Fantasy is not a genre

Except that it is.

In the Story Grid universe, we editors talk a lot about genre. Genre defines the core of a story. Genre is how the writer meets reader expectations. From it we derive conventions and obligatory scenes. In a very real sense, genre is the heart of the Story Grid method. According to Shawn, it’s the most important choice a writer makes.

One of the questions I hear again and again from writers is, “What are the obligatory scenes and conventions of the fantasy genre?”

Well, that depends.

The designation of fantasy (or any type speculative fiction, such as sci-fi, steampunk, or alternative history to name just a few) certainly does tell a reader what to expect: a well-crafted world, non-human sentient races, imaginative beasts, and very often, a system of magic. We often think of the classic fantasy antagonists as your typical dark lord or evil king, but good antagonists go far beyond those tropes.

It’s a hugely popular genre, certainly my favorite. According to Nanowrimo statistics, more participants identify their works as fantasy than any other individual category.

Credit: “How did your Nano go?” 12/5/2017
National Novel Writing Month

Walk into any brick-and-mortar bookstore and you’re sure to encounter an extensive fantasy/sci-fi section. Search for fantasy books on Amazon and you’ll generate more hits than you can browse through. But although fantasy is a distinct marketing genre with a robust audience of readers, it’s not one of the twelve Story Grid content genres.

Why is that?

We Story Grid editors categorize fantasy as a reality genre, part of the global setting of a story and one of the five leaves of the Story Grid Genre Clover. Any of the content genres can take place in a fantasy setting. And that, dear fantasy writers, pretty much gives you the keys to the kingdom.

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