What Inspired Me to Write: Dragonlance
When people ask what inspired me to write, I tell them Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Maragaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I remember the early autumn afternoon I picked up a copy of the first book of the Dragonlance Chronicles. I felt anxious at the time, since I was in a new school with kids from another town. So, I went to the one place I thought might alleviate my trembling hands and sweaty brow: the library. Wandering around our school library, I found the tiny sci-fi/fantasy section tucked away in a corner. The entire section would have fit in my pantry at home. It was only one shelf of books and a flimsy metal rack. But on that rack, I found a battered copy of Dragons of Autumn Twilight.
The cover by Larry Elmore hooked me, with its beautiful depiction of an autumn forest that reminded me of home. I sat in the library reading until the end of study hall and took it home with me.
The Dragonlance Chronicles series re-introduced me to what I think of as fantasy written for adults.
In fourth grade, I tried to read The Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed the books, but Tolkien’s rambling historian style made it harder to get into the story. For the next three years, I assumed fantasy written for adults was exactly like Tolkien’s style: taking long tangents to tell the history of this family or town that is mentioned once and forgotten.
The Dragonlance Chronicles proved me wrong.
Dragonlance has a very different feel than the Lord of the Rings. When I read the Lord of the Rings, I felt like I was listening to grandpa Tolkien tell me a story from an armchair by the fire. As I read Dragonlance though, I was sitting around a table with my friends as we created a story together for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I lived the story alongside the characters as if they were my friends. I fell in love with the Dragonlance characters because I felt close to them. The characters, viewpoint, and prose just felt more approachable to me, and it helped me to expand my horizons in the fantasy genre.
For example, Raistlin, the mage, is a sarcastic, cynical jerk to almost everyone, and he is obsessed with power. However, he isn’t like that for no reason. All his life he lived in his brother’s shadow. When they were kids, society shunned and abused Raistlin for his fledgling magical power. At the same time, he saw the happy life of his warrior brother and was jealous of Caramon. He sees the life he wishes he could have if he weren’t so frail. He pursues power and uses abusive manipulation as a defense mechanism to make up for his fragile body and ego.
Raistlin takes advantage of his brother Caramon’s unconditional love and is borderline abusive. I can’t defend that. I won’t. But the reason why he is a compelling character is because I can empathize with him. I remember what it was like to be the weird kid who liked to sit inside and read instead of play on the playground.
Also, the leader of the group, Tanis Half-Elven, has no idea what he’s doing. He’s not like Aragorn. In the Lord of the Rings books, Aragorn strides into the story knowing exactly who he his and what his destiny is. Tanis feels more grounded. He’s melodramatic because he is torn between his two heritages. But he’s also relatable because he’s just along for the ride most of the adventure. He’s like a person being swept downstream and trying to grab hold of something and take command of his life again but he can’t ever seem to. I think most people can relate to that. I know that how I feel most of the time. These details in each character’s personality and backstory, combined with the closeness of the viewpoint, made them feel real.
However, Tolkien’s influence is all over the Dragonlance Chronicles. Many of the characters in the story have familiar counterparts in the Lord of the Rings. Dragonlance is a love letter to Tolkien in the best possible sense. Dragonlance takes the best part of Tolkien (the team of adventurers on an epic quest to stop a dark lord) and mixes them with a more modern style.
Does the Chronicles series have its problems? Absolutely. It sometimes has a hard time with the huge cast, and sometimes it shifts viewpoint away from important plot elements for no reason. But it’s a love letter to Tolkien, and what would the Lord of the Rings be without Gandalf disappearing for several chapters because he was on a grand adventure on his own?
The Dragonlance Chronicles are a classic sword and sorcery romp, and I love them all my heart. I’ll always look on them with fondness, flaws and all. I wouldn’t be the writer or the person, I am today without them.
Part of the reason why I wrote this post is because I’m re-reading the Chronicles books with a friend. It’s been a great nostalgia trip for me. Want to join us in reading the Dragonlance Chronicles?
Treat yourself and get a copy of Dragons of Autumn Twilight by clicking here or on the Dragonlance logo below (disclaimer: both are affiliate links).
You won’t regret it!
Let me know in the comments what book series inspired you to write. Or just one that you really love. I’m always on the lookout for great books to read!