So you want to try your hand at writing an epic. Good for you! This task isn’t for the faint-hearted. It takes strength, stamina, and courage–all the key ingredients your hero will need. But what are some other necessary components to achieve this monumental task? Let’s break it down.
Charismatic, charming, reluctant, begrudging–what will your hero be? It’s up to you and there is a myriad of different heroes to choose from. And, oh, just like Bonnie Tyler, you need a hero or your epic will be a dud. Be sure to brush up on your Hero’s Journey knowledge to nail down the specifics of all the calamities you need to throw at your darling.
Once you’ve created a profile on this hero, how will you introduce them to your readers? Think about this, the right introduction could make or break the book. You want to set up expectations, maybe reveal a hint of a secret, something revealed later. This is a great time to roll out a small dose of conflict as a way of setting the stage for the rest of the story. How will the hero react to this conflict? Will their reaction evolve over the story? It should, and you should be making notes on just how that will happen.
Your Hero in an Epic World
Worldbuilding is crucial for an epic. Look at Tolkein. The man created not one, but more than fifteen languages for his epic realm! That’s where the bar is set, people. Now don’t go destroy your social life by trying to reach this goal. Set your bar a little lower and see what you can do.
However, all the fantastic details you compile should remain backstage. A writer should be in full command of all the minutiae, and then slowly reveal this information to the audience. In other words, build your world, but don’t info-dump it into some reader’s lap.
Enjoy this part of the process. Make a whole file, binder, or a sketchbook with how the clothes will look, the strange foods the people will eat or drink (blue milk, anyone?), and then figure out ways to sneak this information into the story.
The Quest! The Peril! And, then more Peril!
An epic is nothing without a quest. What does that look like for your hero? Once you nail that down, think about all the obstacles, roadblocks, and reversals you plan on chucking at your main character. Also, consider both inner and outer conflict. Demons and monsters might be in the hero’s head as well as in their path. You should be constantly one-upping yourself. If the danger seems insurmountable, step it up a few chapters later. In an epic, the journey is not a straight shot to the finish line. It’s setback after setback, a serpentine road to the end game.