This week’s focus on high fantasy fiction and epic fantasy fiction reminds me of a Pinterest writing prompt. It goes like this:
What if the dragon and prince were in on it together? And what if the princess had to handle it all herself?
Admittedly, I can’t think of many high fantasy fiction and epic fantasy fiction that features a female in the protagonist’s role. For whatever reason, female fantasy writers with female protagonists tend to set their faeries, bounty huntresses and the like in the modern-day world.
That’s never high fantasy fiction and, for whatever reason, seldom epic fantasy fiction either. But that hardly means it’s impossible, so let’s run with the princess/prince/ dragon writing prompt. Right after we consider this Writing Rule:
Make your hero/heroine work for it.
This is really a rule for any novel. But it seems to apply most intensely to high fantasy and epic fantasy than other genres. Maybe it’s the often medieval-esque settings these books are based in that warrant such intense struggles. Or maybe it’s the additional heavy helpings of magic that kick the drama up a notch.
Whatever it is, never let your hero/heroine have it easy. Throw the whole entire book at them before they make it to their epic ending. Your readers will thank you.
Your characters will hate you. But not your readers. They’ll be riveted by the dramatic detours your princess has to take and forces she has to fight.
Since high fantasy fiction always involves other worlds, let’s set our Princess Nayanar in the kingdom of Mynric. And since epic fantasy fiction almost always features an ordinary or ordinarily minded protagonist who's forced to transform into something extraordinary, let’s say that Princess Nayanar is well-loved, well-treated, content and just engaged to a prince. Who is even then visiting.
He’s charming enough. She’s not in love with him by any means, but Nayanar can see the wisdom of her father’s choice. He’s a strong, well-educated, well-traveled ruler-to-be who has shown remarkable political skills so far.
But none of that saves her from an orange and yellow dragon of modest height and seemingly immense power. Walking with her fiancé in the palace gardens, she finds herself snatched up into the creature's claws and carried away to the prince’s frantic cries of, “I’ll find you! Don’t give up! I’ll find you!”
Quite frantic herself, Nayanar manages to escape on the third night of her captivity while the dragon sleeps. But situated in the middle of unfamiliar woods, she has no idea where she is and no idea which direction she should head.
Add in some hungry wolves, a close call with the dragon and a meeting with a self-interested nayad, and you’ve got some good high fantasy fiction drama going on.
To make it good epic fantasy fiction drama though, Nayanar’s journey can’t just be about making it home safely or discovering her fiancé's betrayal. It has to be bigger than her. It has to be a quest.
A quest like if the prince’s plot is to manipulate her brokenhearted father, whose kingdom borders the forbidden lands of Wyvn, an enchanted forest in all the wrong ways that’s said to hold the power of omnipresence. To achieve that ability, he’s convinced the king that Nayanar’s being held there in a state of constant torture. And shouldn’t they combine their forces to go save her?
That way, the story isn’t about the princess anymore. It’s a quest to rescue her father, her kingdom and the whole wide world! All while she’s dodging the dragon, who’s still after her, incidentally.
Good luck with that, Nayanar! No doubt, your high fantasy fiction, epic fantasy fiction drama will have a happy ending… after you’re so exhausted you’ve thought you failed.