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  1. #1
    Olenska
    Guest

    "Epic Novels"--Definition?

    I've written two novels I was unable to sell (or even find agents for). They were rather small in scope as far as characters and settings. With my third novel, I'm going for a more epic feel, as the protagonist travels the world and comes into contact with characters who are at various levels class- and fame-wise.

    How would you define an "epic" novel? And does length have anything to do with it? This will probably come out at about 90,000 words-- is that too short to be called "epic"?



  2. #2
    Bernard Shakey
    Guest

    Re: "Epic Novels"--Definition?

    I would define an epic novel as one that is epic in scope and theme -- a text that covers a vast expanse of space and time in its quest to uncover answers to the deepest questions of human existence.

    Good examples of epic novels are THE NANNY DIARIES and THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY.

  3. #3
    Marie Lu
    Guest

    Re: "Epic Novels"--Definition?

    I think 'epic' has more to do with the story than the word count. Your description sounds like it could fit the 'epic' type of novel....out of curiosity, is it a fantasy? 90,000 words is an average length of a novel, so I don't think it's too short for an epic. Epic is usually about sweeping landscapes/plots involving lots of traveling, sometimes quite a few points of view, and a number of varying subplots. At least, that's what I've seen for 'epic' fantasy.

  4. #4
    Brady Boyd
    Guest

    Re: "Epic Novels"--Definition?

    Epic fantasy involves a quest, and usually a great journey. The Odyssey is perhaps the first epic fantasy. I am uncertain if this definition spills over to other genres.

    Brady Boyd

  5. #5
    Glen T. Brock
    Guest

    Re: "Epic Novels"--Definition?

    Olenska,

    An epic is a story where events shape the scope, theme, and direction of the narrative.

    I sometimes think the Russians invented this genre. Between Dr. Zhivago and War&Peace I sometimes wonder.

    Did you notice that I didn't mention widely dispersed subplots or many supporting characters? Although many epic plots have them, it is not neccesarily manditory for the plot to be epic. What epics do have in common is the grandiosity of theme.

    For example: FAILSAFE, the novel by Eugene Burdick, is epic in scope (appopolyptic)but actually has only a few key characters. WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, by Phillip Wylie and Edwin Balmer, also depicts the end of the world, but in a more grandious sweeping manner.

    A story of a girl's coming of age is not an epic. The story of Joan of Arc's coming of age is. Big theme. Big story.

    Glen T. Brock

  6. #6
    PamC
    Guest

    Re: "Epic Novels"--Definition?

    Bernard,

    Would you really call those two books Epic? I usually think of it as big sagas that sweep over many years and often generations, and involve larger than life characters and drama.

    When I think of Epic, I think of Cain and Abel, The Thornbirds, A Woman of Substance, Gone with The Wind.

    PamC

  7. #7
    Mark York
    Guest

    Re: "Epic Novels"--Definition?

    Epic? The Nannie Diaries? Wow.

  8. #8
    Jane Forsman
    Guest

    Re: "Epic Novels"--Definition?


    I think he was kidding, guys.

  9. #9
    Glen T. Brock
    Guest

    Re: "Epic Novels"--Definition?

    Brady,

    I agree that the quest is an essencial element in an epic story. I don't believe it is the only element.

    That the character(s) are witnesses to historic transitions of history, or enormous events (usually which they do not have control)develope a story line that shares the same characteristic as 'the quest' story, where the character(s) engage in a conflict and a journey where they are in control. The difference between self determination and fatalism is specifically important.

    Consider for a moment the differences in the content of an account of the Leo Frank murder trial. One version, A LITTLE GIRL IS DEAD, concentrates on the murder and its aftermath as an investigatory memoir. The other, NIGHT FELL ON GEORGIA, concentrates on the events leading to the lynching of Leo Frank, creating the circumstances that led to the formation of the Anti Defamation League. This is an epic treatment of the murder case. Why? Because the events, not in the control of the characters, have an importance much bigger than the resolution of the conflict on the characters.

    Glen T. Brock

  10. #10
    Ed Potter
    Guest

    Re: average length

    90,000 words is not average length for a novel. More like average length for a first novel by an unknown writer like most of us'ns.

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