Mixing Fantasy and Other Genres – K.E. Madsen

Today I’d like to welcome another new addition to our contributor crew for EFW. K.E. Madsen, author of Silver Eyes. While I’m on that topic, Silver Eyes actually just  launched on Inkshares — check it out HERE and while you’re there, why not pre-order a copy to help Kate hit her funding goal!

As September wraps up, Kate continues the discussion on genre mixing from Melissa’s post earlier this week (catch that one HERE in case you missed it). 

There has never been clear separation of genres. From the beginning, writers have mixed genres to make their novels more complex and appeal to more of the audience. Comedies are never only comedies, romantic novels are never always romantic novels; and so forth. Despite this long time mixing of genres, there are still categories books are placed in. Now, of course there can be novels that have larger leanings towards a specific genre, but that doesn’t mean that the novel should only go in one category.

Movies have helped create a wider range of mixing of genres. Even Disney has blended fantasy with other genres. Treasure Planet is a great mix of science fiction, fantasy, and revival of an older novel (Treasure Island in case anyone didn’t know). Another example is the upcoming movie Moana. The movie brings a fantasy element alongside traditional Polynesian mythology and beliefs. It also helps that it’s a kid’s movie as well.

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As a reader and a writer myself looking at the base genre of fantasy, I’ve read novels that have other genres blended in. Anne McCaffrey is a clear mixture of science fiction and fantasy. Her world of Pern is both magical and space travel. Of course who could forget Terry Pratchett, who blends fantasy, humor, and the wonderful world of his DiscWorld books.

6558152Hawksmaid: The Untold Story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, was a book I found. This novel is a blending of historical fiction and fantasy. Written from Marian’s point of view, she is raised to take care of falcons by her Father and in turn can see through their eyes. The elements of history and fantasy work well together.

147843The Green Rider mixes a bit of paranormal magic with fantasy. The novel starts off with Karigan G’ladheon stumbling upon a dying Green Rider, who are messengers to the King. This novel takes the reader on a wild ride with Karigan who is now a Green Rider herself, appointed by the dying Green Rider who made her promise to deliver the message he kept. The paranormal elements are when Karigan uses magic to delve into the past and see past events.

wrinkle4A Wrinkle in Time is a classic for fantasy and science fiction. It’s extremely well known as a novel and a series. The movie isn’t as well known, but it helps clarify the science fiction elements in the novel.

Writers should continue to blend genres and make new and interesting novels. This can help bring fresh ideas out and create more novels. Fantasy is a great genre and can be brought into other genres, such as horror, adventure, science fiction, and even modern themes.



13267810_2800512810319_5534884262946542508_n   K.E. Madsen grew up as an avid reader and lover of fantasy. She’s written stories for most of her life and is the author of Silver Eyes, currently funding on Inkshares. K.E. is almost finished with a two year degree from Kirkwood Community College and plans to transfer to a four year institution for a B.A. She lives with three cats, two lizards, and two betta fish in Iowa.

Connect with Kate on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/writer.K.E.Madsen/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Follow her on Twitter: @K_E_Madsen

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Mixing Genres: An Important Writer’s Tool — Melissa Berg

Author Melissa Berg is back with a look at how mixing genres can be an invaluable tool that every writer should have. She will look at three ways different stories have used this technique. If you like Melissa’s article, you can read more by her —> HERE

mixinggenresMixing genres is nothing new. It’s not a newfangled tactic or gimmick to garner or fool readers, or even the writer’s attempt to ford a new path through untried waters. Merging genres has been around since at least the later 20th century, maybe even longer. It has definitely become common in our modern and more story-savvy times. Thanks to film, the exploration of storytelling and finding new ways to create worlds and weave richer and more emotionally satisfying plots has become the real challenge.

Merging genres is the best way to add depth and emotion and even surprise to any story. Sometimes it’s more subtle, a dipping of the story paintbrush into another color now and then; other times it’s bold and stark and is enough to make booksellers/publishers pull out their collective hairs trying to designate what shelf a given story should be categorized onto. With online stores, space is not as big of an issue, but traditionally, publishers still want to have an obvious pigeonhole to fill. And, even if they don’t realize it, so do readers. They look in places that are familiar, so as a rule (and yes, I know rules in writing are meant to be broken) it’s still good practice that you choose a proper genre label, preferably the category that the highest percentage of your story fits. Even if you don’t like having to label it one thing or the other, it still makes the publisher’s job easier, thereby making it easier for your audience to find you. And that, in the end, is the eventual goal.

aliensposterLet’s look at some popular stories. Since film is where I draw my biggest inspiration, I’m going to talk about stories in movies and television. And because we love to organize everything into neat little piles, I’ll break them down into three categories: Stories that could swing either way; Stories that are more subtle in their mixing, along with how and why their genre usage was successful while for others it might have been their biggest downfall; And those that could have easily pulled in another genre but chose not to.




