Five Key Steps to Do an Epic Poem

by Jocelyn Alma


Writing an epic is a monumental task that requires dedication, creativity, and a deep understanding of storytelling. An epic is not just a long poem; it’s a narrative that captures the essence of a culture, a hero’s journey, or a significant event in grandiose detail. Whether you’re inspired by ancient epics like “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” or modern epics like “The Lord of the Rings,” the process involves several key steps and elements. In this article, we’ll explore the structure, themes, and techniques needed to write your own epic.

Understanding the Epic Form

Know the Characteristics of an Epic

An epic typically features a hero of extraordinary abilities. This hero often embarks on a grand journey or quest, facing numerous challenges and adversaries. The narrative is vast in scope, often involving multiple settings and covering significant periods. The language used is elevated and poetic, fitting the grand scale of the story.

See Also: What Are Some Characteristics Of Epic Poetry?

Study Classic Epics

Before you start writing, immerse yourself in classic epics. Read works like “Beowulf,” “The Aeneid,” and “Paradise Lost.” Notice their structure, themes, and style. Pay attention to how the heroes are portrayed, the types of obstacles they face, and the overall narrative arc.

Choose Your Inspiration

Decide what inspires you. Are you drawn to mythology, history, or fantasy? Your inspiration will guide your themes, setting, and characters. If you’re inspired by mythology, research myths from different cultures. If history fascinates you, choose a historical period or event to base your epic on.

Planning Your Epic

Create a Detailed Outline

An epic is a complex narrative with many parts. Create a detailed outline to keep track of your plot, characters, and settings. Break your story down into major sections or books. Each section should have its own mini-arc that contributes to the overall narrative.

Develop Your Hero

Your hero is the cornerstone of your epic. Spend time developing their backstory, personality, strengths, and weaknesses. A well-rounded hero is essential. They should be relatable, despite their extraordinary abilities. Consider giving them a flaw or inner conflict to add depth to their character.

Build a Rich World

The setting of an epic is almost a character in itself. Build a rich, detailed world for your story. Think about the geography, cultures, societies, and history of your world. This world-building will make your epic feel more immersive and believable.

Outline Major Events

Plan the major events of your story. These should include key battles, important meetings, and significant turning points. Each event should drive the plot forward and develop your characters. Consider how these events impact your hero and the world around them.

Writing the Epic

Start with an Invocation

Traditionally, epics begin with an invocation to a muse or deity. This sets the tone for the story and highlights its grandeur. Write a short invocation to introduce your epic. This can also serve as a prologue, giving readers a glimpse of what’s to come.

Use Elevated Language

The language of an epic is elevated and poetic. Use formal, grandiose language to match the scale of your story. Employ literary devices like similes, metaphors, and alliteration to enhance your prose. However, ensure that your language remains clear and understandable.

Describe Heroic Deeds in Detail

One of the hallmarks of an epic is the detailed description of heroic deeds. Take your time to describe battles, quests, and challenges. Highlight the hero’s bravery, strength, and cunning. Use vivid imagery to bring these scenes to life.

Include Epic Similes and Epithets

Epic similes and epithets are common features of classical epics. Epic similes are extended comparisons that add depth and drama to the narrative. Epithets are descriptive phrases that characterize people, places, or things. Use these devices to enrich your storytelling.

Develop Subplots and Secondary Characters

An epic isn’t just about the main hero. Develop subplots and secondary characters to add complexity to your story. These subplots should intertwine with the main narrative, providing additional layers of meaning and interest.

Themes and Motifs

Explore Universal Themes

Epics often explore universal themes like good vs. evil, fate vs. free will, and the hero’s journey. Consider what themes resonate with you and how they can be woven into your story. These themes should be evident in the hero’s actions, the plot, and the world you’ve created.

Use Motifs and Symbols

Motifs and symbols add depth and cohesion to an epic. Choose motifs that reflect your themes and weave them throughout your story. Symbols can be objects, characters, or events that represent larger ideas. For example, a recurring motif might be the hero’s weapon, symbolizing their strength and destiny.

Structuring Your Epic

Divide into Books or Cantos

Epics are often divided into books or cantos. This division helps to organize the narrative and gives readers natural stopping points. Each book or canto should have its own focus, contributing to the overall story arc. Plan the content and themes of each division carefully.

Maintain a Steady Pace

Pacing is crucial in an epic. While some parts of the story will be action-packed, others will be slower and more introspective. Balance the pace to keep readers engaged. Use slower sections to develop characters and themes, and faster sections for dramatic action.

Craft a Compelling Climax

The climax of an epic is the moment of greatest tension and conflict. This is where the hero faces their ultimate challenge. Build up to this moment with increasing stakes and suspense. The climax should be a culmination of the hero’s journey and the central conflict.

Provide a Satisfying Resolution

After the climax, provide a satisfying resolution to your story. Tie up loose ends and show the consequences of the hero’s actions. The resolution should reflect the themes and growth of the characters. It should leave readers feeling that the journey was worthwhile.

Revising and Polishing

Revise for Consistency and Clarity

Once you’ve completed your first draft, revise for consistency and clarity. Ensure that your plot, characters, and themes are coherent and well-developed. Look for any inconsistencies or plot holes and address them. Make sure that your language remains clear, even in its elevated form.

Seek Feedback

Share your epic with trusted readers or writers. Seek feedback on the plot, characters, and language. Listen to their suggestions and consider how they can improve your story. Be open to criticism and willing to make changes.

Polish Your Language

Polish your language to ensure it matches the grandeur of your story. Refine your prose, paying attention to rhythm, flow, and imagery. Eliminate any unnecessary words or phrases. Aim for a balance between poetic language and readability.

Edit for Grammar and Punctuation

Finally, edit for grammar and punctuation. Even the most well-crafted epic can be marred by grammatical errors. Proofread your work carefully or hire a professional editor. A polished, error-free manuscript will enhance the reader’s experience.


Writing an epic is a challenging but rewarding endeavor. It requires careful planning, detailed world-building, and a deep understanding of storytelling. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can craft an epic that captivates readers and stands the test of time. Remember to study classic epics, plan meticulously, write with elevated language, and revise thoroughly. With dedication and creativity, you can create a monumental work that resonates with audiences for generations to come.

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