Epic Fantasy and Visionary Fiction: A Brilliant Fusion of Two Genres

May 18, 2024 by S. R. Watts

Over the years, as I have been writing “The Divine Saga” series, I have had a couple of beta readers ask me how I came to write such an inventive work of fiction. I answered by saying that I fell in love with the epic fantasy genre ever since I was a teenager and read J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy, and wanted to write something as exciting as he had. While in college, as I was preparing to write the first book in “The Divine Saga,” “The Celestial Flame,” I was introduced to a new genre called visionary fiction, which shared much in common with fantasy but was more spiritual in its makeup. After reading some essays about writing a visionary fiction novel, I decided to take the elements found in Visionary fiction and fuse them with my epic fantasy work to create something truly unique. 

By combining the genres of visionary fiction and epic fantasy, I managed to create a rich, immersive narrative that not only manages to entertain my readers but also inspires profound personal and societal transformation. I managed to accomplish this mainly by tying the two genres together using a framework found in many classic stories known as the hero's journey, seamlessly weaving together the imaginative world-building of epic fantasy with the transformative themes of visionary fiction. Here's how I managed to achieve this synthesis:

Understanding Visionary Fiction and Epic Fantasy

First things First: I think it’s essential to have a basic understanding of what makes the two genres unique. That way, we have a foundation from which to build, helping us see how I integrated the two as I wrote the Divine Saga.

Visionary fiction focuses on personal and collective transformation. It often explores spiritual or philosophical themes, aiming to inspire readers to envision a better world and awaken their higher potential. This genre delves into the mystical and metaphysical, offering profound insights and transformative experiences.

On the other hand, Epic fantasy is characterized by grand, sweeping narratives set in richly detailed, often mythical worlds. These stories usually involve quests, battles between good and evil, and the journey of a hero or a group of heroes. Epic fantasy captivates readers with its expansive world-building, complex characters, and epic conflicts.

These two genres offer readers something meaningful and fulfilling on their own. Together, they have the potential to create something truly extraordinary, as I will explain through the lens of the hero’s journey.

The Hero's Journey: A Perfect Bridge

The hero's journey, as outlined by Joseph Campbell, is a universal narrative structure that has proven to be the perfect bridge between visionary fiction and epic fantasy. This monomyth involves stages a hero goes through, from the call to adventure to the return with newfound wisdom. Here’s how I have managed to use each stage to incorporate elements from both epic fantasy and visionary fiction:

1. The call to adventure

In visionary fiction, the call to adventure often involves a spiritual awakening or a realization of a higher purpose. In epic fantasy, this call might come in the form of a quest or a challenge. When I combine these two premises, the hero of my story receives a divine calling that sets him on a path to discover a long-lost secret that has the potential to save his world.

2. Crossing the threshold

This stage signifies the hero’s departure from the familiar world into the unknown. This might be a literal journey to a new land in epic fantasy. Visionary fiction can add depth by having the hero cross into realms of heightened consciousness or parallel spiritual dimensions, where they encounter profound truths and new perspectives. Both types of events occur for the hero of my story, as his physical journey is accompanied by visions that he must enter into to understand what he must learn to save his world.

3. The road of trials

Here, the hero faces challenges and tests. In epic fantasy, these trials often involve battles, puzzles, and encounters with mythical creatures. Visionary fiction can layer these trials with inner conflicts, spiritual challenges, and transformative experiences that test the hero’s beliefs and values. While I won’t go into detail about the trials my hero faces here—lest I spoil the books for those who may want to read it—I will say that the hero faces trials that make him question his worth as a human being, giving him cause to wonder if he should carry on with the mission he’s been given.

4. Meeting the mentor

Mentors in epic fantasy might be wise wizards or seasoned warriors. In visionary fiction, mentors could be spiritual guides, sages, or even manifestations of the hero’s higher self. These mentors provide practical guidance and profound wisdom that helps the hero evolve on both physical and spiritual levels. Again, I won’t spoil anything here, but my hero has several mentor figures that are both physical and spiritual in nature, all of which work together to help him find his way through the trials he is being asked to endure.

