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The trials of creating and mastering of Epics

Discussion in 'The Authors' Café' started by jireh the provider, Mar 4, 2013.

  1. jireh the provider

    jireh the provider Video Game Designer

    The trials of creating and mastering the Epic Genre

    According to wikipedia:
    An epic is traditionally a genre of poetry, known as epic poetry. However in modern terms, epic is often extended to other art forms, such as epic theater, films, music, novels, plays, television shows, and video games, wherein the story has a theme of grandeur and heroism, just as in epic poetry.

    For a nice example, (from what I see as my most favorite example) I'll show you a video of the Final Chapter of Hyrule: Total War (a fan made Zelda Game made by UndyingNephalim. So credits to him)

    The story is found inside this Spoiler:

    In the story of the game called Hyrule Total War, you get to play as any of the many races of The Legend of Zelda Series and its up to the player whether they bring peace or chaos in the land of Hyrule. This fan-made Zelda world was a land of constant battle of religion, politics, appealing to the masses, racial supremacy, and territory.

    But on the video, it shows on how Majora (the Mask God of Darkness and corruption) showed to the four supreme factions, namely the Hylians the Zora, the Kokiri, and the Gorons, that the Legendary Triforce can be destroyed by his hands where others have failed.

    It was also from their own wars and egoistic status (the four factions above believe that they are the most supreme of all factions since they are chosen by the Goddesses) that brought corruption, discord, and violence throughout the entire land: some of the crucial ingredients that are needed by Majora to be resurrected and destroy all of the races that followed The three Goddesses and the Triforce. Along with races that became Majora's followers, he builds himself an army ready to kill every faction that follows the Three Goddesses.

    Thus, the last four remaining factions set aside their pride and envy among each other and they fight together to defeat Majora (he's a God keep in mind) and his many followers in order for the four races to redeem themselves from their cataclysmic mistakes and make themselves as an Epic Legend once more.

    From what I understand, an Epic would usually be something like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Long stories and a minimum of three Volumes [a triology in other terms] or more. Some dubbed it as the "most difficult genre to ever produce".

    But often times, they always have shown about thousands of characters being involved in some grand event that can make massive battles, histories, and truces of many people.

    Are there any epics where any kind of WAR is not initially involved?

    So my questions of curiosity are: [your answers can also be from your personal experiences and understanding. If you can do this though, I'll be glad to know.]

    a. What makes an epic story [fanfic or not] extremely difficult to make?

    b. Just how much detail, plot, and content are often preferred when you are making an epic of your own?

    c. As the main character/s go further in the Epic story, should the conflicts be much deeper compared to the previous Volume as the main
    protagonist's personality develops much more deeper [think of harry potter in early volumes to the later parts in the much more mature harry hotter]?

    d. Once again, are there any epics where any kind of WAR is not initially involved? Or epics where the conflicts are not so grand massive and deep?

    e. What are your favorite epics of any media [video games, literature, film, etc]? What makes that Epic so epic?

    f. How difficult is it to make an Epic Genre Story [technically and personally]?

    g. From your own perspective, what are the ultimate challenges/trials of making a story built for the Epic Genre?

    If you're wondering why this thread talks about a specific genre, it's because when I look back at my early Game Design Document [this is Game development Jargon], that my original story I'm posting here [Feli Chronicles Series] could belong in this genre.

    The last part of it involves a grand war and freedom which is found on the last [4th] volume of my planned series. After watching the video I posted here, It makes me wonder ahead on how challenging it could be for me to continue my series the further I go. My main characters will age, they will meet more characters, more conflicts [simple and more deeper ones], new relationships, more mysteries, more folklore, and more worlds.

    Probably, it is quite a daunting huge scale to make.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2013
  2. Firebrand

    Firebrand Indomitable

    Okay, for starters, I don't consider Harry Potter an epic. Yes, it's a very good story, but it's not an epic. In the same vein, despite the similarities between Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien's works, I would only consider Tolkien's works an epic, not Lewis's. Epics fit a certain mold, see. They're supposed to be told in the same style as an ancient legend, the story of a great conflict with a great many participants that takes a very long time. A Song of Ice and Fire, the Lord of the Rings, Jane Linskold's Firekeeper saga, along with a case that could be made for Percy Jackson (especially with the Greek roots), are all some examples of what are considered epics.

    Some of the first recorded literature we have is epics. I think the oldest manuscript in the world is the Epic of Gilgamesh. Epics were passed down through oral tradition for centuries before they were actually recorded. Likewise, we have the Iliad and the Odyssey that are largely attributed to Homer. The point I'm getting at here is that the idea of an epic is old as balls, and is actually ingrained in human consciousness. Later on, I think Dante's Divine Comedy and much later than that, John Milton's Paradise Lost and eventually his elegy Lycidas also constitute epics.

    All right, we have the traditional definition of an epic out of the way. So, in answer to your first question, if we consider Lycidas to be an epic, then no, not all epics focus on war, though there must always be a conflict. However, much of what we consider the epic cycle comes from the Iliad, so traditionally speaking, epics are about war. Epics also usually involve a journey, oftentimes a lengthy one. Dante traveled through Hell, Purgatory and into Heaven. Odysseus made a lengthy voyage home. The speaker in Lycidas had to come to terms with the death of his beloved friend and move on from grief so that Lycidas could become a "locus of the shore". (Seriously, if you haven't read Lycidas, you totally should, I've written three lengthy papers on it, it's fantastic)

    Well, this is easy enough to answer. Epics are by their nature freaking long. I think (and this is not me being presumptuous or a pompous ***, genuinely my speculation) that my original fiction piece, the Blazing Heart Saga, constitutes an epic. It's about the climax of a war that has raged for roughly a century before the story opens, and details the last five years. Lots of characters, many battles, many deaths, truces, alliances, etc. I'm wrapping up the third and final installment now, and I've been working on it for five years. It's about 1500 pages long, give or take a hundred pages. So yeah. Epics take a long time. They are difficult to write, because they are long but also because they take a lot of time to plan and orchestrate and there is a ton of stuff to take into account because you're dealing with huge events.

