Fantasy as a Genre

Hey Lovelies!

Today, we’re talking about fantasy as a genre as promised. We’ll do a brief history of the genre, we’ll go over some of the differences between sci-fi and fantasy and then we’ll have our writing tips at the end. Same deal as last time, if I have missed something in this post that you think is super important, then please let me know so I can add it in.

The Differences between Science Fiction and Fantasy

Let’s start off with our definition:

Fantasy Genre: typically features the use of magic or other supernatural phenomena in the plot, setting, or theme. Magical or mythological creatures often feature, as well as races other than humans, such as elves, dwarves, or goblins. The worlds within fantasy books are usually medieval in style, both in terms of technology and culture.

What does this mean in terms of sci-fi? So, the main and crucial difference between the two genres is the use of magic and the types of technology used. Science fiction is going to be using science as their magic. It is the principle guiding the story. The technology is going to be advanced and completely man made. You’re going to have other races or civilizations, but they’re going to be “advanced” with their own technologies. You’re not going to be getting as diverse set of cultures. Robots and technology are more common than other species.

Fantasy on the other hand is going to be using older technology and will have magic on its side. Magic is one, or the, main driving force of your universe. Everybody has it or is trying to get it. Your creatures and/or other species are going to be more plentiful and diverse.

Those are the main differences between the two genres. To put it in really simple terms, science fiction is going to be grounded in reality and can be possible, but fantasy is not grounded in reality and hence cannot be possible.

The Brief History of the Genre

Alright, so finding a cute little video explaining the history of fantasy as a genre, so you’re stuck with me giving you a brief run down today. I am just going to stick to the literature side of things today. I’m not going to explore the history of the genre in film, TV or other mediums.

  • Ancient times: This has been around for as long as humans have been telling tales! Your mythology, fairy tales, and folklore are all included under this genre and even pop up, to this day, in our modern fantasy novels. The big guys you want to look into here are Homer’s The Odyssey (9th Century BC) and Beowulf (700 AD).
  • 1595-96: William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer’s Night Dream is published and performed. It does include, magic, fairies and the like and contributes to the genre.
  • 1726: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift is published. It features four different worlds for each section of his satirical novel.

gullivers-travels.jpg

  • 1865: Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice is transported into a world of pure imagination, filled with interesting and new creatures and nonsensical, surreal events. We also have a lot of magic at play.
  • 1894: William Morris publishes The Wood Beyond the World. A simple romance set in a medieval never-never land, the hero flees his loveless wife and eventually ends up battling a dwarf to free the maiden he loves.
  • 1923: Weird Tales magazine was published and gave writers, such as Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian), Fritz Leiber (creator of “low fantasy”**), and H.P. Lovecraft recognition.

Weird Tales Cover.jpg

**High Fantasy: take place in different worlds, with different natures, that are mostly unconnected to the real world. Will generally include these elements:

  • An imaginary world (usually an entirely imaginary world, but can be a parallel world or a world-within-our-world)
  • A battle of good versus evil or other epic theme, with terrible consequences if the hero fails
  • Multi-volumed works with a complicated plot,  a large cast of characters and an expansive timeframe 
  • Magic 
  • Non-human races such as elves and dwarves and/or magical creatures such as dragons and unicorns and/or monsters such as orcs and trolls
  • Medieval technology and feudal structures 

Tolkien is generally considered to be high fantasy.

Low Fantasy: take place in worlds that largely resemble the real world, with some fantastic or supernatural elements added. They are based on the idea that there are things in the real world that humanity does not know about. These can include species that have remained hidden for the most part (vampires, werewolves, the Loch Ness monster, etc) or things that operate on different physical laws we have not discovered (magic). Will Generally include these elements:

  • Resembles the real world for the most part, but…
  • Includes supernatural species or magic within the real world.
  • Is one in which knowledge of the supernatural elements is kept secret from ordinary people.
  • Feature interaction between people in the real world and the supernatural elements.

