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How do you like your epic fantasy?
Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 5:27 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224

Something I have noticed a little is that there is not a huge presence of epic fantasy writing available on the site at the moment. This may likely be due to the amount of dedication and time an epic typically involves.

That said, how do you like your epic fantasy? Do you want it dark and gritty, with a story of the threat of the end of the world as known in its current form (Robert Jordan, Martin, Sanderson and others), or do you like your doomsday a little more light (ala David Eddings' Belgariad and Mallorean)

I tend to read and write my epic fantasy as dark, leaving traditional for my lighter, fluffier reading. That said, I loved both the Belgariad and the Mallorean.

Your thoughts?

Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 5:43 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

I've never read Robert Jordan or Martin. Sanderson? Nope, getting him confused with someone else. Loved the Belgariad and the Mallorean. (Eddings' Elenium and Tamuli were good but his Dreamers series I couldn't bring myself to finish.)

I like most of my reading and writing to be on the lighter side. I do love some good action but what I adore most about epic is the world-building, getting to explore the world this author created and put in peril. In general I go for lighter toned stuff, but that's just because I don't like the way the dark stuff puts me off in my creativity and just depresses me mentally and emotionally.

I do have a traditional/epic fantasy work I could put up here but it's really rough.
Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 7:12 PM
Joined: 4/6/2011
Posts: 31

Jordan and Martin between them may have killed the genre. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard "I won't pick up a series now until I know the author is going to end it someday...."

I have always classified myself as a fantasy fan, but upon giving it thought, it's hard for me to find canonical "epic" series that I've liked without qualification. I am the only fantasy fan I know who did not like A Game of Thrones. I never got into Jordan. I couldn't even finish Wizard's First Rule. Didn't like the Belgariad much (it's okay, just seems a tad juvenile) or the Shanarra books (though that's reaching back twenty years).

I liked The First Law. I liked Mistborn, though I haven't read the sequels. I liked Tad WIlliams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. I properly revere Tolkien. I don't know if Glen Cook's Black Company books qualify as epic or not -- I liked the first trilogy, not the later ones. I liked The Fionavar Tapestry, although more for moments of brilliance than for the series as a whole work.

Who else should I be thinking of?

In general I think I fall somewhere in the middle, preference-wise. I like the world and the plot to have some weight to them, and for events to feel important and urgent. I don't like grit for its own sake, graphic details that serve more to gross out the reader than to support the story, or authors who kill characters just to prove how unsentimental and tough they are.

I am currently querying the first volume of an epic fantasy. I suppose I could post it here and see what folks think, if that part of the map is looking thin.
Robert C Roman
Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 7:14 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383

Honestly? Well written. I can go dark or light, either one works for me.

One thing I would say is that while you can go from Light to Dark, the reverse is really tough to pull off. I've never seen it done.

Dark at the outset and Dark throughout can be depressing, but it does allow the author freedom to explore far more realistic human interaction. It's not as good for escapism though.

Light at the outset and Light throughout is great escapism, but can occasionally feel like cotton candy. It becomes hard to take any dangers seriously.

Light at the outset going Darker? That can be realy interesting as the characters, introduced in a setting where you can emotionally invest, become involved in genuinely dangerous goings on.

Dark going Lighter? It seems almost like the author is giving up, trying to avoid doing Horrible Things to the characters *they've* grown to know and love. While I'm sure it's easier for the author, sometimes in order to make things fulfilling for the reader, the author has to go to some really bad places.
Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 7:52 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224

@Stephmcgee - I've only read a little of the Mistborn trilogy, but it is a great epic-scaled fantasy. And it has a conclusion (yay!). As for really rough draft... I view mine as really rough, but that is where I get the most important feedback. I don't want the plot and scene feedback after I've polished everything just to have to completely rewrite. At least this way I can work with the mentality it isn't a finished work. Much easier to swallow great critiques in a good mindset.

@Sawyer Perry - Ooooh, another epic writer. I totally agree. I haven't read Martin's series, but I'm liking the television show so far, ironically. I might read the books after I completely see the series. (backwards, I know... but since I got roped into watching the series, I may as well watch it first then attempt to read the series again. ) Sadly, the first three attempts to read got abandoned in the first chapter because I didn't jive so well with the style. I might just have to skip the first ten pages or so and start getting into the exciting bits as seen in the series. That might help me a bit to get into it.

@RebeccaStevenson - I don't think I agree with you at all. I bought every one of the Codex Alera as they were released because I wanted to read them so badly. I don't feel I'm at all swayed by a series not being completed. But I can understand how people would prefer to buy the entire series once completed.

You hit on a good point, my friends kept telling me about all of the character deaths in Martin's book, plus all of the uhm... more gritty details, that I didn't want to read something that was crude for the sake of being crude, which is how it came across when I was told of the series.

#Robert C. Roman - Agreed, once you go dark, you can have somewhat light moments to break tension, but the overall tone will remain dark. Betrayer's Truth is dark throughout, but there are triumphs and victories, even if they come at a great price to characters.

