Saturday, March 29, 2008

What makes a story epic?

As I was writing today, my mind briefly thought of 10,000 B.C. (Excellent movie.)  It had an "epic" feel.  So I wondered: what gives some stories, some novels and some movies that "epic" feeling? What ingredients contribute?

I didn't come up with an answer, (cinematography and soundtrack didn't feel like the right answer, LOL) so I thought I'd ask you guys.

I often find myself holding back, fearing sounding pretentious.

And I was theorizing: you either have to go all the way, or not at all.

So many things can be made silly by not going all the way. Even if you are pretentious, or if you are writing silly stuff, if you keep pushing it deeper and more intense, going all the way into the moment, then you sweep the reader away from the surface, away from the possibility of pretension and silliness.

Because pretension lives on the surface. 

So if you hold back and stay on the surface, then even if you try not to be pretentious, that's what you end up with.

I don't know.  I'm just theorizing. I haven't tested that particular theory yet, not really.

DH could be home in a week, I pray. I didn't realize it, but I've already begun sleeping on "my side" of the bed. I miss him so much, it sometimes feels like he'll never be home.

Anyway, back to writing. I just wanted y'all's thoughts on "epic." What makes a story epic, and what keeps it from falling into silly or pretentious territory? It seems to me, it's a thin line. (Not that I'm trying to write an epic story, at the moment. Just wondered.)

One more question: off the top of my head, I can probably name ten or so movies that are "epic."  But I can't think of that many novels. I'm sure I'm just forgetting them or missing them. What are some epic-feeling novels you've read?

13 bonus scribbles:

Aimless Writer 3/29/2008 08:53:00 PM  

Pretension-hmmm,I think the deeper we get into the meat of the story the lest chance we have of seeming pretensious/shallow. But then we have to be careful not to bore. Where is the thin line between the two? Who the heck knows?
Epic stories? Long narrative, God-like heros, stories of struggles that defy imagination?
Probably not what I write! lol
So glad your dh is home soon! Mine was home for this weekend but leaves again tomorrow. Such is life. At least I get more writing done when he's gone. It makes the time go faster.

conley730 3/29/2008 09:21:00 PM  

I sort of equate epic with mythology. Homer's Iliad & Odyssey were considered epics, weren't they? Like aimless writer said - God-like heroes.

mom2brie 3/29/2008 10:13:00 PM  

"Pillars of the Earth" has a very epic feel to me. Also, "HP and the Deathly Hallows" is a type of epic too. In the same manner, "His Dark Materials Trilogy" is too. Just some thoughts.

PS - Brie loved your 100 word opener - she said "Baaa-aahh-baa" :)

conley730 3/29/2008 11:05:00 PM  

Spy,

You have got to watch this video from YouTube. It fits in perfectly with your Bushisms post a few days ago. This kid is great!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWdiHtv6T6s

Bernita 3/30/2008 05:03:00 AM  

Hmmm.
Are some of James Michener's novels of epic scope?

Edie 3/30/2008 03:03:00 PM  

One of Michelle Diener's latest books has an epic feel in that it's set during a historic war. I can't wait until it's published. :)

I think the difference between pretension and not pretension is that Michelle tells a story about people, and the war is another character, the way wizardry is a character in Harry Potter movies.

StarvingWriteNow 3/31/2008 07:50:00 AM  

Like the pretension observation. As for epic novels, the only ones that come to mind are Gone With The Wind, War and Peace, Anna Karenina... there are others, but I haven't had enough coffee yet. Have a lovely day!

spyscribbler 3/31/2008 04:09:00 PM  

Aimless, long narrative is a good one, with God-like heroes.

I hope you had a good weekend with your DH! I'm getting to that stir-crazy can't-bear-it stage.

I get more writing done when he's here. Ugh.

spyscribbler 3/31/2008 04:11:00 PM  

Conley, I need to read those two. Isn't that like a requirement, or something? I've only read bits and pieces.

Mom2Brie, so true about Harry Potter! The whole series, but especially the last one. I haven't read any Ken Follett. Strange, I know, considering, but I just haven't been able to get into his style, yet. I should try harder.

spyscribbler 3/31/2008 04:13:00 PM  

Conley, holy crap, that kid is talented! He looks nothing like Bush, obviously ... but then ... all of a sudden he does!

Very funny! Thanks for the link!

spyscribbler 3/31/2008 04:14:00 PM  

Bernita, I haven't read James Michener. Sounds like I need to put him on my list?

Thanks for the recommendation!

spyscribbler 3/31/2008 04:17:00 PM  

Edie, I can't wait, either, from the sound of it! I like the way you put that. I think you're right. In 10,000 B.C., the story is about a man trying to rescue his woman, but the by-product is he rescues a people from persecution, and unites a bunch of tribes.

But it was always about his love for one woman.

spyscribbler 3/31/2008 04:17:00 PM  

Writenow, I read Anna Karenina in German, but I kinda forgot it. I gotta get it out and read it again (in English).