An Introduction to. . . Fantasy

An Introduction to. . . Fantasy

Welcome to my new series, An Introduction to. . .! I had the idea for this series the other day and I decided to start it like, immediately. Why wait, right? My hope with this series is to help you understand more genres, what to avoid, and all that stuff. I'm hoping to help new writers or veteran writers who are thinking of trying something new. So let's get started on today's genre, fantasy!

Genre: Fantasy

The fantasy genre is defined by normally taking place in a made-up world, or our world, but with magic. Things like magic, mythical creatures, and fantasy worlds fill the genre. Quests, uprisings, and dealing with magic are common traits of these novels.


Since fantasy is one of the largest genres, it has many, many sub-genres. I'll cover a few here and link to some other lists at the end of this section.

• Allegorical fantasy. Think C. S. Lewis. These are fantasy stories that include an allegory, often to Christianity.

• Alternate world fantasy. This one is generally where someone goes from our world to another world, or discovers magic or fairies or such in our world.

• High/epic fantasy. These are normally sprawling epics full of good and evil and large armies and a heroic main character. Lord of the Rings is a classic high fantasy.

• Fairytale retellings. These can be placed in the modern world or a made up one, and are, as the name suggests, retelling one of our classic fairy tales. Think the Lunar Chronicles.

• Urban fantasy. This is a grittier version of fantasy, normally with more of a real world feel, but with dwarves and goblins and elves and magic.

• Comic fantasy. This is one of my personal favorites, as it combines humor and fantasy. They're funny and often take a stab at common fantasy tropes. The Last Dragonslayer is a good example.

• Sword and sorcerer fantasy. These types of books are filled with quests to defeat evil wizards or save princess. Classic fairytale stuff.

Like I said, there are way more sub-genres than this in fantasy. Here are two great posts covering more of them.

17 Common Fantasy Sub-Genres

The Complete Guide to the Fantasy Genre


Now let's talk about some common tropes in the fantasy genre. These are things that haven't become cliche and readers will probably want to see in your book.

• The Quest. I never get quite tired of a quest. Send the heroes off on a job and then throw all the problems at them. The thing is to keep the story moving forward and don't let them get too sidetracked.

• Magic. Is a fantasy book really fantasy without a little magic? There are so many kinds you can add. Inherited, given, highly scientific, no rules. You can have magic be costly or magic be easy. So. Many. Options.

• Fantasy world. A given. Creating a world from scratch isn't easy, but it's practically necessary for the fantasy genre.

• Magical creatures. Unicorns, griffins, elves, ogres, vampires, whatever you can think of. Most fantasy has some sort of magic creature, even if they're just legends.

• Weaponry. What's a fantasy book without a magic sword or fancy bow wielding elf? Weapons of all kinds, including made up ones, are very common in fantasy. Just try to use them correctly.

• Wizards. Magicians of all kinds flood fantasy books, but wizards are the most common. You can't see to find anything without some sort of evil magician to defeat or old wizard to train the main character.

• Castles. Because of all the medieval inspired fantasy, castles are basically a must. Towers, secret passageways, and a dungeon are added bonuses.

Remember, none of these are required for your novel. They're just ideas to get you started. And there are more common tropes that show up I'm sure you know. Just remember to make these tropes your own and give them new life.

To Avoid

Of course, what's a fantasy post without discussing some cliches. There are plenty of of them and there are plenty of other posts out there about it. I'll link a few after this section.

• The Chosen One. Let's all groan in unison. The Chosen One was okay for a while, then the YA books ran rampant with it and now no one likes it. This is when one person is chosen as the hero who will save everybody. There are many ways to make your main character the hero without this.

• Prophesies. This goes hand in hand with the Chosen One. Often they are chosen by a prophesy long before their birth. Percy Jackson is the only one allowed prophesies anymore. When I see one, it just makes me roll my eyes.

• Sword wielding hero. Handsome, buff men wielding swords and saving the girl. Oh , please. It's even worse when paired with a girl who doesn't need saving and still falls for him. Let's have a hero who's a nerd or uses a mace or something different. Please.

• The same fantasy creatures. Elves, dwarves, and fairies. Those are the basic starter pack for any fantasy story. There are so many different creatures out there, why don't you try something new for once? Or why not twist up the common ones? Totally hip elves? Dwarf rulers? Dark fairies (still love this one)?

• Medieval fantasy. All fantasy for a while was only inspired by knights and castle Europe, specifically England. Please don't fall into this. Why not have more African, Asian, South American, or Icelandic fantasy worlds?

• Monarchies. There's always a king or queen. Even I do this. But why not have a democratic society where people vote? Or any of the other multiple types of government?

Here's a few posts with some more cliches.

5 Cliches to Avoid in Your Fantasy Novel

Ten Fantasy Cliches That Should Be Put to Rest

10 Fantasy Cliches and Ideas to Change Them

Example Books

We'll end this post with some of top fantasy books out there. In my opinion, of course.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Edge Chronicles by Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart

What are your favorite fantasy books? What fantasy tropes do you like? Which fantasy cliches do you hate? Tell me in the comments.

Suggested Posts:

Literature Tropes: Are They Good or Bad?
Cliches in Writing: What do Do About Them


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