Crossing Genres: #Fantasy & #Mystery

Different Genres

Welcome back to the newest entry of crossing over genres.  Again, this is to show how advice for one can be used for another.  Of course, I’m always using Fantasy since that’s my wheelhouse.  I’ve done Romance and Horror/Thriller, but now is time for one that I’m not the best at.  So, I had to do extra research on this one, which is funny since I have used aspects of this genre in my own stories.  Which one is it?


Solving a Problem

Most, if not all, stories focus on solving some kind of problem.  In Fantasy, this can be finishing a quest, saving a kingdom, slaying a monster, or any number of challenges that make sense for the world.  You can have smaller problems appear as well such as traps or smaller villains that want to get in the way.  The method of solving the problem can be very different. You may need to drop clues to both the reader and characters such as hints about how a specific creature can be defeated.  Sometimes, a character might just charge in and let luck or brute force sort it out.  No matter what, actions are taken to get through, over, around, or under the problem.  The characters don’t just waltz through either since you need to make them work for their solution.

Few character types work harder for a solution than the protagonists of Mystery stories.  It doesn’t matter if they’re a cop, private investigator, or an average guy dragged into a terrifying situation.  The goal of the story is to solve a problem, which requires some level of thinking and intuition.  In this arena, Mystery is superior to Fantasy because that’s the main point of the stories.  Unlike quests and slaying dragons, you have a lot more of the ‘unknown’ when solving a murder.  Mostly because you don’t know who killed the butler in chapter 1 while you can see the dragon sitting on the mountain.  Even so, both genres require that characters and authors think outside of the box to reach a solution.  You want to keep the readers guessing, so you have to throw in false leads, extra challenges, and devise a surprise near the end to bring everything home.  Maybe the detective starts finding evidence that they’re the murderer or the dragon decides to stay in the air, so the heroes have to find a way to fly.  A shocking twist that makes the solving of a problem more difficult is shared by the genres.


This one is fairly simple and straight to the point.  Leaving clues to hint at future events is a great tool in writing.  Mystery uses it to help readers get ahead of the detective in finding the murderer.  If not for that then they are to get the reader to go through the story a second time to make all of the connections.  This also helps give more depth to the overall world because it’s not a simple ‘follow the obvious clues’ journey.  Fantasy is more blunt in its use of foreshadowing, but you can still miss it.  Maybe it’s a spell or item that the heroes receive, but seems utterly useless until near the end.  Great example is in ‘Willow’ when he uses his disappearing pig trick in the final battle.  Much like in Mystery, you can throw some false leads in there, so nobody knows what’s foreshadowing and what’s an idea that won’t really go anywhere.  The result is the same, which is to keep the reader guessing, thinking, and following to see if their predictions are correct.

False Leads & Distractions

I mentioned this before, but I’ll bring it up again for a little more detail.  Fantasy stories can be drawn out by off-shoots of an adventure that hit a dead end or other problems that arise. Even if heroes know what they are fighting for, it doesn’t always mean that they have the exact path mapped out.  They can think that one idea will work, but then it results in utter failure, which is rather realistic.  Maybe they’re jumped by bandits and have to get out of that problem to return to the original issue.  You can’t throw too many deviations at heroes, but there should be enough to give off the sense that they are working for their victory and not everything goes in their favor.  A hero who coasts through to the end tends to be booed.

This is the same for Mystery, but possibly with more intentions to get the protagonist off the right track.  Clues aren’t always easy to decipher, so one might send people in the wrong direction.  It takes up time and they are forced to go back to see if they missed something.  An author might fear that this will frustrate the reader, which is highly likely just as too many bandit attacks will cause this in Fantasy.  So, you can’t have the hero go down the wrong path for long or you can have them gain something from this journey even if they have to go back.  Maybe a piece of knowledge that changes the way they look at the clue.  Distractions are possible as well since the target tends to be aware that they are being tracked.  Surprise attacks, femme fatales, shoot outs, and accidents are only some of the options for delaying the detective’s progress by a chapter or two.  As I’ve already said, you can’t do these too often or it’ll annoy your readers.

So, that’s the basics when it comes to Fantasy & Mystery similarities. I’m sure there’s a lot more, so mention them in the comments if you can think of any.  Thanks.

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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15 Responses to Crossing Genres: #Fantasy & #Mystery

  1. I said this to someone years ago, but murder happens in outer space. No reason why it can’t happen in a fantasy world, too. Might be fun to weave in some alchemy to substitute for CSI types.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. L. Marie says:

    Great tips! I’m sure J.K. Rowling would agree with you, since mystery is a big part of her Harry Potter series. The identity of the half-blood prince was a huge factor in book 6, not to mention all of the other mysteries Harry, Ron, and Hermione solved.

    The Percy Jackson series had some mysteries as well that Percy and his friends had to deal with. Prophecies are such a great way to bring mystery into a story.


  3. What an interesting post. Thank you for sharing, Charles.


  4. I totally can see Fantasy and Mystery fitting together. Well done, Charles.


  5. Mysteries are their own art form. My first two novels were fantasy murder mysteries, where a sorceress used magic to solve crimes. There was definitely a learning curve there.


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