Did you hear it? That epic sigh of relief, coming from the southern end of the Lake Michigan shore? Yeah, that was me. Sorry if I interrupted anything important.
It’s just that I finally finished a draft of my WIP. This one is book three of a trilogy, so it feels particularly epic. No seriously, I hope I’m on my way to completing an actual epic story.
I’ve always loved epics. They’re the only sort of story I’ve ever really wanted to tell. This trilogy has been an epic effort for me (sorry, I’ll stop now). This story is rooted in my first WIP, a trilogy I first completed in June of ’09 (just a few weeks shy of a decade ago!). Much of that first story was influenced by a character who never actually appears in it. He dies relatively young, more than a decade before the story begins. This person, Vahldan of the Amalus Clan (a fictional ruling clan of the Goths), achieves legendary status during his life, and his legend only grows after his death.
Back in 2011, while struggling to make the original trilogy salable (something I’ve yet to achieve), I decided it would be revealing and fun to write a short story about the man who becomes a legend.
And it became a case of short story, long.
I started writing the full life story of Vahldan in March, 2012. It ended up weighing in at 160K (some short story, eh?). Then, in September of 2014, while awaiting feedback on a rewrite of book one of the original trilogy, I started playing around with a rewrite of Vahldan’s story. This time I decided to focus on his rise to power. Nine months later I finished a draft (of a mere 120K this time). A trusted mentor advised me to drop what I was doing with my original trilogy and focus on Vahldan. My gut agreed.
Four years, three manuscripts, a half-dozen rewrites, and almost 400,000 words later, here I am. Phew!
Now that this draft is done, I’ve been wondering whether or not the story achieves epic status. It’s obviously an overused word these days. It’s become slang, and conveys far more than its original definition. I mean, there’s really no such thing as an epic feast, or an epic overtime victory.
When I think of the kind of stories I love best, I think of words like sweeping, intricate, and immersive. To me, those things define an epic. But somewhere, lurking among the long list of things learned in college lecture halls and promptly forgotten in the pub, was a vague awareness that there are actual criteria for what makes a story an epic.
Funny thing. Here’s a guy who says he loves epics, and has always sought to write one, and then never bothered to look those criteria up. Until now.
The scholarly consensus seems to boil down to six elements. They are: [Read more…]