Friday, May 10, 2013

Fantasy Week - Epic fantasy: Does it have to be so long?

Posted by: Shawna Thomas

Do you need 1000 pages to tell an epic fantasy story?

I’ve heard this question a lot lately. Honestly more likely framed as why is epic fantasy so long?

I cut my reading teeth on authors like JRR Tolkien, George RR Martin, CS Lewis. 

(Notice how they all have initials. Honestly that’s why I should have gone SL Thomas.)

Game of Thrones - Clash of Kings at 1006 pages? I honestly won’t bat an eyelash. Bring it on.

But the question remains. Why are these books so long? In today’s fast-paced society, people don’t have patience for a thousand-page book. Novellas and shorts are popular for a reason. Get to the happily ever after in six hundred pages or less, please.

I get that.

So shouldn’t epic fantasy follow the same pattern?

I honestly think it would be a tragedy.

From Merriam Webster -  Epic: extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope.

Epic fantasy gives you vistas. Vistas need words. It gives you the history of kings back a hundred generations. It gives you mythologies. It gives ruins of civilizations that lived before the one your heroine is currently fighting for. It tells you not only the color of the king’s hair, but what’s on his banner and why. It gives you not only the names of the characters, but their fathers and grandfathers. Why. What. When. Where.

Good epic fantasy doesn’t just take you to a world; it builds a world from the ground up: Currency, politics, food, geography, history. Nothing is left to chance. Once you enter Martin’s seven kingdoms or Tolkien’s Middle Earth, you will have felt you could navigate the culture, sit at dinner with the commoners or even royalty and not miss a beat or wonder where the spoons are.

So couldn’t you condense this a wee bit... you know to attract more readers. Because not many readers want to dive so deep into a world.

Yes. And no.

I admit, in today's world, not many readers want to pick up a tome. So can we hold on to the tenants of what makes epic fantasy epic without drowning in minutiae? 

It's a fine line. 

My Triune Stones series began as a single book. A single book that is now four books. Journey of Dominion, which will release on May 20th, is the second in the series.  

And while the series is firmly epic fantasy, when rewriting it for publication, I recognized the need for action. I deleted many musings, many descriptions of beautiful scenery because they just didn’t move the plot forward.  

Even epic fantasy authors must adapt and change with the times. That said, by their very nature, our stories will still be too slow paced for some readers. But if you have patience, the story will weave around your imagination, drawing you into a land where magic happens, where villains desire power, heroes are ordinary people, just like you, who do extraordinary things that not only affect them, but the entire world. There may be dragons, fairies, airydh, magic rings, magic stones, elves, white walkers, secret glens and woven through it all, a sense that it has all been there for time beyond time.  Unless, of course, our hero fails. 

Journey of Dominion - a legend’s fall. 
May 20th, 2013

Don't forget to check out the other awesome posts for Fantasy week! 


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