I am a big proponent of adhering to certain aspects of The Lore. There are certain facets of fantasy fiction that are established and foundational, like that elves live long lives and have pointed ears, or that dwarves like gold and gems and to mine. Once you make an elf who has a beard and prefers mining, you no longer have an elf. What DnD4 did to Tieflings annoys me quite a bit for this reason–they completely changed the race–so I try to avoid such things.
However, I also think it a bit ludicrous when fantasy races completely buy into the established stereotypes. There is a certain baseline to which we should adhere, but it shouldn’t stifle our creativity. For instance, there are two traditionally accepted and expected versions of halflings. One is Tolkein’s hobbit, which is somewhat lazy, extremely conservative, enjoys smoking and drinking ale, and dislikes adventure in the extreme. On the other end of the spectrum are Weis’s and Hickman’s kender, who are struck by wanderlust at a young age and don’t understand the concept of “personal possessions.” Halflings are known to be lucky, curious, good-natured, friendly… but usually, they fall under one of these two templates.
Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition gave me an idea back in the day, and it’s one I want to explore further in my own writing. I haven’t quite figured out how they should act, but I want to spend a lot of time with halflings. My concept is to take Tolkein’s halflings, but then place them in a location where they are nearly constantly under attack. What would halfling culture look like in a militaristic setting? How would their government be organized? How would they comport themselves?
I’m beginning to consider this, and I suspect they will develop as I go along. Perhaps, after the initial fumbling around, I’ll begin a new story arc focusing on a halfling hero where I can delve into their culture more in-depth. We’ll see. In the meantime, check out Ride of the Halflings ((Yeah, sorry, I took this blog down, so you can’t read this online anymore. I guess… too bad?)) , Arias’s first introduction to the Halfling Homeguard.
I just don’t want to get into a rut and fail to create something. There’s a certain amount of borrowing that’s unavoidable, as even Uncle Tas would admit, but there’s no excuse for lazy thinking and lazy writing. It’s important that your readers have an idea of what to expect; that there are certain rules and guidelines within which they can understand the story. But it’s boring to read the same old thing yet again. I want to take the old and make it new, different, and exciting.