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This is the last guest post on my LJ for our Complete Your Draft Challenge. I'm wrapping our author advice series with a wonderful post about epic fantasy from KC Dyer.

I've just finished reading THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin. Bought a copy in Heathrow airport to read on my flight home from London. This turned out to be a problem. Once I picked the darned thing up -- even though it weighs about as much as a small child -- I couldn't put it down. It called to me when I was supposed to be working. I woke up in the night and had to peek at the next chapter. It ate an entire Sunday -- snap! -- in one, all-consuming gulp.

My name is KC Dyer, and I am an epic fantasy addict.

Now, there are those who would argue Cronin's book isn't epic fantasy. It's a vampire story, after all -- told across generations and vast swathes of geography. And I'm not here to argue the exact definition. As a writer of books for teens that tiptoe across historical fiction, time travel, contemporary issue-driven fiction, mystery and adventure, I am not one to get hung up on genre.

But epic fantasy is something special. It is a weighty endeavour. World-building, character driven, complex, messy -- all these things are elements of epic fantasy. And it stands to reason that since I like to read it, I also simply can't resist trying my hand at writing it, too.

I don't write high fantasy with elves and dragons [I suppose I should say I haven't written any yet -- if a good enough idea grabs me, there is no telling what will come out of my pen...] but I've just finished writing the first volume of a steampunk time-travel story that encompasses a thousand year time-span through the eyes of a contemporary teenager.

I didn't really mean to...

I have a bit of a history of this sort of thing. The first book I ever wrote turned out to be the inaugural book in a trilogy. It was called SEEDS OF TIME, and recounted the adventures of a contemporary 13 year old girl as she tried to make her way through the wilds of the West Highlands of Scotland at the time of the Black Plague. Her adventures filled a full three volumes before she was done with me. My second series is a mere two books long, but with the release of FACING FIRE this fall, a third story is definitely calling me to return. And as for the one I've just finished, [right now, it seems to be calling itself A CURIOUS CLOCKWORK], I expect it will take four or five more books before it shakes me loose. This is the thing about epic fantasy. You've got to be in it for the long haul. It grabs you by the throat and shakes you silly. And you kinda like it that way.

But there is also a fine balance -- as with any good story-telling -- that you need to walk when embarking on a fantasy epic. The creating of worlds cannot overtake the storyline. The character base cannot be so broad that you will lose your readers [just who was that guy in the flowing robes again?] The timeline may be grandiose, but it must be accessible to the characters themselves and to the readers. Nobody really knows they are living through an epic story until it is done, right? This has to be true of your characters. As soon as they start expounding in heroic tones, you should begin to worry a little.

The sheer joy of epic fantasy is in the sweeping scope, but it's also in the details. Terry Pratchett's DISCWORLD [Now 40 books plus and still counting] is full of little quirks and details that delight as they appear from volume to volume. The wizards, the dragons, the Disc itself, balanced on the backs of four elephants riding on a turtle as it slowly motors through space -- well, it does leave a lot of scope for the imagination, you must agree. And yet Pratchett's tales are rooted in the small dramas we all face as humans; things that can take place in your local pub. Love, loss, and what Death really does in his spare time...

So, in the end, I say let this be your guide as you embark on an epic journey. The scope may be big, but the stories must be small enough to fit inside the human heart. If you can do that -- you're golden.

As for me? I've got George RR Martin's CLASH OF KINGS calling my name...


KC Dyer lives with her children (and other animals) in the wilds north of Vancouver, BC, where she works as a freelance writer, speaker and educator. She is a director and long-time participant at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and a mentor with Creative Writing for Children in Vancouver. Her novels include A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW, and its sequel FACING FIRE. This year, she has been writer-in-residence at New Westminster Secondary School, and has been a featured presenter at the National Council of English Teachers in Philidelphia, PA; YouthWrite in Penticton, BC; The Canadian Authors’ Association in Victoria, BC; The Ontario Library Association Superconference in Toronto, ON; Surrey International Writers’ Conference in Surrey, BC; WriteOn Bowen and others. KC is an unrepentant techie, and can be found online and on twitter.

Tomorrow is Wednesday so don't forget to stop by annemariewrites's LJ for the last weekly check in and possibly win a surprise gift. I'd like to take the opportunity here to thank all the participating authors for generously sharing their wisdom with us, not to mention all those wonderful books and swag they've donated to the cause. A big thank you to all September Drafters for your camaraderie throughout the month and for supporting our humble little project.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Oct. 3rd, 2010 04:42 am (UTC)
Thanks for the great advice and words of inspiration. I've got an epic fantasy tickling at my brain lately... I just might have to give it a try :)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )