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The Internal Conflict is more important than the Dragon – Advice for Epic Fantasy Writers

 

When writing fantasy it is very easy to let your imagination soar and to create amazing worlds and incredible creatures; and while you may give your reader something to enjoy you won’t really make a connection with him or her. The thing that will make the connection with your reader is the internal conflict your protagonist has to go through. This is what makes him or her human and this is where you have a memorable impact on your reader.

 

There is one steadfast rule when writing fiction and you probably know this rule. Your character has to grow. There has to be an internal path that is taken. And even if your writing takes place on an exotic world with a stable of wondrous creatures the main character is still human - and even if your main character is not human your reader is!
Your main character may have to rescue a damsel in distress, slay a dragon, or find the magical sword and all of this is good fun but it is not where the real power of epic fantasy lies. The power lies in how your main character must change in order to accomplish his goals. The real strength and the impelling part of the story isn’t the slaying of the dragon, it’s in the story of the main character’s development of the courage to try.



A good example of this conflict comes from the ultimate work in the realm of epic fantasy: The Lord of the Rings. In it, Frodo Baggins has a ring that whisks him off into a nether world and makes him invisible in this one. But we don’t actually see a whole lot of that very flashy idea. It only happens, very briefly, a few times. What we do get a lot of is the conflict that Frodo has, within himself, to stay centered in what he believes and to resist the temptations of the ring. This is a very major theme in the story and it is where we connect with Frodo. We can identify with his struggle to maintain what he believes and his struggle toward growth and development. The part about the powerful ring is albeit fun and one of the best things about fantasy but the reader can’t really relate and make a real emotional connection. After all, how many people that you know who own a magical ring?

As you are writing your epic fantasy novel remember that all the wondrous worlds, scenes, and creatures are just in addition to the real meaning of epic fantasy –the struggle within us as humans.

I have lots more articles on writing fantasy here

 

The Writers Complete Fantasy Reference The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference