Let’s use the tropes of epic fantasy to bootstrap my mediocre imagination into the semblance of an epic fantasy trilogy.
Step 1: Select Two Cultures From History
- Medieval Europe
- Britisch Empire
- Russian Empire
- Ottoman Empire
- Mughal Empire
- Roman Empire
- Ancient Greeks
- American Indian
- Aztec or Maya
- Ancient Chinese
- Ancient Japanese
- Australian Aboriginal
- Renaissance Italy
Roll some dice. Let’s go with… British Empire and Australian Aboriginal. But give them different names, like the Khalaan Empire and the Nhizi people.
Step 2: Take a Randomised Shape as Your World Map
There are websites for this. See for example https://azgaar.github.io/Fantasy-Map-Generator/
Or just spill some coffee on a piece of paper.
Ok. The Khalaan Empire is a colonial force with steam ships and controls large parts of the world map, while the Nhizi people occupy one dusty part of it. The Nhizi are part of the Empire.
Step 3: Create Main Characters From Each Culture
Let’s create two characters. Their race depends on the cultural entity they are part of but age and sexuality has to be randomised. Age can be omitted actually because young adult people fit the target demographic better. Let’s say…
A female officer in the navy of the Khalaam Empire. There must not have been many female officers serving in the early days of the British Empire but in this fantasy version there are.
A male adolescent Nhizi. He’s a trapper and not very good at it. He has a secret homosexual relationship with another trapper but that’s not so important for the plot.
In time the two characters’ stories get entangled. The female officer represents the colonisers, the oppressors, while she also has to fight for her position against males inside the hierarchy of the navy. At some point she realises that she’s the oppressor towards the male gay trapper who is in a position of the oppressed people. A confusing position of privilege all around. SO MUCH SOCIAL COMMENTARY. OH THE COMPASSION.
Step 4: Create a Magic System
An obvious choice would be to take the shamanistic system of Australian Aboriginals and slap new names on it. Our young trapper can access the dreamworld and talk to animals and animal gods. Add magic rules to your heart’s content.
Step 5: Create a Political and/or Magical Problem That Will Affect The World
We have a whole palette of options to choose from.
- An ancient evil is awakening?
- A world war is about to begin?
- Maybe a lost-lost magical artefact?
- Something about ancient gods?
And many more ideas like that. In any case, it has to be ancient or at least looking back to the past.
I got it. A ring of volcanos surrounds the land and inside the volcanos are sleeping dragon worms, and they are waking up. It has been foretold in the shamanistic dreams. But why? Oh my God, ice titans are coming from the frozen North and we need the dragon worms to defeat them and the peoples of the world need to cooperate to make it happen.
Step 6: Design the Structure Of Your Trilogy
It has to be a trilogy of course. The first book should start with separate POVs for the characters and the climax of the first book could bring them together for the first time. The book ends with a minor victory and with signs of a greater conflict on the horizon.
The second book sets up the larger playing field. It works up towards the final conclusion, which will be worked out in the final book. Ending with a large epic battle.
Step 7: Design the Journeys of the Characters
Where will the characters end up? That’s the most important thing. Find their destination and work backwards from there.
The male trapper can whisper to the dragon worms because of his magic system. In the final battle of book 3, he will ride one. This is symbolic for his lifting up from an unprivileged situation into power, and for regaining his mojo (giant worm, get it?). The dragon worms need to be transported to the North with the steam ships of the Khalaam Empire. The female officer has no real character development. Instead, her sexist male superior gets himself killed through his own arrogance, proving her in the right all along.
Also, the dragon worms are an allegory for nuclear weapons. SO MUCH SOCIAL COMMENTARY. IT HAS SO MUCH TO SAY.
Finally: Design the Cover
Simple. Take some stock imagery of Aboriginal art and steam ships. Use an orange and blue colour scheme. Put the orange aboriginal art on the top half and the blue steam ships on the bottom half.
Give it a random generic fantasy title. Land of Fire and Bone!
Part 1 of the Earth Awakens trilogy.
And Bob’s your uncle. You don’t even have to read it anymore. Now reshuffle the elements and do it again.