Lately I’ve been thinking about why I’ve taken on the leviathan that is writing epic fantasy, especially when the trend seems to be to break stories down into smaller, more manageable chunks. I’ve even looked at carving some of the smaller storylines out into something standalone. Losing a book or two. Throwing the whole thing into the Pacific Ocean and being done with it. But there is something about epic fantasy that calls to me to keep going. To find a way to keep pulling on these story-threads until the big picture reveals itself.
Epic Fantasy, to me at least, is the grand canvas. It looks at more than one person’s journey. In some sense it’s about revolution, always about change and the things sacrificed along the way. The Lord of the Rings wasn’t just Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom, it was so much more; the time of great change that effected everyone in Middle Earth. How such times shape people, and how their experiences can be quite different.
At the heart of epic fantasy is the human response. Where we dig in, where we stumble and what we value during the hard times. What is it about this particular time in history (in my fantasy world) that is causing people to step outside of the everyday? What is so important that they will risk life, limb and everything they hold dear to ensure a certain outcome? What temptations draw them away from this goal? What things will they refuse to let go of?
And I see these parallels as I’m writing too. What causes me to sit up late and write and rewrite and try and find a way through the many stories that make up this one? What will I give up? Sleep. Plenty of that. Time. So I can put in hours and hours of work, the results of which I am in no place to share with anyone yet. If you write you know the sacrifice of going to that place. I’m always tempted to give up. So I don’t have to tell people I’m still working on it. I’m tempted by other stories and the promise of shorter timeframes. Of sunny days and the call of the garden. Of a paycheck. And yet I haven’t let go.
What drives me is the heart of the story. My belief that the story has meaning – at the very least it means something to me. So I encourage myself and I find something to hold on to. For those who are struggling to birth a story that seems beyond you, keep going. It is your own epic journey. So in that vein, I leave you with the words of Galadriel, one whose time is passing, to another who still has a way to go:
‘And you, Ring-bearer,’ she said, turning to Frodo. ‘I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this.’ She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. ‘In this phial,’ she said, ‘is caught the light of Earendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.’
Because apart from anything else, epic fantasy inspires me.
-by Raewyn Hewitt