Writing Epic Fantasy

I saw some great questions on writing Epic Fantasy, so I’m going to splatter a few opinions against this wall.

Full disclosure, I love and have been put off of epic fantasy, and yet find myself writing what might be considered epic fantasy if you squint and look sideways. When I was in my teens, I love the shear adventure as I grew to know characters going from nobodies to saviours, losing friends, making sacrifices, battle a clear and inherent evil. It would be easy for me to say that the problem with epic fantasies can be a black and white good vs bad evil with no shades of grey. However, I'm not convinced this was too much of an issue for me. I do like the idea of murkiness, but there is something clean about fighting an obvious evil, even if it is only obvious to the main character.

What really made me struggle with epic fantasy was a feeling of sameness. Sometimes authors held to long onto their worlds. I get why, a ready made audience, but I think there is room for retreading on ground, for struggling to find a replacement for that sense of discover we get in a new world.

If there was one more weakness, I would add that the epic nature can lead to indulgent writing, that while beautiful, can lead to a slow pace. I just don't have a mind for that slow pace anymore.

To me, epic fantasy needs to ensure it is a hotbed of innovation. That doesn't mean throwing out every trope, but always looking for a new angle, a fresh mix.

Why would I write epic fantasy? Well, for those memories of my early reading. The rush of excitement when clear and present danger is near, the gaining of power or skill that makes a once insurmountable enemy now vulnerable. The scale is also a factor. There is freedom to play with both royalty and those of lower social stratas. Each has their story to tell.

So while I am writing fantasy, what are my biggest weaknesses? Well, the first is probably my desire for pace. New worlds require detailing and getting that detail in, while keeping the pace fast is challenging. And maps. With star systems, you can pretty much make travel times fit your needs and directions don't need to be particularly clear. My map has bent, stretched and warped as I've tried to keep narrative and world together.

Advice for new fantasy writers? Well, that includes me, so I'm going to be careful and suggest understanding why you like it, don't be afraid to add something new, but also understand that a lot of readers love their tropes and so there is a lot of risk in not rehashing old ground.

If you do wish to read something different, I'd suggest checking out Jacqueline Carey's Banewreaker. I love the perspective, even if this is only a duology. An absolute must read.



- R Max Tillsley

Robert TillsleyComment