Think Harry Potter, City of Bones, or Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

 

  • 1937: J.R.R. Tolkien publishes The Hobbit. This is the start of what is known as contemporary fantasy. This is what we identify with “beginning” of fantasy.
  • 1949: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction was first released and brought science fiction and fantasy to the fore and in wider circulation.

fantasy and sci fi magazine cover.jpg

  • 1954: J.R.R. Tolkien publishes The Lord of the Rings. His books have been giving a shape to how future fantasy novels are going to look.
  • 1977: Terry Brooks publishes Swords of Shannara and fantasy novels are finally making it onto the bestseller’s lists.
  • Late 1980’s and Early 1990’s: David Eddings, Robert Jordan and George R. R. Martin are selling a lot of books and remain popular authors.
  • 2000’s to present: We’re getting a lot more humor within the genre and they’re continuing to break boundaries and keep the genre fresh.

Writing Tips for Fantasy

Next up on our list of topics: tips on how to make fantastic fantasy story (pun maybe intended?)

  • WORLD BUILDING!!! So you know how I said last week that science fiction needed some world building, but it wouldn’t be super important. Well it is, but not half as important as it is for fantasy. Your entire world is essentially made up. You need to know it inside and out. So, here is the link to my world building post that has a guide of questions to ask about your world. It is by no means a complete list, but it does give you a good start and will get you thinking.
  • Incorporate a bit of mythology into your story. A lot of other fantasy writers do this because it has a bunch of fantastic and mythical creatures mixed into those stories. Tolkien pulled from German, Nordic and archaic English myths and legends when he was building Middle Earth.
  • Know/Have a magic system in place. Essentially this means, how do people use magic in your world and how does it work? For example, reading spells aloud is a magic system. Your imagination is your guide here.
  • Avoid cliches or make them new and interesting. There are a lot of tropes that get used in fantasy over and over again. If you can come up with something different and new, then that’s great! If not, well you’re going to want to put a new twist on it. That could be a death of a character that shouldn’t die or they change their path in some way.
  • Read! Read extensively in the genre, sub genre, or low or high fantasy. Get to know how they look and feel, what the differences are. It’ll help you create a good story.
  • Add surprises! This could be finding magic in weird and new places. For example, in Harry Potter we have the platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station and you get there by running into a column.

how-to-write-a-fantasy-series-610x1019.png

  • Keep your world relevant. Use real life problems as your themes. You’re creating a completely new world with beings we’ve never seen before. You’re going to lose your readers if they can’t identify with your characters and their world at all. So using things from “our world” in your story will help get your readers into the story.
  • Your world building is really important, but so are your characters. Don’t forget to make outstanding characters! Your world is only as good as your characters are. If you have a great world  but boring characters your readers aren’t going to finish your book!
  • Be consistent. Your world is going to have rules and they need to be followed. There’s nothing more frustrating by being told that you can only practice magic this one way, but then in the next scene or chapter you’re breaking that rule. If you do break a rule there must be a really good reason.
  •  Violence has consequences. This one I’m taking from George R.R. Martin himself. If you’re going to be having big medieval fight scenes, then show the horror of this and don’t leave the gory details out.
  • Don’t limit your imagination. Let it have free reign and have fun with whatever your brain comes up with. It’ll be unique to you and you can expand on the worlds and fantasy novels already out on the market.

That’s all that I have for you today! I hope this was helpful! Next week we’ll be talking about setting and then we’ll be going more in depth on world building.

Until next week!

Cheers,

Danielle


16 thoughts on “Fantasy as a Genre

  1. Not to sound dumb, but what do you define as a ‘trope’ in the Fantasy setting?
    On the subject of real-world problems, if my sword-fighting barbarian heroine is leaving home to (among other things) get away from her overbearing mother, do you think that’s something a young female reader could identify with?
    Thank you for posting on this subject.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So, traditionally a trope “is a figure of speech through which speakers or writers intend to express meanings of words differently than their literal meanings. In other words, it is a metaphorical or figurative use of words in which writers shift from the literal meanings of words to their non-literal meanings. The trope, in fact, could be a phrase, a word, or an image used to create artistic effect.” ~https://literarydevices.net/trope/

      Tropes pop in a variety of ways – you can look into that a bit more at that link. I also find that link doesn’t give a full view of what a trope is. In this case, I’m using it as a catch all for the images, themes, motifs and metaphors that can be seen throughout the genre — as recurring literary and rhetorical devices or cliches. If that makes sense?

