What makes the fantasy genre different?

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Sheepy-Pie

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What makes the fantasy genre different?
« on: March 23, 2017, 12:21:14 PM »
If we take fantasy as a whole, what makes it different from other genres? Is it word count, style, the inclusion of prologues? Obviously there is the content of fantastical things such as dragons, or beings that aren't real... but then horror can have it too. I'm curious to know what sort of things people come up with :)

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briari hallow

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2017, 12:31:25 PM »
I think a big thing I notice is writing style. In many fiction genres I don't tend to find as much description and immersion of a world springing up around you.

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Arc

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2017, 12:04:05 AM »
I feel like fantasy is not really something that you can say "this is fantasy" not anymore. Though I do think that real in depth world building now is the key thing, though of cause both horror and sci-fi have those.

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sapheyerblu

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2017, 07:25:59 PM »
I think the real difference is in how easily the reader is drawn into the story. As you said, a good horror story can come up with fantastical creatures, but even the best story is just that unless the reader feels as though they're actually living the story. A good romance can be a fantasy if written well. Look at the 50 Shades series.
When the reader forgets that it's just a story, and can't wait to see what happens next, the fantasy becomes real.

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HSCook

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2017, 08:44:54 PM »
This is just based on observation, but I find things that come solely under the fantasy umbrella have a tendency to be much more plot- than character-driven. There are character-driven fantasies but they are often categorised under a different genre as the primary with fantasy coming in second (such as romance or horror).

Fantasy lends itself to the pure descriptive. Word count can vary immensely from around 60k to 160k so I don't think that's really a defining factor unless you simply say there is no narrow range. What makes fantasy 'fantasy' is the inclusion of fantastical elements. Yes, you can see that in other genres, such as horror, but that is where there are cross-overs between genres. Horror with zombies crosses into science fiction. Horror with vampires crosses into fantasy. Horror with a cannibalistic mass murderer can fall into crime or thriller or even just linger as simply horror.

Very few genres exist without overlap. Even fantasies you would not categorise as anything else may have elements of science fiction (parallel world theory) or romance for example. Something with no cross-categorisation at all is rather dry.
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Tyrannohotep

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2017, 10:11:51 PM »
I think fantasy has a much broader range of possibilities with regards to settings, characters, and plots than other genres. It is essentially "anything goes". Maybe that's why people always complain about the cliches of fantasy literature. All genres have their conventions, but fantasy seems to have more potential that not enough writers tap into.
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Sheepy-Pie

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2017, 04:37:19 AM »
I find things that come solely under the fantasy umbrella have a tendency to be much more plot- than character-driven. There are character-driven fantasies but they are often categorised under a different genre as the primary with fantasy coming in second (such as romance or horror).

And this is where my WIP comes in :P I think it's more character driven and I think it may end up sub genred to urban fantasy, but fantasy should still be at the forefront. I don't want the romance-esque plots coming to the be a big plot point that it takes over the book. Only how fate is using love and lust to screw people over.

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Rohierim

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2017, 12:02:25 AM »
I find Genre to be more about what the story says than anything you would be able to label as a writing technique (descriptions, Prolog, etc.nut shell). I find fantasy, in a nutshell, has a very heavy reliance on good vs. evil. You have your epic fantasies like Lord of the Rings which is very Good vs. Evil. You have Star Wars (Which I label under fantasy) which is VERY Good vs. Evil. Harry Potter = Good vs. Evil. Twilight = Good vs. Evil. I could go on forever with things from old fantasy to some of the newest stuff out there. The plot is some sort of Good vs. Evil.

Now, look at Star Trek (Forget the newer movies and go more with the show and older movies). Much more reliant on stories about the science behind what they do. The interaction of societies as humans explore more and more of the universe. There isn't a Good vs. Evil. There may be episodes that seem like there are, but in general IMO the story of Star Trek is far and away from any tiny bits of Good vs. Evil.

Romance: No matter what happens in the story if it has fantastical elements, or historical relevance, or modern day relevence: the entire story is about the love story. The rest is filler.

Horror: All about the shock and suspense of whatever horror event there is. There will sometimes feel like a Good vs. Evil part since most horror involves "evil", but the story itself is designed more for the feelings revolving around the evil in both shock and suspense than it ever is Good vs. Evil.

I can go on and on but the closest I find to being what I consider Fantasy would be Thriller, but again this one may have a Good vs. Evil mentality, but unlike Fantasy which usually puts Good vs. Evil on a "Grand or Epic" scale, a thriller is going to involve pacing as a story element. But in the end I find all fantasy, be it Military Fantasy, Epic Medieval Fantasy, Magical Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, etc. Almost always there is the Good vs. Evil, and it is taken to a grand or epic scale.

