Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Which Type of Epic Are You?

Type 1: Episodic
Episodic fiction has a main base of characters and each book in the series acts as a standalone. New book, new big problem or antagonist. Usually not so epic in size compared to the other two types. Can have an overall arc tying all the books together.

Type 2: Generational
Generational fiction changes up characters as time passes. These can also easily work as standalones with a stronger overall arc. There is a big story behind the scenes that encompasses a long period of time.

Type 3: True Epic
True epics are large stories, very large stories. So large that they can't be condensed into a single volume or even two. They often fail as standalones because resolving the main conflict introduced at the beginning cuts the whole thing off at the toes. They can have mini-arcs to make each volume have a somewhat standalone feel. The driving force for readership is the main arc, which stays an active, in-the-front plot player through each volume and isn't resolved until the end of the last installment.

Type 1 and 2 are easier to sell if you're an unpublished writer. Less of a gamble for publishers.
Type 1 isn't locked into one main doom or conflict, giving the writer room to try out different plots and situations.
Type 1 doesn't have a definitive end until the writer gets tired of playing in that world. You can end up with a few books in the series, or several. Readers can also jump in or out of the series where ever they like.
Type 2 gives the writer a chance to change up the characters while keeping to a central plot line. The writer is less likely to tire of their characters.
Type 2 writers also get to change up their settings and time periods. Lots of great world-building opportunities.
Type 3 stories satisfy a certain demographic of devoted reader who will come back for more and who crave larger, meatier books.
Type 1 and 3 stories allow a writer to share a more complex, richly detailed world over the span of the series.

Type 1 stories can lose readers at any time, without a lure to keep them reading future books. Readers can get tired of the same characters if they aren't well done. Not an easy thing to keep up for several books.
Type 2 stories can fall into a rut if the same plot twists and consequences creep up. There is room for a lot of unnecessary bloat here, whether it's a lot of new characters to learn with each book, info dumping, or other fillers if the story isn't really that epic. Are you writing Type 2 for the sake of racking up the number of books and time periods, instead?
Type 3 stories are hard to sell for unpublished writers. Publishers don't want to take a gamble on someone untried in the marketplace. And if the first volume of an epic doesn't sell well, there won't be a number two, and that leads to dissatisfied readers...
Type 3 stories are hard to write well. A lot of unpolished manuscripts are bloated with info dumping, long passages with nothing going on, and a hoard of characters. In short, these manuscripts are trying to be true epics but they don't really have enough story to pass the test.
Type 3 writers, once published, get a lot of pressure from readers to churn out the next volume in record time. Some readers won't even pick up the novel until all of the volumes are published. Others, too impatient to wait, stop reading altogether. A good percentage of readers hate cliffhanger endings.

Which type are you? Which type(s) do you enjoy reading? How patient are you as a reader?


  1. I've might have books for all three. Kindar's Cure is a type one. I've been considering type two for Dodge the Sun where any sequel would be with a daughter. And my shelved fantasy is a three.

  2. I'm a #1 girl all the way! I know the Star Wars EU series was a generational thing, but I stopped reading when they started changing the core of the story.

  3. I'm a #2. I prefer to follow the author wherever the story needs to go, preferably with multi-layered subplots and a huge cast of characters.

  4. Crud, I meant type three, lol. I think my least favorite would be type two. I like to stay with the same characters. I'm loyal to my favorite authors ( I will wait seven years for a new book and still be thrilled). Although, I would prefer a one or two year wait *write faster, George*

  5. I am actually not sure where I fit under this. I am spinning a world together, and seem to be perpetually finding new frontiers. Right now, there are two generations of characters that I have done storyboarding for, with a few characters playing a major role in both sets. I am open to any number of different characters facing regional conflicts at different times in the history...does that mean my story is a #3? I have no idea. From the sound of it, what do you think?

    1. Hard to say, since I haven't read your story or a synopsis. I'm leaning more toward #2 with what you've described.