Fantasy itself is a large genre that can be broken down into more specific genres. Today, we will be looking at a few of them to learn more about this huge genre.
This is easy to understand. Take a part of our real history and change it. This can include magical elements (the real reason a war was won was because of magic) or a new concept of "What would happen if this happened instead?" (like what our world would be like had Hilter had his way with the Nazis party).
The characters in this fantasy story start in our world, as we know it, then are transported in some way to a 'magical' or 'paralell' world. Some say this could be considered part of the Sci-Fi genre also. This is true but the difference really lies with the magical element as opposed to a scientic or technological one.
A story set in our world but with magical elements. Some also consider this to be Dark or Urban Fantasy but, there are difference between the three. (Discussed further below). This type is often humorous or an adventure type of story.
"Horror" has some negative connotations to it and many authors choose to write under this genre name instead. However, there is still a huge difference between "Horror" and "Dark Fantasy". It all depends on the author's choice and the actual content on the novel. Some say the difference is the magic. Horror tends to be more scary or paranormal - not magical or fantastical.
This one is also called HIGH FANTASY or HEROIC FANTASY. These stories takes place in brand new worlds that require a huge amount of world building - with no comparison to our world as we know it (at all). The stories usually center around the battle between good and evil that include sub-themes like racisim, sexism, slavery, poverty, etc. Often times the hero of these stories have an unexpected or unsual strength that helps them to defeat the villian.
Who doesn't remember reading fairy tales as a kid? These fantasy stories are usually based on old folke tales or fairy tales, usually European. To write one of these, you take a known folk tale and rewrite a new version, basing your novel on the old tale, like if you wrote your own version of "The Ugly Duckling."
This is similar to fairy tales but it is a story based on old legends and myths. This could include stories written around Greek Mythology or other heoric legends of old like Robin Hood.
This category can be confused with Dark or Urban fantasy also as Werewolves and Vampires can often fall into this setting too. However, Paranormal Fantasy really focuses on mind over body types of magic/powers - like telepathy and teleknesis. That could be anything, not just werewolves and vampries. Some consider these types of stories to be Horror instead of Fantasy, but again the element that makes it different is magic.
SWORD AND SORCERY
This type is similar but more brutal than Heroic or Epic Fantasy. The heor has unusually high skills with swords and many other weapons then faces off agains sorcery (of an evil nature). He wins because of strength and will and "the gods' good fortune". The setting in this type if usually medieval so it has limited technology. It lacks the 'serious purpose' of Epic Fantasy stories.
This type of story is all about animals, and is usually written with the animals as the main character's or at least playing a major role. The animals in these stories act like humans and can often talk, aloud or telepathically.
These stories take place in an urban environment (which means a city or town usually). People go about their normal lifes but co-exist with fantastic creatures. Often times the "humans" don't know they coexist, but there are stories where they do.Vampires are the popular type of Urban Fantasy story but it is really inclusive of ALL fantasy creatures in an urban setting. This could include genies, faeries, or werewolves.
Of course, once you have these basics down, you can break it all up into subgenres, like Fantasy Romance, Fantasy Mystery, etc. Just remember, the thing that makes fantasy, fantasy is the magic or fantasical elements.
Next week, I'll talk about some commen themes and elements in a fantasy story's plot line.