Now there will be exceptions; there are to every rule. But looking over everything from JRR Tolkien, Terry Brooks, George RR Martin, RA Salvatore, George Lucas, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Michael Sullivan, Chuck Wendig, you can pretty much go down the row here and see Good vs. Evil as the big driving force. Yes, there are a thousand themes people put into these stories, most if not all by their own making, but you can widdle each one down to a Good vs. Evil on some kind of epic or grand world ending scale.

That's just my opinion. Honestly, I like discussions like this and hope we can dig into things like this more often. :D

Roh

P.S. If you don't recognize any of the authors I've mentioned above, you should try them. They are pretty much the top of the game in Fantasy nowadays and or were in their time.

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JayLee

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2017, 01:59:53 AM »
I've always liked to think of fantasy as the moment where what cannot be/what should not be, has been. Convoluted, maybe.... but it seems to work for me. I love this question though, since my personal research project has been coming up with a genetic tree for genres. At its base, there are only two types of writing: Fiction and non-fiction. From there, everything branches out into a plethora of confusion. Fantasy, obviously falls under fiction. But it itself is comprised of so many branches, genres, motifs, themes, decals, cross-over etc. etc. Simply put, the only link I've found to even want to connect all of it is that it must contain an element of the Fantastic. Mind, what's fantastic to one person may be reality to another, so personal preference seems to play a role. If sub-themes, cross-genres, etc. are more prevalent than the element of the fantastic, the book may be better named for the strongest element, but it could still be considered a fantasy. If the book will market better with a specific name than simply fantasy, that may be a choice to make when branding it. I personally am looking for evidence that there are really only two types of fantasy, High and Low. Everything else to me seems like themes and motifs. But, I'll keep working on that :)
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Jedi Knight Muse

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2017, 07:01:07 PM »
@Rohierim
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You have Star Wars (Which I label under fantasy)

Okay, so, this is interesting to me. See, to me, Star Wars is automatically science fiction because of the aliens and all the planets and hyperspace and such. BUT...then you throw in what's essentially space magic, aka the Force, and the Jedi and the Sith who would basically be the equivalents of light VS dark mages in a fantasy world and have their own religion and beliefs. I would even consider the blasters and other weapons (even lightsabers) to be more science fiction-y. There's definitely an overlap. My brain always classifies it as being more science fiction than fantasy, even though I know there are definitely fantasy elements involved. So I guess I really classify it as being more of a science fantasy.

I haven't replied to this post until now 'cause I honestly am not sure that I really have an answer to the original question. :P
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No One of Consequence

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2017, 07:40:20 PM »
Most of the critics and theorists I've read would label Star Wars fantasy - it's just wearing sci-fi clothes. None of the apparent sci-fi elements is actually necessary to the story. The basic plot is "Farm boy leaves home accompanied by wacky farmhands, a kindly wizard mentor and a roguish outlaw. He sneaks into the dark fortress to rescue the princess from the black knight. They escape to gather the rebels and sneak back into the fortress where they defeat the evil knight's power over the land. Home in time for tea and medals. Huzzah!"

That's Star Wars. It tricks us by putting it amongst lasers and hyperdrives etc., but it's as much fantasy as McBeth is still McBeth, even if it's set in gangland Chicago. The same way Akira Kurosawa's Ran is King Lear told in the Sengoku Jidai period of Japanese history.

Of course, when I was growing up, I always thought Star Wars was sci-fi - because lasers.

Nowadays I tend to see sci-fi as a sub-genre of fantasy and I tend to like my fantasy with a heavy dose of lasers (or something similar - it's why I'm such a big fan of the MCU - comic book movies are essentially a form of fantasy).

Quote
Now there will be exceptions; there are to every rule. But looking over everything from JRR Tolkien, Terry Brooks, George RR Martin, RA Salvatore, George Lucas, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Michael Sullivan, Chuck Wendig, you can pretty much go down the row here and see Good vs. Evil as the big driving force. Yes, there are a thousand themes people put into these stories, most if not all by their own making, but you can widdle each one down to a Good vs. Evil on some kind of epic or grand world ending scale.
#Rohierim

I know you offer the possibility of exceptions, but I think your presentation is too narrow. For a start, GRRMartin, taking GoT as a whole, is not about good versus evil. Yes the story follows the Stark children, who are for the most part innocent, but the whole point of the story is that no one makes it to adulthood innocent in this setting. The Starks are more honourable, but ultimately the more honourably they behave, the less successful they are. And really in the overarching setting, it's a battle between mystical cold versus dragon heat - neither the white walkers nor the Targaryens make for a 'good' regime; humanity is just fighting over who will be in charge at the end of the weather based apocalypse. Winter is coming.

