Fantasy Genre Basics In A Flash

by Melany Logen

Fantasy is a conceived creation of the imagination, the plausible impossibilities, the "what ifs". Fantasy is the broadest writing genre and closely related to horror and science fiction with the focus on the fight between good and evil.

Any genre of fantasy will fall under either high or low fantasy. This depends on the relative amounts of supernatural elements in the world. The biggest factor in fantasy is world building.

There are literally dozens and dozens of subgenres of fantasy. Today, epic or saga high fantasy stories like the Tolkien Series are extremely popular. Below are five of the most basic genres in fantasy:

Ancient fantasy is an alternate history, usually with magic or some element of the fantastic or predated history. Arthurian legends fall under this concept. The myths and folklore of the ancient civilizations, such as Byzantium, the Celts, the Americas, or the Middle East make good backdrops for ancient fantasy tales.

Dark fantasy, often a euphemism for horror with supernatural or fantastic elements or else fantasy with disturbing or horrific elements, can be bold tales of fantasy featuring discovery. In horror, generally speaking, the monsters are the bad guys. In dark fantasy, the monsters (demons, vampires, were-creatures etc.) are sympathetically looked upon, while the real monsters are, more often than not, human.

Futuristic fantasy is space adventure dealing extensively with alien cultures and/or human (or other alien) contact with them. Futuristic fantasy lacks the hard core science of science fiction.

Parallel universe fantasy hypothesizes that every possible decision in the stream of history went every possible way, and that all of these possibilities created a set of universes existing as part of a multiverse. Transplanted characters, enchantresses, the heroic quest, sorcerers, and wizards are elements in close association with parallel universe fantasy.

Urban fantasy, "contemporary" fantasy, is set in the city, often dealing with shamanism, the New Age, and/or Amerind (or other minority) cultures in today's world. Urban fantasy focuses on the human condition and magic realism. Urban Fantasy generally takes place in a setting not far removed, or almost exactly like, the real world. This is the world just outside our windows, a world of jobs, politicians, and all the other mundane factors of existence, with the addition of one crucial element of magic.

With any fantasy genre, you have to come up with a concept and build an alternate world rooted in reality, create believable characters, maybe introduce aliens or other non-human characters, and maintain conflict, plot, and language. Fantasy is the stuff of fairy tales, folklore, magic, myth, and flights of fancy.

Remember, it has to tell a great story!