Thanks for the great input, folks
MB Mulhall
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 2:43 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 81

I have to say, high fantasy is not normally my thing, but it has more to do with front loading the world building than anything else.

One of my all time favorite high fantasy writers is Guy Gavriel Kay. His Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy and Tigana are some of my favorite books of all time. If you're a Tolkien fan, I highly recommend his stuff.

I've never read anything other than the dark gritty kind of high fantasy, but if done right, I'd be OK with some light aspects as well. Can't be all doom and gloom all the time, right?
Valerie Douglas
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 8:17 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 2

I might as welll weigh in as another epic fantasy writer - although I've only posted a novella from the series here. For me there has to be a balance between dark and light just as there is in life, unremitting darkness can be a bit hard to take, and my novels reflect that.
EMA Chambers
Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011 7:43 PM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 2

To stephmcgee -- post your rough draft! Or part of it, or a page of it... The world can never have enough light-but-adventurous fantasy. Based on your comments, I'm guessing that what you write is probably really cool. Give us a chance to read it?
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 6:29 AM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 46

I actually withdrew from reading epic fantasy over a decade ago. I started to feel like some of the darker aspects of continuing series felt more like gratuitous punishment of characters and their loved ones or objects of desire than organic points in the story.

I picked up The Way of Shadows, the first of Brent Weeks' The Night Angel Trilogy recently, and really enjoyed it. I liked the mix of cultures, the descriptions of architecture making me feel like I wasn't reading "just another" medieval setting. Some of the tropes of the genre felt like they were delivered with a new twist, or in a refreshed way.

Epic fantasy is a massive undertaking, both on the part of the writer and the reader. I have nothing but respect for these authors, but don't have an interest in writing worlds of this magnitude and reach.
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011 5:00 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

I've been writing an epic fantasy for the last 8 years called The Descendants. It is a huge undertaking when you happen to be a full time student. I am currently finishing up chapter 37, but its all hand written. My goal is to write a fantasy that isn't so dense you need a reference like something written by Martin and Tolkien. I simply want to strive for clarity for the reader instead of toning things down. I believe that the writer shouldn't have to go on and on for ever on the politics of the situation. Show me the politics, don't tell me what happened 200 hundred years ago if the viewpoint character isn't involved.

I am currently reading Martin's works and find that he seems to have lost the way the farther along they get. The complexities don't confuse me, but I find myself getting bored. The dark and grittiness doesn't bother me. My problem is becoming invested in some characters that he has come up with. So many pop up and disappear that they not only get hard to identify, but also to become invested in. Even Martin himself recently said that he has a hard time keeping track of everything and that his fans do a better job. He has a horse that changes sex between books. That is poor, uncontrolled writing. Game of Thrones is the perfect beginning, and it spirals out of control on the writing level. It is no Lord of the Rings (of which I took a class on). I like my epics when the writer knows what they are doing.

I know that sounds harsh, but I've been ruined by reading too much Hemingway.
Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011 4:50 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224

@LeeAnna -- You make some good points. I haven't read Martin yet, and while the tv show is amusing when I'm not busy cowering beneath my husband and whatever surface he happens to be sitting on at the time, I don't know if I'd be interested in reading it. I wasn't able to get into his style from the get-go.

(Turns out it isn't the violence and grit that are bothering me but just something inherent in his writing style, that and the incest. Really not into the incest. Or heights. Or doing mean things to innocent animals.)

Writing any long piece of writing requires good note taking. What I'm doing is allowing my inconsistencies through the first draft. Once I get the basic writing in the rough / first done, I am going to record every mentioned character in Storybook and ensure consistency then.

Though, I usually don't forget the gender of my horses
I have changed a characters name partway through in a rough before though. That was a particularly bad moment for me.
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011 11:50 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

@RJBlain - I have a saying: All the notes are for you, not the reader. I've been editing a work sent to me by a writer in Wales, and I have found that excessive "front loading" of information in fantasy works, especially epics, is quite common. Many people have a problem with my book initially because I don't explain enough up front. All the answers are there, they just have to keep reading. That is the problem with writing from limited third person. If the character doesn't know, it isn't there.

I've cut out three characters recently. I have to go back through the entirety of Part 2 and rewrite whole scenes with them in it. Some of it is important, so I even have to reassign dialogue. Talk about sucky. Editing epic fantasy is the hardest thing I've ever done so far.
MB Mulhall
Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 11:19 AM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 81

Gaaah excessive front loading of world building tends to totally put me off of a story. People like Martin and Kay seem to do a great job giving just enough info up front and then filling it in as things are brought up in the plot. It's a better way to keep things moving I think and helps the reader get into the thick of the story faster, keeping them more engaged.
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 4:12 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

@MB - I agree with you. Without front loading information, the reader can be drawn in easier. That brings me to my next problem with some epic fantasy, the explosion of scope. Epic fantasy must have vast scope in the back drop, at the very least, but the writer risks getting caught up in the scope and losing sight of what he/she started with. Epic fantasy can be very hard to control. This is essentially my problem with Martin. He allowed the story to expand without reining it in and sticking with a viewpoint limit. He starts out with 7 viewpoints in Game, but by his last book he's up to 15. I understand the escalation of plot, but at the same time he started mainly with the viewpoints of children and a dwarf. Game of Thrones was simple and well written, but I'm afraid to say that I am loosing interest the more I read.
Richard Crawford
Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 6:12 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 3

Interesting dicussion. I've posted my book as traditional but now I'm thinking it is epic. I get confused with the fantasy sub genres! I guess it is hopefully more Martin and Kay than anything else. I like my fantasy grown up, with a fair bit of dark and a bit of sex/romance and plenty of realistic action. I'm not that bothered about the magical elements.