Also, for each author you've named above, I can name equally influential authors who are about anything but good or evil; Robert Howard, CJ Cherryh, Michael Moorcock and Frank Herbert. Even in the case of the epic, world ending scale, there are great fantasy writers who steer away from good vs. evil. And modern ones too, lest my taste seem too old fashioned - I'm thinking Brian McClellan and Patrick Rothfuss here.

Good vs. Evil is one of the grand themes of writing and fantasy does make it easier to portray in symbolic terms, but I think it's too long  a reach to claim that good versus evil is the key to, or defining feature of, the genre as a whole.

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MagicMagor

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2017, 04:46:11 AM »
Quote
The basic plot is "Farm boy leaves home accompanied by wacky farmhands, a kindly wizard mentor and a roguish outlaw. He sneaks into the dark fortress to rescue the princess from the black knight. They escape to gather the rebels and sneak back into the fortress where they defeat the evil knight's power over the land. Home in time for tea and medals. Huzzah!"
But if you boil it down to this level many stories that follow the Heros journey will sound similar/same. While have seen the notion of labeling star wars as fantasy, it was never because of this plot structure. The main argument was the force - which is basicly "space magic" and thus its the inclusion of something impossible that makes it fantasy.

For me however Star Wars is Science fiction even if the story itself is very fairy-tale like. Fantasy and Science fiction are two genres for me that are more defined by the setting than the actual plot (as opposed to crime or romance for example). And i admit that tech level is for me an important aspect of this. For me fantasy is generally lower tech where SciFi is high tech settings. Is this fair or a proper representation of the genre? No, but thats how my mind categorizes these things. Part of the reason might be that in germany "Fantasy" means something more specific than "supernatural/impossible things", it means generally more magic-medievale-tolkin like things, where the general supernatural stuff would be labled as general "phantastik" maybe. Although things are changing (i think twillight f.ex. is labeled under fantasy nowadays)

Not a defining but charactaristic trait of fantasy books is in my opinon the length. Big books and long series have a tradition in the genre, much more  than in others. However i believe that is simply because fantasy is heavy on worldbuilding and setting and all that stuff goes to waste if you use it just for a short 200 page story.
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No One of Consequence

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2017, 05:10:09 AM »
Not a defining but charactaristic trait of fantasy books is in my opinon the length. Big books and long series have a tradition in the genre, much more  than in others. However i believe that is simply because fantasy is heavy on worldbuilding and setting and all that stuff goes to waste if you use it just for a short 200 page story.

This makes me feel so old. When I got into fantasy most of the stories were shorter than two hundred pages - Michael Moorcock, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, C.J. Cherryh, Leigh Brackett, C.S. Lewis et al. And all of them were great world builders. What I think happened was that the generation who came after them - basically the writers of the 1980's & 1990's - were all most inspired by JRRT and so they were all trying to out trilogy the trilogy. There was a time in the latter part of the 1970's where you couldn't even call yourself a nerd unless you'd read LOTR and you had to have read it young. The number of people who used to boast that they'd read the whole thing at the age of ten or eleven used make me want to tear my hair out. I think your right though, since that time the heavy tome and the ever-lengthening series has become the standard.

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JayLee

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Re: What makes the fantasy genre different?
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2017, 04:52:07 AM »
I'm on much the same page as @No One of Consequence when it comes to Star Wars. I've always had the feeling that it's a fantasy story with very, very heavy science fiction (so much so that it makes no sense to call it a fantasy unless in a discussion like this). But I wouldn't even call it a cross-genre. I'd call it a science fiction theme or motif. For me, in order for science fiction to truly be it's own genre (I do think it's possible, though the line between is fine and blurred) the subject matter can't be so... made up. The possible/real science must outweigh the fantastic fabrication.

Perhaps a way to think of fantasy is to consider the definition of the word. As google brings it up, "the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable." To stick with Star Wars because it keeps coming up in this discussion, everything about it was fantasized, made up, and fabricated out of sheer imagination. So, is it a fantasy because it's all dreamed up? Does the fact that technology and space are the primary motifs of the story outweigh the fact that the entire story is based on the imagined improbable? At its core, is fantasy what we see as a result, or what an author creates at the root?

And I think I've officially ceased to make any sense :) *Glares at clock, notices time, shakes fist at Time and mutters "traitor!"
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