G is for Genre (Fantastic Friday Writers)

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category: ,

So, this post is super late, but it's still technically Friday, so it's counts!

Today's topic is Genre - more specifically, the High Fantasy genre. I did a post a while back defining different types of fantasy works, that you can read here. This post will focus on what I write, high fantasy.

Fantasy is a huge genre, split up into many subgenres. Fantasy fiction uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as the primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Most (not all) of fantasy fiction takes place in another world besides our own where magic is common.

As a fantasy writer, I have to say that fantasy is different from sci-fi and horror (even though they are often put together for groups, magizines, etc). This is because fantasy doesn't use the scientific and macabre themes that sci-fi and horror do. There is some overlap between all three of these genres of course, but they are different in many ways.

High Fantasy spefically, is fiction set in an alternative, fictional world ("secondary world") rather than the real world as we know it (the "primary world".

Nickki Gamble, co-author of Exploring Children's Literature says there are three subtypes of High Fantasy.

  1. A setting in which the primary world does not exist. (ex. The Wheel of Time)

  2. The secondary world is entered through a portal from the primary world. (ex. Alice in Wonderland)

  3. A distinct world-within-a-world as part of the primary world. (ex. Harry Potter)

Purists, if you want to call them that, say that high fantasy is only #1 on Nikki's list there, the others falling into some other sub genre of fantasy. I tend to agree with this, but I have found through research that many of the stories dealing with #2 and #3 are classified as High Fantasy also, only because they really don't have anywhere else to go. Perhaps one day, they'll have their own subgenre to themselves, but for now, it's all High Fantasy as far as the publishing world is concerned.

Wikipedia says that High Fantasy is one of the most popular subgenres of fantasty fiction. However, Urban Fantasy is probably the #1 at the moment. High Fantasy has always been around in the background sort of thing, always with devoted fans, readers, and writers. Is it really one of the most popular? Well, with games like D&D, video games, and Magic the Gathering - those areas, sure. I definitely agree. But in actual novel writing, I'm not really sure on that one. I have to do more research!

High Fantasy is usually epic in nature, the theme often being a good vs evil battle to the death or destruction of all. Some stories can have coming-of-age themes also, but as a reader, I only see htis in YA fantasy, rather than adult. But one could use the theme in an adult story, if written correctly! The mark usually of high fantasy stories come with certain types of characters and elements like elves, faeries, dwarves, dragons, demons, magic or sorcery, wizards or magicians, invented languages, quests, and multi-volume narratives or series.

My favorite thing about writing High Fantasy, since I'm a "purist" I guess and think that High Fantasy has nothing to do with the "real" world at all - is that I get to make up everything! I basically get to play God (without reprocussions!) and built a brand new world the way I want to. Rules, governments, religions, people, land, everything! But, I'm sure my readers already knew that I devote many of my blog posts there talking about world building and characters.

What about you guys? Do you read a lot of fantasy? What do you like about it - or don't like about it? Are you a "purist" like me and say that High Fantasy only deals with fictional worlds with no relation to our own?

And since it's a Fantastic Friday Writers day, please check out the other members of the group to see what they say about Genre.

6 Responses to "G is for Genre (Fantastic Friday Writers)"

J. D. Brown Says :
April 8, 2011 at 11:10 PM

Ana, I miss you! Come on Skype, babe.

When I think of fantasy, I always think of High Fantasy in the terms you described (elves, dragons, quests), even though I write urban fantasy.

One of my favorite YA fantasies growing up was called "Ever World" and I loved it for the world building and the character building that the author did. It was a "type 2" fantasy because the human teenagers were pulled through a portal and trapped in Ever World.

Great post!

Dawn Embers Says :
April 8, 2011 at 11:59 PM

I love high fantasy, and for the most part am with you. Then again, I never read Harry Potter or anything like that so I don't know if it's high fantasy. Considering the number of books the storyline was probably rather epic at least.

The epic fantasy I am writing for myself deals with good versus evil partly but it's more focused on an examination of revenge and of course the character development with the two elves in particular. I should probably finish that first draft. Have 51k so far.

Anastasia V. Pergakis Says :
April 9, 2011 at 2:01 AM

J.D.: I'll be right there! Want to catch up on a few things first. Honestly, I do too. Urban Fantasy to me stands on it's own almost because of the setting and creatures usually involved, but..they are part of the same family really.

Dawn: I wish you luck! I love writing high fantasy and even though I want to try sci-fi, I think I'll always be a high fantasy author. :)

Trisha Says :
April 9, 2011 at 2:28 AM

I'm a huge Wheel of Time fan, and a fan of high fantasy in general. But then I'm open to reading any type of fantasy :D

Elizabeth Mueller Says :
April 9, 2011 at 2:42 AM

I love writing from scratch too. My first novel is purist as well as another one. My others are fantasy, urban, paranormal, historical, and scifi mixed with historical and fantasty. I know, crazy. I obey my muse. :)


Anastasia V. Pergakis Says :
April 10, 2011 at 9:31 PM

Trisha: I love fantasy too, but funny thing even though I write it, I'd much rather watch it as a movie. I do read, it's YA fantasy instead of adult.

Elizabeth: Always obey the muse! That's the best way to go.

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