      As to your real-world scenario, it will depend on your audience (is it YA or for an adult audience?), the time period and the age of your character. My opinion would be more concrete if i had that information; however, I believe that your audience could identify with your character. If you’d like to talk it over with me, I’d be more than willing to help! 🙂

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      1. Thanks! I’d love to talk about it 🙂. My character and her close circle of friends are approximately 19 years old. I wanted to appeal to the YA audience in the 15 and up range. But I wanted the adventure in the story to be enjoyed by adults, too. I wanted to break with tradition, and present a female heroine leading a young female adventuring group, just to show the courage and life that can come from women. I wanted young female readers to point to my characters and say “That’s MY gender doing that!” And as for male readers, I wanted to show them women with spirit (men like that more than we let on).
        Due to circumstances about how she was conceived, Fawnlum – my heroine – was placed under a special authority by her mighty mother. She grew up being known as the child bound by that authority, with limits on some of the things she could choose to do with her life (like marry the man her mother disapproved of). When a great, heroic act frees her from that authority, she leaves home to make a name for herself, and win her own glory. She leaves her newly-recognized fiance, Baneck, behind, with a promise to return. But Baneck has problems of his own, like being gifted with an extremely rare and potentially deadly type of magic that the whole world outside their barbarian nation will covet. If he can learn to use it (he’s a blacksmith/magic item crafter, so he wants to imbue weapons with it), he can make Fawnlum a truly powerful blade. If he can’t, then he’ll feel like he’s not worthy enough for Fawnlum’s hand.

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      2. It sounds like you have set up a very interesting story! I did catch a few things that you may or may not have thought of and may want to keep in mind as you write or edit. Regardless, if you ever want to bounce ideas off of me or for me to look things over, let me know! Also these are just things to keep in mind and feel free to correct me if I’m off about something.

        Also you may be interested in going over my posts on female characters. (Angel of the House, The Fallen Woman, Women’s Bodies and Supervillains — there’s a section on female supervillains that can be applied to heroes a bit as well)

        Here’s that list of things to keep in mind:

        Your age for your heroine and her friends is great for what you’re trying to do. I’d even go just a bit older — by a year or two. It’ll give them a bit more autonomy. Again I don’t know the full details of your world so do with it what you will. 🙂

        What is it that makes her mother so overbearing besides the fact that she controls almost every facet of her daughter’s life? There’s always going to be a longing to be free, but a lot of the time people get used to that overpowering sense of control and it can incapacitate them. So what was the nail in the coffin that makes your heroine perform that heroic act? What beside the utmost authority makes her want to break free from her mother? It’s not always enough to just break free and then go out an do things. She must have a very strong reason to want her own glory and her own path.

        You can tell me if I’m wrong or not, but is Banek going to be the one to save the day with this sword he makes her? If yes, then you’re going to be taking the focus off of your female heroine a bit. It’s more going to be about him coming through and saving the day at a critical moment. Framing it so she is the one commissioning the sword and as payment for his sacrifice he gets her hand in marriage/proves he’s worthy of her kind of thing may be a way to keep the focus on her a bit more.

        Also, if Banek has this amazing power that everyone covets, why would he feel like he’s unworthy of Fawnlum? She’s committed one big heroic act. So either a) she hasn’t figured out that she has this amazing gift that everyone else knows about or b) what she did was so impressive it may be hard to top.

        Finally, it could just be your summary, but what does she want to accomplish with all this glory? It’s one thing to achieve it, but it’s a hollow motive to a degree. What does she really want out of her freedom?

