable and realistic. While the essay is aimed at writers of general fiction novels, the general concept is applicable to fan fiction and short stories as well.

Because this is a published work, I must--for reasons of copyright--restrict its use to SWG members only. "Unforgettable" is available in our LJ community to members who have joined the silwritersguild community; it is also available via PDF download on our Yahoo! Groups homepage. If you are not an SWG member but wish to read this essay--and the others that I will offer in the future--please join one or both of these groups. You are under no obligation to participate or receive group emails.

Read "Unforgettable" in our LiveJournal Community

News and Announcements

Our archive site is being built!

Maedhros (Nelyo) has kindly offered to build our archive site for us and has lent us space on her homepage until we acquire a domain name. Here, members will be able to archive their writing and we will have a public home for our news and resources.

To start, only SWG members will be permitted to archive their work on our site. This means that you must be a member of the Yahoo! group. If you are interested in seeing your work in our archive, please sign up for the Yahoo! group. Remember, you are under no obligations to participate in other activities, and you do not have to receive group emails. Please do not hesitate to contact me privately if you have questions about our group.

Character Database

It was suggested that we start constructing a database of characters, including their names (and various aliases), a physical description, and information about how they are related to other characters. I would like to begin gathering information this month for the database. Until our archive site is finished (where we can store all of our information), we can begin working on a database on our Yahoo! Groups homepage. I will send out an email to the Yahoo! group when a temporary database has been constructed. Until then, if you have any comments or suggestions, the project is still very much open for discussion.

Change in Archiving Challenges

To start, I had created a LiveJournal index to update periodically with our most recent challenges. However, as this is a rather tedious manner of doing things, I will now be saving challenges and other important announcements as Memories in our LJ community.

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