Monday, July 12, 2010

Epicness and Extinction

Yes. It bugs me that it says "character" instead of "characters"...

So, I was thinking about plot lines and epicness last night, which made me come up with this topic. First, I'm gonna be a bit geeky (or nerdy, I don't really know or research the difference, *shrugs*) and talk about extinction.

 For a number of years, in college, I competed in policy debate. It was a way to get a scholarship and I, in some ways enjoyed the activity as it has helped me learn much about research and communication. Granted, I wasn't very good at policy debate but it did take up a few years of my life. The truth is, the activity is one of those that require a love-hate relationship, but I won't be talking about that here. As a policy debater, one thing I learned the most about was Extinction. Yep, in the realm of policy debate it is always "the end of the world as we know it"! It's kind of depressing really, to talk about different ways we're all going to die for hours on end. But it was for a reason.

One way to win a debate round is to focus on the harms and solving for those with the case, or neg position depending on side. The bigger the harm, the greater the solvency, the better chance of winning. So, sure it's great to have a policy case that solves for the threat of 1 million potential deaths, but what's even greater is if your plan can be a heroic win(not really but kinda) against the threat of extinction. Having the other team keep us from becoming extinct is then hard to beat. And there are a number of ways that could lead to extinction. I've heard at least 50 different types of situations that would lead to the end of life as we know it. Weirdest one was homophobia. Some team was reading evidence (cause debate requires cited evidence) about how homophobia would lead to extinction. (Which, even as a gay debater, I didn't buy it.) It got to the point where I did research for evidence that says extinction is good. And yes, I did find evidence.

It has gotten to the point where some teams try to use more than one extinction scenario in order to win. A team had a card with 5 different extinction scenarios and would say that it was worse than a case with only 1. Problem was, from what I read, 4 of the scenarios were based on the first occurring. But an even bigger problem is, you can't die more than once (unless you go the zombie route, then you have to figure how much land mass is there in cases like nuclear fallout and such, for the zombies to exist on and such). So, there were some debates where I would just "You can only die once" and even (paraphrased) "Both sides have evidence that there will be extinction. So, if you go with the neg, you'll die. If you go with the affirmative, you'll die. Either way we're all screwed, so let's look at this debate this way..." If I wanted to, I could probably write books where extinction was a part of the plot, which brings me to the topic I'm sure you're more interested in reading.

What does this have to do with writing?

What it made me think about is this: Does a plot have to be epic? Sure it looks really cool to have huge battles and the main character save the world from extinction while falling in love, protecting their family who is in jeopardy and making really hard decisions. But do many people really write epic plots, such as extinction? Or are the plots smaller, but seem epic to the main characters because they interrupt the character's world, or way of life?

Is your plot one of epicness?

Most of my plots aren't very epic. Well, they are big to the main character maybe, but overall they are not end of the world plots. More often than not it's not a save the world, or even save 100 people storyline. Here is a breakdown of a few plots I have going and some mentions of the rare epic plots I have, but am not writing at the moment.

The individual mutant books are not epic. The overall series makes it somewhat epic since it's a big revolution that has certain points that are reflections upon group movements in real life. But the individual books aren't always big. Tattle Tell is the first book of the YA section and it's about a boy who doesn't have many friends and is tired of being a tattle tale. Not very epic. Standing Ground is an adult mutant book that is a little bigger in risk, but the main character doesn't fight the villain to save a city or country. He fights the guy to save 3 people (father, brother, boyfriend) and maybe some other mutants but it's not 100 percent when he goes on the adventure that he has the other ones captive.

Angel//Demon sounds like it could have an epic plot, but it doesn't. I've recently decided that the main genre is paranormal romance instead of calling it paranoral romance/urban fantasy. It is located in a city but the focus is on the relationship that the two main characters have and whether they'll be able to stay together.

The mystery novel is about solving a murder case, which is a bit high profile since it's a rich old man that dies but again, not epic.

With the novels I'm writing about (including Sekrit Novel but no details here) not having epic plots, I then questioned myself. Is any of my writing epic in plot? And I came up with 2.

Blood Prophesy series is an epic by accident. I had a two book idea in the beginning. Sure, the finding of the prophet in book one was going to be a big deal but it wasn't of epic proportions. Then it became more than two books and a war of epicness.

Next is the epic fantasy. Yep, by nature of the genre, the series is epic. I haven't worked on it much even though it's one of my oldest ideas. It was my first idea, though it started of historical fiction meets sci-fi and later became fantasy. But the story line hasn't changed in the last 4 years. I'd love to work on it but this is the story that intimidates me the most.

What about you? Do you go for epic plots?
Do you prefer to read epic plots or have small tensions that are big to the main character?


J. D. Brown said...

Interesting topic to ponder. Urban Fantasy in general is never very "epic". My plots are epic to my characters only but they are in no way REALLY epic, and that's fine. That doesn't make it any less thrilling to read. ;)

When I think of "epic" novels, I think High Fantasy like Lord of the Rings, or Sci-fi like Star Wars. Not my cup of tea. A series that becomes epic due to a high number of books and a complicated plot is something else entirly (I think there is a word for it too. Saga, maybe? I'll have to look that up.) This will porbably be the case with my vampire series as the plot gets more complexe with each book.

Dawn Embers said...

JD - Thanks for the comment. Yeah, high fantasy (epic fantasy) is known for having epic plots that sometimes last too long. ;-)