I think there is a lot of interest in dark and gritty after the success of Joe Abercrombie and Patrick Rothfuss (apols if names not spelled correctly).
Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 7:26 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224

@ Richard Crawford : I just read and reviewed your story, but I definitely think that you're in the epic / high fantasy category with dark and fantastic tendencies. You have magic, you have a dark theme... I don't know how much in the fantastical your story falls into, but the use of magic does seem to be present and accepted in your world.

It was an interesting read, glad I found it through the discussion threads.
Alex Hollingshead
Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 9:20 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 61

In terms of reading, I'll go either way, as long as it feels very fantastical. Dark, light, s'all good. As long as 'light' isn't too humorous, as I don't tend to like fantasy-comedy hybrids. I like Eddings and Martin, don't care much for Jordan or Sanderson, though. In terms of my writing, though, I think I lean far more towards the dark side of the scale. But I, admittedly, don't write much epic fantasy. High fantasy, sure, but nothing I'd call 'epic'. Lots of magic, less so battles.
Steve Weiler
Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011 2:08 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 4

I'd probally be in the middle toward dark. I'm currently working on a novel that blends fantasy and science ficition but will probably be stronger on the fantasy part.
I have to work from 8:30am to 5pm so that does not leave a lot of time. I write programs at work and am transitioning into accounting at request of management. I have also recently been active with my site and twitter and working on seo. Not perfect but I got an alexa rank at the moment in top 12% after 37 days. A timeline and having lore worked out help's a lot in world building. Characters are the cake, the magic/technogoly is just the icing. Trying to figure where to start story and not do an info dump up front. Need to gradually reveal the world and builld the suspense up.
Robert C Roman
Posted: Friday, May 27, 2011 3:10 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383

I've got some epic fantasy I want to write, but I'm saving it for later; I've been writing space opera and contemporary fantasy lately instead.

In terms of what I like, I've found myself drifting toward darker stuff lately, I'm not sure why. I just wish people could understand the difference between 'dark' and 'dull' and 'depressing'. The former need not include the latter two.

I really *do* want to read Dance With Dragons. The multiple POVs haven't bothered me at all, really. I even understand why he's doing it; to preserve tension when one character has the answers others need. Epic fantasy of that sort is a huge puzzle, and I really do like puzzles.
Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2011 4:37 PM
Joined: 3/4/2011
Posts: 11

Another epic fantasy author here. Well, aspiring epic fantasy author, anyway. I too have been inspired by Tolkien and Martin, but I aimed my work for more of a young adult audience, because I feel that a lot of young adult lit these days is aimed primarily at young adult ladies. There should be something out there for guys, too, even if the market isn't as large. Having a male protagonist of a young adult age who's something of a bookworm and needs to come into his own just felt like a right fit for an epic fantasy yarn, provided it doesn't spiral into cliche and contrivance.

Really looking forward to Dance with Dragons and am watching the HBO series with high interest. I even started some primer material on my blog for fans of the HBO series who haven't read the books.
Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2011 9:35 PM
Joined: 5/4/2011
Posts: 11

When it comes to dark or light, I tend to agree with most of the other comments, it depends on the writing.

Epic fantasy seems to be one of those genres where there may not be as many followers, but those that do are fanatics. Every person I know that reads in the genre loves it, to the point where they can tell you personal traits about most of the characters in any given book. I do not see that as often in say the suspense/thriller genre.

Though the books I read are usually epic in scope, the ones that become my favorites are those that delve into the human emotions, and the intricacies of their thought processes. It probably stems from the fact that I have a degree in psychology and have always been obsessed with understanding why people do the things they do. Jordan had one of the deepest understandings of the human psyche that I have seen in any author. The interactions between the characters were more realistic than in any other works I have read.

If I had to pick dark or light, I guess I would say dark. It makes the ending that much more spectacular when the hero had to go through hell to get there.

Posted: Thursday, June 9, 2011 12:17 PM
Joined: 3/31/2011
Posts: 11

I consider some of my books epic fantasy - the Holtlands stories in particular. But they arent necessarliy long (The Wolf's Sister is a short novella). It comes down to the scope of the story set in the fantasy world for me.

Jordan almost put me off epic fantasy (along with Terry Goodkind). Luckily I picked up Martin and all was well again.

I'd pick dark more than light. If something is going to threaten an entire world, its not going to be easy to put down, is it?

I've been writing YA recently, some PNR before that, but I always head back to epic fantasy eventually. There always seem to be more stories waiting in that other world of mine.