        I know it’s a bit long winded, but I hope it helps. Also if you want to send me anything or to talk more privately, you can find my contact information on my contact page. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you very much. These sound like good issues to address. At this moment I’m about to start two busy back to back workdays, but my answers will be coming.

        Like

  2. I love the format of you site. Everytime wordpress goes to my site on the ‘visit’ button, it goes to a simplified version with a white screen and plain text. The theme and visuals won’t be visible unless a reader scrolls all the way down, and presses ‘view full site’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I appreciate it. I was a bit lazy and just use a template (so original I know). I thought it was like that for all site on the WordPress reader? Whenever I visit other people’s sites I generally have to click on the blog link directly or scroll.

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  3. I was able to find a different theme online (for free!), and tell wordpress to use it in the dashboard settings. As far as showing a reader the basic white simplified webpage, I learned there’s a setting called the jetpack mobile theme(?), and if you turn it off, then wordpress will allow your preferred theme to load when anybody visits your site on a mobile device.

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  4. Hi, Dani,
    Here’s some of the answers to the questions you raised. Be warned, it’s a little long-winded.

    The girls are doing a lot at the age of 19, because in their harsh homeland, the Coast of Storms (in reference to my title, Jagged Coast) you have to grow up and grow strong fast. In their barbarian bloodline in the Fantasy universe, a great many of their people, including many of their women, are gifted with height and strength.
    In regards to her mother’s control over her life, there’s a history.
    Saraty – Fawnlum’s mother, a gifted warrior at a young age – was wedded into one warrior family, the Creatifs, at about the age of 19. Her husband, Grieg, was killed in battle. She had a period of so many months of grieving. She didn’t want any of the other suitors available in the family. She wanted to leave. The family would not allow it, enforcing the custom of their people – the barbarian descendants of mighty Vongilor – that when you’re a member of a family, you support them until given leave.
    She fell in love with a mighty veteran warrior, by the name of Bragoon Raijum. He was more than twice her age, with adult children of his own. His own wife had died years before. And not in the spirit of robbing the cradle, but seeing what a dynamic and able woman Saraty was, he fell in love with her as well.
    She lay with him, becoming pregnant, and then said, “I’m going to join the House of Bragoon now. My former family has no claim over me.”
    Bragoon was going to wed her, giving her his name and happily fulfill all responsibilities as a husband and father.
    The Creatifs would not have it.
    The dispute was mediated by a cleric of Diergon, their god of battle and victory.
    The Creatifs accused Saraty of getting pregnant as an excuse, so she could depart and leave them short-handed, as they were a fighting clan and shouldered responsibility for the kingdom’s defense.
    Sevvea, the Creatif matriarch, asked the cleric, Eidgunn, that their order withhold Diergon’s blessings on Saraty on any higher rank she may attain as a member of mighty House Raijum.
    Saraty stated the Creatifs were never going to grant her leave, using her to swell their fighting ranks.
    Bragoon stood against anyone accusing his woman of such tactics, or calling his unborn offspring a “Child of Convenience” – sort of like a “love-child”.
    Trying to keep the peace, Bragoon offered the services of his family to join the Creatifs as they fought at their assigned post.
    Still not satisfied, Sevvea said, “What about when the child inherits the glories, or gets a promotion because of the rank of both parents?”
    In vanity, she did not want Saraty or her child attaining higher rank than members of her own House.
    Long story short, Saraty coldly said, “If only the ‘worthy’ are allowed to attain a rank greater than yours, then ‘worthiness’ is what the whole nation under Diergon will see. If this child follows the warrior’s path, they will enter the Fighters’ School, and receive no battlefield rank except that which they earn after graduation. I’ll be the child’s Guardian-sayer, and will enforce this, and Eidgunn will enforce my pledge.”
    And Eidgunn said, “Agreed. This matter is now closed, and peace reigns between your families.”

