I write epic fantasy; I've written two trilogies in a joint setting, and am writing further books in the same setting.

I would like to start writing short stories for my setting as well - stories that I can send to short fiction venues, that can introduce new readers to my series and provoke their interest in my books. It's very important that, on the one hand, the stories be of a piece with the rest of the series, but on the other, they need to be clear, accessible, and engrossing to new readers who aren't familiar with the series yet.

I'm used to plotting on a pretty epic scale. Most of the "draws" in my work are built around a long range scope - gradual buildups, different threads intertwining with each other, Fate of Nations at Stake, the whole shebang.

Where, within my epic-scale setting, should I be looking for story ideas appropriate for the "mere" scale of short stories?

Disclosure: This is a hypothetical question for the "Short Story" topic challenge. In reality I have not written any fantasy epics. No, not even one.

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    Honestly, if you had written a trilogy, you wouldn't ask this question ;) There are hundreds of hooks where you can attach a short story. So the answer is: Write the trilogy and you do not have this question ;) Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 21:34
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    @JohnSmithers: Well, honestly, I'm not lacking for story ideas even without writing a trilogy :P But this is a particular process I know is common, yet I haven't heard much discussion about.
    – Standback
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 21:40
  • This is difficult to answer without knowing more about the specific work and its structure; it's kind of a more specific version of "where do I get ideas?" But it's already generated an interesting answer. Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


To expand on the comment by John Smithers, one of the advantages of an epic fantasy is the grand scale upon which your story is built. Usually an epic fantasy either contains a lot of characters or covers a considerable time span. Ideas for short stories can come from either of those two sources (or a host of others).

In writing my epic fantasy, I found that I had to eliminate certain supporting characters because they just didn't contribute enough to the overall story. However, their own stories, while much smaller on the grand scale, were nonetheless interesting. As a result, I am contemplating writing short stories that involve those peripheral characters. Each short story would include or involve one of the major characters, therefore giving readers an introduction to a small portion of the bigger story. In a couple of instances, the intention would be to provide more background on a couple of major characters by depicting certain events in their lives that were significant in helping them to become the characaters they are in the original story.

In addition to this, my epic fantasy starts several hundred years after a major event. This major event is referred to by the main characters and explained in some minor detail, but that event alone would provide enough material for a short story that could serve as a prelude. In addition to that, there are at least two or three other important events that are alluded to in the original epic fantasy, and each of those events could be represented well in a short story.

Basically, look for people or events that you think your readers would be interested in learning more about. Also, as you are editing the next epic fantasy, if you find yourself removing large portions of content, remember to set it aside. There might be something there that would present itself as a short story, and you can use it at a future time. Even if you don't have a large amount of content surrounding the item(s) you are removing, it might still serve as a foundation upon which you could build a short story.

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