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Sarah
Welcome, friend! Relax & rest awhile, if you please. I'm an ordinary girl, a follower of Christ, mama to Gabriel, & wife to Evan. Here in this little space of the online world, I share all manner of bookish things, including full content reviews, writerly snippets, encouragement for everyday life, and a whole collection of names & their meanings.

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What Makes an Epic Story?

Funny thing. . .  
I wasn't receiving any comments on my blog, which usually come through my email when someone posts them.  But I hadn't had ANY for what seemed like months, and was beginning to think no one loved me. . . TT_TT  UNTIL I checked the "awaiting moderation" section on the Blogger dashboard and found OODLES of 'em from way back in the Summer!!!  YAY! They do love me!! I do have followers who actually read my posts!!! *sobs joyously* #FACEPALM

Soooo, I spent yesterday afternoon catching up on my replies.  I apologize for JUST now getting to your comments!  I seriously thought I had no feedback as it usually notifies me via email and I've never had to check Blogger for them (must've gotten turned off somehow).  But anywho, I feel loved now.  (and rather silly. . .)  *^ - ^*

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But I digress.  

With NaNoWriMo LITERALLY (#WHUTTTTT) around the corner (seriously, November is FIVE. DAYS. AWAY.), there's an amazing amount of incredible writerly posts out there to prepare you for the ridiculously high, princess tower of stress that usually is the month of NaNo.  So I thought I'd add to the mix with a post of EPIC proportions. (Figuratively speaking) :]


"Epic" is a word I would usually define for sagas, trilogies, and any other term for a book series.  And in my opinion, the fantasy genre is a biggie that particular word describes (although it could pertain to other genres as well).  What do YOU think defines a story's epicness?  Is it the characters for you? The story world?  The amount of details (or lack of, giving a vague mystery to the story)?

Below, I explain the key elements I believe MAKE a story awesome.  These are things I try to keep in mind whilst working on my own WIPs.  So maybe this will help influence you as you tackle that NaNo tower this November.  :]


No, duh.  Any story must have a character or three of some sort, am I right?  And I must add multiple characters give depth to any tale.  My hubby and I watched a movie a few weeks ago that featured ONE character the entire two hours---All is Lost, Robert Redford.  No joke, the most BORING. MOVIE. EVER.  (I apologize if you've seen and liked it---it just wasn't for me!) 

Characters must have relateability.  There are no perfect people in this world, so there shouldn't be perfect characters in your story's world (unless, of course, that's a part of your plot).  :]  No one likes reading about a hero/heroine who aces absolutely everything and saves the world without barely lifting a hand (okay, exaggeration, but still).  Flaws, unfortunately, are a part of our make-up, and quirks add personality.  And every hero needs a side-kick.  Good, fleshed-out, minor/secondary characters are another element every story NEEDS.  Most often, they are the ones who help, or hinder, the hero and allow them to grow toward their ultimate goal.

I could name several novels that have some pretty amazing characters, but for this example I'm using Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles.  Some of her dear characters are pretty messed up human (or not) beans, buuuuut ones you simply can't help but love anyway.  And if a book/series makes you feel that way about their heroes---especially if it's the Rampion crew---then that series is totally epic.


The setting and place is undoubtedly a key element in a story.  Without it, where would the characters be??? hahaha

Whether this is the rambunctious streets of London, the incredible scene of Dubai's cityscape, a homey farmhouse in Tennessee, or some castle in a fantasy world, the amount of research put into such world-building MATTERS.  

You probably know right away what great example of world-building I would be putting here, but while the world of Middle Earth is absolutely amazing, I'm saving it for the next element.  :]  Instead, I'll share another incredible example in the series The Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.  Her worlds of fae and human collide often and the creativity in them is simply amazing.  And her characters are GREAT!!!  If you have yet to read these, this series is a definite must!


This is another place where research matters, as mentioned in the previous point.  I have physically winced when a small detail or two doesn't line up correctly simply because the author didn't do their research.  For example, my dad has read books where characters are using a weapon, but the ammo written into the story is literally not compatible with the sort of gun said characters are using.  That's a simple fix!  (unless it's already printed & published. . . heheh)  You get the idea, though, right?

If the genre you are writing in is based in the real world, in a well-known city/country, or whatever, this attention to detail is a BIGGIE.  But if you are writing Fantasy, or even Dystopian, then what the hey! you can do ANYTHING!  It's YOUR world.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien beats most all other series out of the water with it's attention to detail and world-building.  Those books are a bit heavier to read, but nonetheless amazing in the entirety of its imagination and creativity.  But, a word of caution: while details are great, too much can be too much, causing readers to skim and/or skip chapters due to their level of boredom.  So there is certainly a balance, and while some opinion may say LotR goes overboard, I would disagree to a degree.  But to each his own.  :]


Especially in a series, consistency is a MUST.  The personalities of characters need to be same, if not similar (allowing for character growth) throughout the books.  I love The Restorer series by Sharon Hinck, but the first book is really the best.  Kieran's character was AWESOME in it, but as the main protagonist in the sequel, his personality did not maintain its mystery and I found the story lacking in the second novel.  (Still a pretty great series though!)

The series of The Ranger's Apprentice and that of the Lunar Chronicles carry out this element exceptionally well.


Unpredictable characters and plot-lines are what keeps stories fresh and alive.

Plot twists, rabbit holes (literal or not), are amazing ways to keep the reader on their toes!  I don't have much to add on this particular element, but a GREAT example of unpredictability are the books of Beaumont & Beasley by Kyle Robert Shultz.  He takes faerietale retellings to a whole new level! and certainly keeps you flipping pages and wanting more and more and more.

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So there ya have it.  Now chat with me!  What do you think??  Do you have any elements you would add to this list?  What about other great examples of books and series that apply them?

Comments

  1. Loving all these writerly posts! I agree with all your 5 necessities (most necessary), especially characters and consistency. Nothing drives me madder when reading, personally, than to come across glaring contradictions in a story's characters! I understand it becomes hard to keep track of every detail in a book, but I think some writers could benefit from taking a little more care with the particulars. Hmm, what would I add? I would probably add readable prose (that is, clear and flowing words) and timing/pacing to my list.

    (P.S. These headers/dividers are super cool too! Even more epic, if I may say so, heehee.)

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    1. Thank you!! I agree, those are certainly little pet peeves of mine as well. And YESSSS. clear words & names make the story flow much more easily---that's a great element to add. And timing/pacing also!

      Awww, thanks! I'm having fun making those on canva.com. :D

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  2. I am so sorry that happened with the comments! I think blogger was having some sort of glitch with comments, because a while back I wasn't getting email notifications about them suddenly too. Then, a bout a month later, it seemed to fix itself. So...I don't even know. Blogger can be really glitchy ugh!

    ANYWAYS. This post was so perfect! You hit on THE keys to making a great novel! And your examples were the best. Soooo much yes to the Rampion crew. <333 They're so real and so lovable! And the complexity of the Goldstone Wood world as well as Middle-earth blows my mind! And YES to the Beaumont and Beasley series. There is a surprise at every turn. I adore it!

    This was perfect, and wonderful things to remember during NaNo. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Yes, that stinks! So irritating when technology doesn't do what it's supposed to. ;D

      Awww, thank you! There's so many great stories out there, it sure is difficult to choose, but I thought those particular books fit the bill perfectly. Thanks, girl!

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To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, and a book of rules,
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.
-Anonymous-

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