Crossing Genres: #Fantasy & #Horror

Different Genres

Welcome back to this month-long adventure where we talk about how advice for one genre can help for another.  Of course, these are only quick overviews because of time and space.  Today we’re going to discuss the similarities of:

FANTASY & HORROR/THRILLER

Use of Monsters

This might seem like a simple one now that you look at it.  Fantasy uses monsters a lot for enemies, plot points, background, and all manner of uses.  The creatures that fill the fictional world are incredibly important to create a sense that you are no longer on Earth or in our reality.  You can delve into mythology to create your bestiary or design your own monsters to fill the niches as you approach them.  A key point is to make sure they work within their environment.  Even if they are only mentioned in passing, they need to fit into what you’re describing.  Sure, you could have a living ice cream cone run around a volcano, but it comes off as comedic and silly, which can ruin the tone if you’re not going for that.  At the very least, give an explanation, but that means these possibly background creatures suddenly take a bigger role than you might have intended.

With Horror, you don’t always have monsters, but you do come close.  Even a serial killer can be placed in this category because they are the threat.  In Horror, the dangerous entity is what will be the biggest draw out of reality.  They are the source of death, fear, and whatever else you throw in there.  Like in Fantasy, you need this ‘monster’ to help build the world for your story.  That is why you also need to make it fit to some extent.  There is more of a factor that it doesn’t belong in this world, but you need to have it work within the confines of the story.  Maybe it’s an alien, but you have to explain why it might not be easily found or how it arrived without notice.  It could have been a creature that’s been asleep for centuries, which means giving it a background.  This may be more important than in fantasy because many times it’s this information that gives the heroes/victims a chance at victory.

Tension

Both of these genres can require tension and suspense to keep the readers interested.  For Fantasy, it could be a scene where you aren’t sure if all of the characters will survive.  It can be them coming to the edge of failure and the readers don’t know if they will go over or find a way to continue on.  Even knowing that there are more chapters doesn’t guarantee that the heroes won’t hit a setback. A trick is to strike as many senses as possible too in order to create more immersion.  In battles, you can create a back-and-forth to the point where it’s unclear who will come out victorious or how.  That tension leads to engrossment and people reading until the issue has been resolved.

Horror is similar, but it does require a longer build up.  While Fantasy can hit quick and move along through a chapter, Horror can draw it out for a long time.  This is because of the eerier atmosphere and the knowledge that things can go south at any moment.  You have the monster hunt without being seen or make people think that’s what is happening, which requires striking multiple senses.  Noises, smells, flickering sights, tastes in the wind, and goosebumps are all helpful here.  Eventually, you strike either with a death or a psychological surprise.  Both can be used to refine the tension instead of dissipating too, which means you can begin building it up once again.  Sometimes, you can even keep some of it through the whole book and make the payoff at the end.  Yet, you need to develop it the same way that you do in fantasy.

Points of Normalcy

There is a temptation in Fantasy and Horror to go entirely off the wall.  In Fantasy, it’s to have the world be so wild and magical that it has no connection to reality.  Some go so far as to leave out humans, horses, castles, and anything that you can find on Earth.  In Horror, one might become so enamored by creating a scary atmosphere that they push the world beyond reality.  Part of the genre is that you have an unnatural or ‘off’ entity in a normal.  An author has to curb this in because you need some points of normalcy for a reader to connect to.  Now, you can get further with Fantasy, but you need to reference some things people can identify.  I remember reading one book that had its own language and used it to define everything, so I didn’t know what was being talked about or how it was pronounced.  Horror might have it easier since these are typically on Earth or at least have humans.  Yet, one has to remember how such things operate and keep them grounded to enhance the entity’s ‘foreign’ nature.  For both genres, this can be as easy as word usage.

So, what do you think about advice for Fantasy and Horror being used for each other?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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19 Responses to Crossing Genres: #Fantasy & #Horror

  1. L. Marie says:

    Great tips! I definitely agree about the connection. Since I couldn’t help thinking about vampires and werewolves, I found this website–http://bestfantasybooks.com/best-vampire-books.html –which states, “[V]ampire novels . . . are an important sub-genre of fantasy and horror, especially for readers looking to find a more dark and dangerous tale.”

    Totally agree about the tension and pacing aspects as well as the points of normalcy. I grew up reading Stephen King’s novels, and can’t help thinking of ‘Salem’s Lot and many of his other books.

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    • Vampires definitely seem to be the big connection. It’s a difficult one too. Since it spans two genres, people have different views on how it operates. So, a horror fan going into a fantasy vampire story will expect something else. This is an issue I run into a lot with ‘War of Nytefall’. People still speak as if Clyde and the Dawn Fangs are the monstrous villains of the series.

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  2. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    More great tips from Charles 👍😃

    Like

  3. I agree with you on all the points. I think the important point here is that both fantasy and horror stories can be enhanced by the use of one another. I totally agree with that point as well. Great discussion, Charles.

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  4. I like your comparisons. While fantasy might be allowed to have a bit more tension or eeriness when it helps, readers expect that from horror.

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  5. jomz says:

    I think they can be used interchangeably. I do occasionally write horror and fantasy, and it can be easy switching between two genres. In fact, you can even make a fantasy horror story. Thanks for sharing this!

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  6. >”what do you think about advice for Fantasy and Horror being used for each other?”

    I think there’s a reason we have a sub-category of Dark Fantasy. But there has to be risk for the characters, and having scary elements can keep readers worried for them even in the lightest comic fantasy.

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