A Reader's Journey: Part 3 - djedwardson.com

A Reader’s Journey: Part 3

library journey

In the last installment, I mentioned how my fascination with Choose Your Own Adventure books did not quite blossom into a full blown love of reading. But even if it did not get me there, in many ways it led me into what did, and that’s what I intend to focus on in this article.

You see, for me, the experience of reading books in which I got to influence what was happening was a lot like a game. Indeed, the first computer games I ever played were nothing more than glorified Choose Your Own Adventure books. If anyone remembers “Zork”, you’ll know what I am talking about. At the time, I don’t think I saw that much of a connection between games and books, but looking back there was far more overlap than I realized.

It was actually my discovery of a new kind of game in the seventh grade which allowed these two paths to converge and which ultimately sparked my real entrance into the realm of literature. And as had happened with those historical biographies a few years earlier, this came through a fortuitous discovery in school. My speech teacher had a copy of Dungeons & Dragons in his cabinet, I think because he thought it would be educational. Well, it turns out he was right.

The game’s the thing

I had grown up playing Monopoly, Clue, Sorry, Parchesi, and such, the typical games American families have access to. But I had never really thought of them as telling a story, with one exception. The characters in Clue sparked my imagination to the point that I actually planned on staging a little drama surrounding them in the fourth grade, but nothing much came of it. (Turns out it’s awfully hard to recruit actors when you’re barely double digits, have no training, and no budget) Back to the games, though, I think by the time I was thirteen I was feeling like I needed a little bit more of a challenge from games. So when I was presented with a game that, just by the size of the rule book, I could tell was not for the faint of heart, I was ready to jump in.

dungeons and dragons basic red book coverIn order to play the game, someone had to be the Game Master and tell the story to those who were playing the characters. For whatever reason, that role fell to me. Although I’m sure the stories I made up for the game were almost entirely without merit, we did have fun. More importantly, I think I can trace my genesis as an author back to that experience. As I and my friends bumbled through our attempts at learning this complex game, I took my first steps as a fledgling crafter of tales. It did not take long, however, for me to realize that the well I had to draw on was not that deep. I needed more material if I was going to tell better stories and all I really had for inspiration were some vague impressions I had picked up along the way from exposure to Arthurian Legends and Greek Mythology.

Loot from the dragon’s hoard

In my quest for narrative treasure I found in the back of one of those very same rulebooks a list of novels which were recommended further reading for anyone interested in fantasy settings. This was really the final turn of the key in the lock which opened up for me the world of reading. And while I ended up reading several books on that list, the very first one I chose turned out to be the best, and after reading that story I never really looked back.

The Hobbit Book Cover - by J.R.R. TolkienThe first story I chose was a little book entitled, The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. You may have heard of it. I have often said that I fell under this book’s spell on the first reading and never looked back. I fell in love with its larger than life characters and setting from the very first page. Here was an adventure which I did not mind in the slightest being led upon for I was conducted by such able amicable guides in Bilbo and his companions that I could not have chosen better paths had I been in their shoes. The book remains, to this day, one of my all time favorites. The only reason it does not top the list is because I cannot differentiate between it and its successors, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. I love them all so equally well that to choose between them would be like choosing favorites among my children. An impossible task!

So there you have it. It was Mr. Baggins and his companions who first ushered me out of my reading recalcitrance. But there were many more adventures to be had beyond this one, oh yes, many more to be sure. And I will speak of some of those in the next part of the series.

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Go to Part 2 Go to Part 4

9 thoughts on “A Reader’s Journey: Part 3”

  1. I love that you wanted to write a play around Clue! Have you seen the movie? I haven’t, but I’ve heard that it was released with multiple different endings, and that for the brief period of time it was in theaters, each theater got to choose which ending they showed… so you could go to the same movie as someone else, only to realize when conversing about it that you had seen different endings! I don’t even know if that story is true… I’ve just heard it. But I love the idea of it.

    1. Yes, I’m pretty sure that is true what you said about the movie. It bombed at the box office, but has become something of a cult classic. I love the idea of multiple endings for a film, too. Maybe someday I’ll have to find a copy of this movie and see if it lived up to my fourth grade vision…

  2. Wow, that is so cool that both your reading and writing were inspired by board games! Board games do a great job of setting the stage for “more.” We own a game called Defenders of the Realm that just screams epic-fantasy-novel. And I know someone has written a book based on Settlers of Catan. And then, of course, there are the board games based on books… those are cool, especially the Lord of the Rings ones with all the little figures (War of the Ring and Battle of the Five Armies).

    1. Yes, it’s amazing that once decide to start writing you realize that stories are everywhere, even in the games you played as a child. I actually own Defenders of the Realm and love that game. You’re right, it would make for an amazing novel! I may just have to write one about it some day!

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