17. Dwarves: know nothing, guess even less
A secretive, hoarding, resilient people, Dwarves are probably Tolkien's most underrated creatures, lacking even the malefic appeal and undeniable usefulness for any plot of the villainous monsters. Of them we know but a bunch of facts: that there are few women among them, and that they look remarkably like their men (beards included); that they have a secret language and secret names they tell no one; that they are very resistant to evil, and indeed less easily corrupted than both Men and Elves; and that their jealous love for what they make and what they deem theirs is often their undoing (see Thorin and his dealings with the treasure under the Mountain for more information).
Tolkien's most famous Dwarf is Gimli; and while his close friendship with Legolas has brought to the creation of fics laden with heavy innuendo and puns about the Dwarvish, ahem, equipment, the rest of his people are usually passed over in romantic fanfiction. Dwarves are resistant, but not pretty by our standards; and the comic relief Gimli provides in the movies has undermined his credibility as a 'serious' character even more. All this is a pity, because the lack of information about them opens up unexplored and vast lands for willing writers. No more can be said here, but that Dwarvish romance is possible, and indeed highly enjoyable: and Camilla Sandman's The Official Fanfiction University of Middle-earth makes for both an hilarious read and a convincing proof of this fact.
18. The Middle-earth patient: love in the healing house
Judging from the high number of soldiers who got romantically entangled with their nurses in military hospitals, there must be something in the old plot of the heroine nursing the hero back to health, with him falling for her in the process. While this can make for some sweet, beautiful romance, remember something: illness isn't pleasant. If the hero is wounded, there'll be bandages to change, dirt to be cleaned from bleeding wounds, pus oozing from the sores not to mention the embarrassing affair of the toilet. Talk for two minutes with a professional nurse and she'll tell you nursing involves much more than the clean and nice mopping of the brow and raving love declarations they show us in the movies. You can handle the unromantic details? Go forth and write. If you can't, just keep your heroes fit. Or dump them in the Houses of Healing until they are again.
Another point: we all know mankind is fragile. We are some seriously breakable creatures. Even a tough guy like Aragorn and Boromir will have broken a leg or cut himself badly sometimes in his life. But Elves are not fragile at all: too graceful and lithe to hurt themselves by mistake, they are also extremely difficult to wound. Taking down an Elven warrior involves multiple wounds from several different opponents half of which at least will be dispatched to kingdom come before their opponent eventually dies. One First Age Elf hang from a peak by his wrist for ten years, and afterwards recovered admirably. The bottom line being: if you want Legolas stuck on a bed for your heroine to take care of, provide that some serious catastrophe has reduced him there. Where 'serious catastrophe' means: 'a lot more than one stray Orc'.
19. Sing to me, o Muse: song and poetry in romance
Tolkien was a decent poet. More than that: he could be a good one. He liked to measure himself with ancient metrons, he liked to reinvent and rediscover lost styles. He could write Anglo-Saxon poems and he could set in rhyme the tales and legends of the world he had created. He could be funny, romantic, tragic; and he liked to make his work rich with his creations. Many of his characters join a love for poetry with a talent for ruling and fighting, see Aragorn; while others, famous for their singing, can stand their ground in battle (Maglor). It is undeniable that poetry is an important component of the Tolkienverse, and as such is a force to be reckoned with by fanfiction writers.
There is such a thing as poem-fics, and those who are able to compose can produce very remarkable works in this field. Alas, not all of us were born bards; and to force yourself to write poetry, when poetry is not your thing, may bring only to your frustration and unsatisfaction with your work. Quite unnecessarily: not all who write prose are good at poetry, where the reverse equally applies, and some prose may get impressively close to poetry without quite touching it. If you need some poetry in your fic and your Muse taps her sandal at you impatiently refusing to do the work and wishing to get on with the story instead, know that the twelve volumes of History of Middle-earth contain numerous and lengthy samples of Tolkien's poetic takes on Middle-earth; poems that your refined Elvish and human characters are very likely to know and quote when needed.
If your Aragorn wishes to woo Eowyn with some poetry, and the little Shakespeare in you that day is not likely to rise from his bed and get to work, you have but to go back to Tolkien a moment and select an appropriate piece. (Given the maiden's temperament, I'd advise a bloody poem on a lost but glorious battle).
20. Crossed: when universes overlap
It can be Hermione, Buffy or Xena. It can be a misplaced spell, a portal, a Hellmouth; whatever the reason why it happens, it happens rather often. It's the crossover: two fandoms clash, chaos ensues. Crossover is infinite and unforeseeable, and new combinations appear every day. The Galactica may land on Elrond's lawn, or Otori Takeo gallop his way to Middle-earth; and Phoebe Halliwell could end up dating Legolas in the Enterprise's lounge. Too many and variegated are the characteristics of this genre to examined here, so, very shortly, one may say that all we have discussed in the preceding points applies: crossover is difficult because so many variables have to be taken into account, but it can be great when the writer manages to bend both universes to his/her will and use the clash to show new and unpredictable sides to both stories. Edward Cullen could very well enjoy his stay in Minas Tirith; and if you will have the courage to bring it one step forward from Bella becoming the umpteenth Tenth Walker, so could the readers.
21. Conclusion: bringing the romance out there
Romance is one of the oldest genres: the most ancient written tales bear already traces of the hero's courtship of his lady, and amid their adventures the Greek, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Japanese and Chinese heroes found the time to fall in love. People scoff at romance, saying it's easy and cheap; those who write it know it is not so, and indeed will continue writing it with pride. Love, or its absence, helps defining the way we live; and when we write, be it original fiction or fanfic, love is a force we reckon with.
In this essay I have touched on one very specific subject, romantic fanfiction in the Tolkien universe: a theme that inspires and permeates my own conception of romance. I don't own the truth, nor pretend to know everything, and my sole purpose in setting out in this work is to help my fellow authors providing them with those answers I missed when I began writing on this subject. Hopefully no one will have felt offended; and indeed offence was the last thing I wished to give.
May your ways be golden and green, say the Elves when they say goodbye; I may add, may your writing and reading romance give you many an hour of pleasure, and help you on the endless way to becoming an ever better author.