    Growing up, Fawnlum was never accused of being a Child of Convenience, but everyone sort of knew why her mother had the final authority of whether she got to receive a battlefield rank or not.
    Even at a young age, she was gifted as a fighter (how could she not be, coming from such good stock?)
    As she went through the School, she was content to stick to the training curriculum, even though she was always ready to advance early. She loved growing stronger as a fighter, at one with the demanding environment of their homeland. That was enough.
    Then at 16 years of age, she fell in love with a young man she had grown up with – Baneck Lichner, a blacksmith and magical item crafter.
    In the Coast’s school of magic, certain smiths are able to etch magic runes on blades, which can then be activated by the Coastal wizards, at which point they can cut through the scales of a might Red Dragon.
    Saraty thought it was just a phase, until Baneck proposed, and Fawnlum accepted.
    Saraty would not have it! The rune-craft was no small thing, and Baneck was a good and respectable young man. And he certainly was no weakling. Born of Coastal blood, he was muscular and strong, and worked with the steel and forge. But her daughter was destined for great things as a warrior, and she would attain more success with a warrior as a husband, not a smith.
    Fawnlum saw something special in Baneck, and her love for him was real.
    Under the provisions of the Guardian-sayer, Saraty had the authority to say she could not get married. This only applied until Fawnlum graduated from the School. Until her graduation, she was stuck.
    This set Fawnlum off. If she was training hard before, she went into intense mode over the following three years, training harder and advancing quicker. She would earn the higher ranks of the School early, and graduate early, then she would be out from under the authority of the Guardian-sayer.
    She attained a greater fighting strength at a younger age than anyone in their kingdom had seen in a generation. Everybody knew how great she would be when she finally attained her battlefield rank and led her first battalion.
    Her drive for independence led to her wanting her own glory to show as a mark of that independence.
    Three other girls, her dearest friends – Sienna, training to be a shock trooper; Nepta, training to be a wizard; and Honee, training to be a combination of battlefield scout and assassin – had trained with her since childhood. She dragged them along in her grueling regimen, nearly killing them all as they took on deadlier training assignments. But their unit – or adventuring party, if you will – grew stronger as well, coming to fight alongside seasoned regiments on the borders of their kingdom in real battles.
    She would make her own name with her victories. She would not need the name of her mighty and decorated mother to serve as the authority for her right to accept anything. She would stand on her own strength, and be known for something other than the Child of Convenience label that had put her life’s decisions under her mother’s authority to begin with.
    She and her friends would graduate from the School early, and there would be nothing anybody could say about it. And she would marry Baneck.

    For his part, Baneck knew he was not a warrior.
    And when he saw Fawnlum possessed of such drive to accept him as a husband, it really touched him. But it also let him know how much Saraty disapproved of him, as she would not be moved. It was nothing personal, but it was disapproval nonetheless. And it sort of stuck in his craw. In a way, he was being told he was not good enough.
    With the always-there but not-talked-about conflict between the rising star Fawnlum and the famous warrioress Saraty, people around them knew what the conflict was about. In their society, people of different trades married all the time. But the whispered consensus indicated that others believed such a destined-to-be-great warrior like Fawnlum would probably be better off with a husband who was also an accomplished fighter.
    Being a smith, Baneck had a great deal of patience. But the public attitude still grated on him. But he knew how Fawnlum felt. That helped more than words could say.