5. The abyss

The abyss represents the hero’s darkest moment, a time of despair and significant struggle. This might be a deadly battle or a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in epic fantasy. Visionary fiction can enhance this stage by delving into the hero’s inner turmoil, forcing them to confront their deepest fears and emerge with greater self-awareness and spiritual strength. This is the case for the hero of my story, as he is forced to confront his fears and relive some truly traumatic memories when he finds himself at his lowest point in the story.

6. Transformation and revelation

This stage is where the hero gains new insights and powers. The hero might discover a hidden strength or magical ability in epic fantasy. Visionary fiction adds a layer of profound personal transformation, where the hero gains spiritual enlightenment or a deep understanding of universal truths. Such is the case for the hero of my story as he learns a profound truth that not only gets him out of the abyss but helps uncover the secrets to performing abilities he had once thought impossible.

7. Return with the elixir

The hero returns to their world with the elixir, a symbol of their victory and the wisdom they’ve gained. In epic fantasy, this might be a magical artifact or a newfound peace for their realm. Visionary fiction emphasizes the hero’s role in inspiring change and growth in their community, using their experiences to foster a better world. In “The Celestial Flame,” the hero accomplishes something involving a great victory where he becomes a role model for change. However, I will keep the details a secret so as not to deprive readers of the joy of discovering them for themselves. I will say, though, that his victory is nothing like one of my beta readers had expected when he began reading the book for the first time.

Crafting a Visionary Epic Fantasy

Now that I’ve demonstrated how I’ve integrated the genres of Epic fantasy and Visionary fiction using the Hero’s journey, I feel it’s important to go over some crucial elements that are essential to crafting the perfect visionary epic fantasy (or visionary epic as I like to call it). By examining each one in detail, we can better see how they all come together to create a rich narrative that can entertain and enlighten readers from all walks of life.

1. World-building with depth

Create a rich, imaginative world that embodies both the fantastical and the visionary. This could involve mystical landscapes, ancient civilizations, spiritual realms, or a combination of some or all of these types of settings. Incorporate elements that reflect themes of transformation, such as sacred sites, mystical beings, and metaphysical phenomena, just to name a few.

2. Complex characters

Develop characters that undergo significant personal and spiritual growth. Allow your hero and supporting characters to grapple with profound philosophical and ethical questions, allowing them to transform as they progress through the story. Also, remember that your characters’ traits and personalities are often influenced by the environments they interact with, so understanding the worlds you build will, in turn, help you know how your characters came to be who they are.

3. Layered plot

Weave a plot that combines epic quests and battles with moments of introspection and a spiritual awakening. Balance action and adventure with contemplative scenes that explore the hero’s inner journey and their evolving understanding of themselves and their world. Again, like characters who are primarily influenced by the worlds they interact with, the plot is almost always influenced by the characters in the story. Whether it be the hero embarking on a quest to find a magical object, or the villain instigating a conflict that the hero must then resolve, the plot is essentially the result of the characters’ interactions with each other, so understanding your characters and their motives will help you know how the plot should go.

4. Symbolism and allegory

Using symbolism and allegory to enrich your narrative can help make epic fantasies more impactful than a simple quest can. Visionary fiction often employs these techniques to convey deeper meanings and universal truths, thus elevating the story to new heights that allow for greater introspection. When done right, integrating symbols that resonate with both the mystical aspects of epic fantasy and the transformative themes of visionary fiction can excite readers in ways that make them feel like they are on their own journey of self-discovery while they explore new worlds filled with experiences that are both thrilling and insightful.

5. Inspiring themes

Of all the elements we have discussed so far, theming is the one thing that ties all of these aspects together into a rich tapestry that makes the story worthy of our time and attention. Focus on themes that inspire and uplift. Explore ideas of unity, enlightenment, personal growth, and societal transformation. Also, be sure to demonstrate how the hero’s journey has impacted the world of the story being told, thus helping to provide a blueprint for readers to envision and strive for a better reality for our own.

Conclusion

The more I think about it, the more I realize how combining visionary fiction with epic fantasy using the hero's journey has helped me create a deeply engaging and profoundly inspiring narrative. By blending the grand adventures of epic fantasy with the transformative themes of visionary fiction, I managed to craft a story that will captivate the imagination of readers while encouraging them to embark on their own journeys of personal and collective growth. I hope that my efforts to create such an entertaining and inspiring work of fiction will help millions of readers worldwide as they come to see themselves through a new lens, giving them the tools to rise above the world and become what they were meant to be.