    Epics are supposed to be massive in scope, presenting events in a broad spectrum. Look at the Iliad, again. And yeah, I'm going to keep referring back to this, as it's one of the best examples of an epic that we know of. You have the story of Paris and Helen, along with Hector, Achilles, Patroclus, Odysseus, Agamemnon, Menelaus, Ajax... you know what? Just look at this. Each of these characters has an involvement in the plot, and specific plots relevant to them. It's freaking massive. And that's what makes it an epic.

    Yes. See previous response that epics are supposed to be freaking massive in scope and in any good story, the stakes get higher and higher as the action goes on.

    If we consider the Divine Comedy and Lycidas to be epics, and many scholars consider at least the former to be so, then yes. Epics are about grand conflicts, but more than that they are supposed to reveal something about human nature, and have deep themes that serve as morals. The Divine Comedy dealt with the mortal approach to theology, the Iliad's major themes are largely considered to be glory, wrath and discord amongst mortals, and the inevitability and inescapable nature of fate.

    *points to earlier paragraphs*

    I think I already went it to this. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Epics are REALLY FREAKIN' LONG. They take a long time to plan, to write, and usually to read. You've got to juggle a massive cast, heavy themes, realistic portrayals of said cast, the passage of time, death, etc., etc. Everything that makes epics fantastic is exactly what makes them so bloody hard to write.

    *deep breath* REALLY FREAKIN' LONG. You've got to put some serious effort and commitment into writing an epic, it's not for the faint of heart. An epic story is going to take literally years to write, and every problem that everyone has writing normally is going to crop up just as often in an epic, sometimes moreso.

    That said, because of their length and difficulty, it's very difficult to write an epic and not come out of the experience a better writer. Because of how much time and effort go into writing it, one will constantly be honing their skills at the craft. I look back at when I started Blazing Heart years ago and then how I'm writing now, and the difference is astronomical. My technique has evolved so much, and I have a much better grasp of what I'm doing now. I have to, it's been five years of intense writing, almost every day. The hard work really does pay off, but never forget that it is very hard work.

    EDIT: The thread title is "The trials of creating and mastering epics". See, I'm not entirely sure epics can be "mastered", per say. It's not like a writing technique that one can practice over the course of a story (or several stories) and after trying it out a few times, have it down. I think the best one can hope for is to write/compose an epic, and then hope it is well received. Any technique that goes into writing an epic can be similarly applied to any other kind of fiction, and writing a good epic does not make one a master. I don't think writing five epic sagas would make one a master. Now, surely, people like Homer and Tolkien certainly were quite accomplished at what they did, and achieved what they set out to do. But a mastery of the art?

    ... Oh dear, I almost just wrote "Can anyone ever truly master any art?" and yeah, that's too big a question. Basically, what I'm saying is, you can make the writing of epics your life's work, and write many successful ones, but to truly master the art of it? In my opinion, I don't think that's doable. There's always something, some small facet to improve upon. And that holds true in any art form.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2013
  3. IJuggler

    IJuggler how much words

    Feralninja really says it well, but I've got something to add. I think an epic is really a relative term. Sure, the classic epics are quite long, but in the modern sense it doesn't have to span millions of words and fill a bookshelf to be considered one. For example, the fanfiction Casualties (a alternate universe of the FFTA game, with a handful of extra characters added in) clicks in at 670k words so far, but it's got so many of the classic 'warring' and other factors that really make an epic that I couldn't imagine it as anything else. On the other hand, I've been reading a series that has its first novel end a century-long war and the main character is the hero of it, but at about 100k words that doesn't quite feel long enough.

    If I had to pick, though, I'd say that the qualifiers for an epic are an almost excessive amount of struggles for the main character(s). The Epic of Gilgamesh featured this (considering its time), and every epic I've read since then pretty much does the same thing. Lord of the Rings is an epic, but Harry Potter isn't, because a very large amount of Lord of the Rings is focused on the intense life-and-death struggles of the hobbits whereas Harry Potter is a magical fantasy world with a bad guy who basically only appears to conclude each of the books, until the last one.

    Maybe I'll be taking heat for saying this, but I think an epic takes no real exceptional amount of work to write. If you place it on a ledge beside all the other types of work, it's just another genre, and it takes just as much or as little work as any do. It just so happens that it takes more work for the reader to keep up with it all, so it seems like it takes more effort to write. When really, the exception should instead be that authors who write the sort of shallow popular romance that we're always hearing about are simply known as lazy. But who knows, maybe I'm wrong for thinking that all writing should be held to the same standard of dedication and effort.

    To be fair, the definition of epic we're using here is also somewhat of a stylistic work. It wouldn't be fair to hold Dune to the same standards as, say, Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Dispossessed" (a random book from my shelf I like to use for examples), since the character interactions and pacing are intrinsically different to accommodate different story types. A story about one character who philosophizes for many pages would only be awkward and clunky in the framework of a galactic century-spanning military-political epic, where every page has to be economized so as to keep the pace and flow moving right. It just kind of grinds my gears when the topic comes up that any one genre is somehow harder or more difficult than another, because it discounts the different-but-still-important effort (that should be) put into writing something else.

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