How To Make Your Own Epic Fantasy Series In 7 Easy Steps!

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

For example:

  • Medieval Europe
  • Britisch Empire
  • Russian Empire
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Mughal Empire
  • Roman Empire
  • Ancient Greeks
  • African
  • American Indian
  • Aztec or Maya
  • Ancient Chinese
  • Ancient Japanese
  • Australian Aboriginal
  • Polynesian
  • 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.

This entry was posted in Books, Essays, Fantasy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to How To Make Your Own Epic Fantasy Series In 7 Easy Steps!

  1. Bookstooge says:

    Hahahahaha! I laughed so much reading this.
    Then I cried. because it’s so bloody true of what’s getting produced now.

    I was looking at my current reading rotation and then my tbr. After I finish the Wheel of Time, I don’t think I have ANY epic fantasy on tap. Most of the more original fantasy being written now seems to fall into categories I won’t read (grimdark, etc). Oops, I just double checked and I have Sanderson’s original Mistborn on tap as a re-read and then McClellans last trilogy.

    But that is it. I know some of it is because I’ve changed as I’ve grown older, but still, there’s an awful lot of pablum out there now.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hahaha thank you Bookstooge! I had a lot of fun making this. Or, tortured fun. It comes from a place of frustration and boredom. The original inspiration behind it came from a conversation I had with Ola at her latest tag post.

      The strange thing is… I still have Tad Williams’ Memory Sorrow and Thorn series lined up but I feel much more interest in reading something like that than in many of today’s series.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Bookstooge says:

        I like the original MST series. I haven’t heard much about the sequel series so I don’t even know where it stands.

        I hear you about frustration and boredom. I suspect that is a big part of why my reading has expanded to several other genres 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Andreas says:

    Great start, Jeroen. You only forgot the last step: Feed the previous steps as seed to a text creating AI.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. savageddt says:

    If i see another title with land this and land that mixed with the words fire and bone it will be too much for me. Thank you for the laugh🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Florin says:

    This is well-written and funny. I’ve already started writing mine. It’s called The Bone Is On Fire.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. bormgans says:

    Great post. The actual cover image was unexpected icing on the cake.

    The thing is, this could be a good novel. It’s also about execution, maybe more than good ideas.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wakizashi says:

    Hmm… this all feels very familiar. I think I might have read this already. 😏 This was great fun, Jeroen. I really enjoyed reading this book, I mean post.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Ola G says:

    🤣🤣🤣 LOL loved it! So freaking true it’s actually scary!
    …don’t forget to put library somewhere, at least in the title!

    On the plus side, if you ever feel like you need to change your job, this sounds like it will be grabbed by one of the big publishing houses RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!! 😀 You’ll be set up for life with sequels and prequels and collections of short stories… 🤣🤣🤣

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: THE BLACK COMPANY – Glen Cook (1984) | Weighing a pig doesn't fatten it.

  9. Jesse Hudson says:

    Late to the party. Tucked into this nice little criticism of fantasy today is the comment about YA, i.e. who truly is the audience for these so-called “adult fantasy” trilogies? I have similar thoughts, but would you care to expand on that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment. I am sure that if we would ask a writer who his/her intended audience is, that the writer would say “whoever likes reading fantasy”. The reality is that young adults are the largest demographic for fantasy literature, and editors and writers are not blind to this fact, so they often cater their books to that demographic. It also helps the writers that young adulthood is a turbulent time, filled with strong emotions and life lessons, and that makes it easier to write a story.

      I also think that it is a misconception on the part of editors and writers that every demographic likes to read about characters from their own demographic. When I was a teenager, I loved the original Star Wars films, even though Luke, Leia and Han weren’t teenagers themselves. Teenagers and young adults have no trouble loving entertainment that stars middle-aged adults as protagonists.

      Like

      • Jesse Hudson says:

        I read a ton of fantastika but was unaware that the primary demographic is YA!! It makes sense, what you write. My love for The Lord of the Rings today is always viewed through rose-tinted glasses of my teens when I first read it.

        And it makes sense regarding my reservations for “adult fantasy”, which often feels like a little clockwork orange (sex & violence) slapped onto a juvenile storyline. This isn’t to say the issues the characters face are not real, only, as you say, .that they are simplified… Interesting. Thanks!

        Like

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