    In the ‘heroic act’, Fawnlum (pretty much) single-handedly defeated a Red Dragon.
    Baneck had done something stupid – he had challenged Felldrake the Red himself – using magical weapons he had created, carved with runes from the mysterious Mark of Wintermore that had appeared on his chest. His idea was, by defeating the Red, he would erase the insults and threat the dragon had made against their king. But really, he was just trying to get Saraty’s permission to marry Fawnlum.
    He blew it.
    As he was knocked out, Fawnlum jumped in, and beat the giant, armor-scaled, fire-breathing beast.
    Albeit accidentally, for nearly handing over such a power as Wintermore to Felldrake the tyrannical wyrm, he should have been imprisoned. Fawnlum had the power to make a request of the king. She asked that he accept her hard-earned battlefield rank, in sacrifice to keep Baneck out of irons.
    This made Baneck feel lower than a boot-heel.
    As Fawnlum left the Coast to go to an allied kingdom as a paid fighter, and help them fight off an invasion, he pledged to make a her a saber that no dragon, brigand, wizard or troll could stand against.
    It’s his way of making things right with her, but also, he emotionally hasn’t gotten over the resentment of having been thought of as not worthy to marry Fawnlum. He’ll get over it a little bit at a time, as he advances in his weapons-craft, creating greater things with Wintermore.
    As for her part, Fawnlum is a great warrior whether she has such a mighty blade or not. It will just be a tool she uses. She doesn’t have to wait for the blade to do great things. She’ll just put it to good use once she has it.
    It’s true the saber will help her when she has the final battle with the evil wizard, but still her greatest strength is her courage to stand up to such foes.
    And it’s not that the saber will be greater than Fawnlum. It’s just that the powers Baneck awakens in it will be put to such good use.

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    1. Thank you for the overview of your story!

      Sorry for the late response! Things have been hectic on my end. Plus I wanted to make sure my response wasn’t rushed. Your story is just on your site, correct? I might just give it a read and then send you some notes on it. If that’s a bit easier?

      My main :critique in this is about Fawnlum’s mother. Does Fawnlum’s mother has control over any fighter’s rank she receives or any of her promotions after she receives her graduation rank? Is the marriage to Baneck the only thing that set her off or were there other things that she wants to get away from where her mother is concerned?

      To get back to your original question, her motive for getting away from her mother (denied the love that she wants) would definitely resonate on some level to the age group you’re targeting, but at the same time it might not resonate as well with an adult — especially an adult woman. It’s going to seem overly dramatic. It’s going to depend on how yo’re framing everything. If it’s a last straw kind of thing or there’s another facet to her mother’s control over her that makes her get fed up and really throw herself into her schooling, then it might resonate a bit better with an older audience. Yes freedom is a huge motivating factor, but her mom has to be that despicable too. If that makes sense?

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      1. That will take some thought to answer. But I can tell you off the top of my head that it’s not that Saraty (the mom) is despicable. It’s just they have a really strong difference of opinion where Fawnlum’s future is concerned. Plus they’re both really proud women. She fulfilled her fighting duties as a member of the House to put down any notion that she’ll slept with Bragoon to get some benefit. She made the promise of the guardian-sayer, enforced by the cleric- so the world and her accusers would know that her child would not receive something shameful like favoritism. The world would see her child- the offspring created in her new union with her new husband – as thatFawnlum knows why she has a guardian-sayer. Saraty has to make sure this child of hers earns, only by being worthy, any rank to coomand fighters on the battlefield. When Fawnlum does this, then the world knows she received no favoritism from the school, and Saraty can show she did not have a baby just to get favoritism in the Raijum House.

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      2. Picking up in mid paragraph,
        The world would see her child – the offspring created in her union with her nee husband – as earning anything they got. This would be the representation of honor to associate with that union, and no one would be able to insinuate that she entered her relationship with Bragoon for ulterior motives. So, over the years, as she saw her gifted daughter excel, she believed Fawnlum would go farther in her role as a warrior, when joined with a warrior husband. So when Fawnlum said she was in love with Baneck, those plans were endangered. Saraty sort of abused her position as the guardian sayer to forbid Fawnlum to marry him. That’s when Fawnlum threw herself more vehemently into her training, because the fighters school carried its own authority. If she showed the earned rank of the school by completing the curriculum, then she would have the authority to command troops in battle, and the guardian sayer would not be able to stop that authority. Fawnlum’s graduation would be like a coming of status where her independence is established beyond the guardian sayer ‘s authority. And since she’d have the independence for her own command, then she’d have independence to marry who she wanted.

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      3. My story is on my site. But the background surrounding Fawnlum and her mother is hardly mentioned. I was told in a Writer’s digest 1st 10 pages boot camp to cut through any prelude and get to the sction. Refences to what I’ve talked about here can be found in the first couple (or first 3) chapters.
        Thanks 😋

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