Genre Breakdown: Fantasy


Perhaps what we love most about Game of Thrones and Harry Potter (just a few examples, there are plenty more) is that they tell stories that sweep us completely out of reality. That is, of course, what fantasy is supposed to do: we don’t imagine what the world will be like when these kinds of things happen. Our imaginations allow us to wonder what life would be like if, for example, magic were real.

Possibilities are literally endless for fantasy writers, but making your fantasy story stand out—or even making sure that’s the genre you’re most comfortable writing in—is where a lot of the decision-making comes in.

What makes a novel a fantasy novel? 

Fantasy (isn’t calling it fantasy fiction kind of redundant?) is the genre in which you can, quite literally, break all the rules. It is potentially a complete break from reality: characters may have magical powers, fly with dragons, walk with elves, live in an environment or world completely built from the author’s imagination. Yes, though we often wish we could live in these fictional words, unlike sci-fi, which is a bit more believable and realistic, we never can.

Magic of the unexplainable variety is common in fantasy novels (think Hogwarts; Middle Earth; any Disney classic featuring a fairy or witch). Many settings are more medieval, but it’s not necessarily a requirement. Basically, if you don’t want your story to abide by any laws of physics or realism, fantasy is the genre for you.

Recent books and their authors 

Starborn by Lucy Hounsom

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

A Crown For Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

How to write successfully in this genre 

Probably the most important thing to note about writing a good fantasy novel: you have to let your imagination take the story where it wants to go. Don’t hold yourself back. At least, that’s what Game of Thrones mastermind George R. R. Martin advises. In other genres, you have to limit yourself to what might realistically happen to your characters in a familiar setting. Writing fantasy, anything can happen.

However, it’s also important to remember that you still have to make your fantasy characters believable: they still somehow need to be able to relate to your readers, especially when they have a tough obstacle to overcome. Also don’t be afraid to throw in twists on fantasy clichés—good and evil are not always black-and-white; there is not always just one hero.

Play off of myths and legends, but craft them into something new, something we’ve never seen before. Be creative. World-build until you get lost and have to find your way back again. Go as far as your mind will take you. Write something your readers will wish they could escape to, mixing in just enough relatable character traits to make them feel represented in the world they must navigate on their own.

Want more genres? Check out Genre Breakdown: Science Fiction.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Solution Saturday: Which Genre Am I Writing In?


So you’re writing this book, right? It’s going pretty well. There’s a good cast of characters, a few good plot twists, some suspense and a lot of action—it’s definitely something you would read, and hopefully that means someone else might want to read it someday, too.

It’s a great spot to be in, as a writer. But there’s just one problem: in searching for literary agents here and there, you’re not sure who might be good candidates to send queries to. Each agent typically accepts queries about books from certain genres, and well … you don’t exactly know where yours belongs.

You have problems. We have solutions. Writing is hard. Let’s make it a little easier to navigate, shall we?

Solution 1: Determine whom you’re trying to reach

Within each genre are a plethora of sub-genres, but in order to figure out where your story or book belongs, take a few steps back and focus on one thing: who do you picture sitting down to read your work?

Some themes are universal for all age groups, but the age bracket of your characters, the situations you put them in and the range of their development from start to finish can at least help you figure out whether it’s more suited for younger audiences, young adults or strictly adults, as a starting point. This can at least help you determine where your story doesn’t belong, and can help you narrow down where it might fit best. 

Solution 2: Assess what you’re reading

Often the genres we read most frequently are the ones we end up writing in. Mostly because, well, if we’re spending all that time reading this genre or that, it’s probably because we like it. Over time it can become the genre we know best, and therefore, has the potential to become our go-to genre when we turn around and write our own stories.

Perhaps the easiest way to do a genre hunt is to figure out which authors you enjoy, and do a search on them. “So-and-so is a [genre] author who has written …” will usually pop up without too much digging. John Green is a young adult author. It’s not guaranteed or required, but is much more likely, that if you read a lot of John Green novels, your stories will take on more young adult themes. Sort of like a you are what you eat philosophy, except, you write what you read. Maybe.

Solution 3: Keep checking back all month

We’re keeping things fairly general in this post, but as the month goes on, we’re going to take you on a virtual literary genre expedition. GET EXCITED!

We’ll dive deeper into the different types of genres you might be writing in, or might have written in previously and never even knew it. Genres like young adult fiction, for example, have so many sub-genres it can seem impossible to narrow down where your YA book fits. We’re going to make the search a little easier for you.

We hope these solutions can help you at least start to narrow down some possibilities, and if you’re still stuck, we hope you’ll come back and visit soon, for a more in-depth look at what genres are out there, and where you and your stories best belong.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.