Stories that could easily fit into more than one genre category

strangerthingsposterStranger Things – Is it Horror or Science Fiction? And by the way, if you haven’t seen this show by now, then it’s either because you live under a rock or you don’t have a Netflix account. If you do have access, then… Watch it!! Any self-respecting lover of genre fiction can’t afford not to see this show! Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled article.


It could easily be either, and here’s why:

The science fiction aspect—This is clear and some of it is even based on fact: Government agency (CIA) secretly experimenting on subjects using LSD, with the goal of creating super soldiers in the 60s—as crazy as it sounds, this is actually the part that is fact. The fiction here is that one of the patients gave birth to a girl who has the ability to control objects with her brain through ESP and telekinesis. (Talk about expanding your mind, man…) They fake the baby’s death and steal her away to use her for their still secretly ongoing experiments. While trying to find ways to use her abilities to spy on Russia (this takes place during the Cold War era of the 80s), she inadvertently opens a rift into another dimension and frees a monster into ours.


strangerthings2The horror aspect—The monster has escaped into our dimension, and is now actively hunting people to be used as hosts for its offspring. A boy is the first to go missing. His friends decide to go looking for him, and instead of finding him they find Eleven, the girl who had set the demon loose. While in a parallel story arc, his brother goes searching for him, with the help of a girl who is trying to find out what happened to her best friend. (Poor Barb, no one else seems to care about her… I wonder what the Duffer Brothers have against Barb anyway?) They end up finding their way into the Upside Down—the dimension the monster is from—while the monster continues to hunt anyone who gets close (or might be bleeding heavily from a cut on their hand). The Upside Down is dark and creepy and dead, and they even find Xenomorph-like eggs that have already hatched. The monster can show up anywhere at any time as he jumps between worlds, and the lights are continuously blinking on and off, while everyone’s flashlights are characteristically dim. If that doesn’t spell horror…

outlanderposterOutlander – Is a show that, as a book series, gave the publisher some problems in trying to categorize it. Depending on the store, it could have been in one of three areas: Historical Romance, Fantasy, or Paranormal Fiction. Where do you think it belongs?


Historical Romance is probably the most prevalent aspect of this plot. Claire, a 1940s combat nurse during WWII, is content and in love with her husband, Frank Randall. When the war ends they decide to take a second honeymoon to Scotland to reconnect. Frank is a professor of history, and also interested in tracing his own genealogical roots to find out more about a prominent ancestor of his. While visiting historical sites they ‘reconnect’ quite often, proving that theirs is still a blissful marriage. On one afternoon, while Frank decides to visit with his long time friend for more discussion and research, Claire, bored and wanting to get some fresh air, tells him that she’s going to go back to one of their locations to find a certain type of flower she had seen there(she has an interest in botany and medicinal herbs—which proves to be quite a convenient hobby). The location is a circle of stones called Craigh na Dun.

craighnadunWhile there—and here’s the paranormal or fantasy aspect—she hears a strange humming sound coming from the center stone. Wondering what it is, she goes to investigate and touches the stone. After a strange sensation of spinning and falling, she wakes up on the ground. Thinking it odd, she decides to head back to the car, only to find that it’s not there. She starts wandering, trying to find her way back to the road, and hears gunfire. She hasn’t realized it yet, but she has gone back in time two-hundred years to the year 1743. She is in the middle of a small skirmish between English soldiers and a band of Highland warriors. She runs into a ‘redcoat’ that looks exactly like her husband, who introduces himself none too gently, as Jack Randall. One of the Highlanders comes upon the scene and rescues her. Eventually, circumstances become such that to save her from Jack—he thinks she is a spy and his sadistic nature compels him to continue his aforementioned sexual harassment—she must marry one of the Highlanders, Jamie Fraser (really, it could be worse, I don’t know what she is complaining about here…). They fall in love, and as the battle of Culloden approaches—the real historical battle where the end to the Highland culture began—they try to hinder the Jacobite rebellion in order to avoid the battle altogether, where so many people they know and love will be killed.

As the series goes on, it jumps back and forth through history. So would this make it fantasy, paranormal, or strictly historical romance with elements of fantasy? You can see how this would trouble the occasional OCD nature of publishers who want ultimate control by putting everything into what they deem is one perfect category. As readers, we have expectations when we are shopping in a specific genre, if it falls out of that category’s tropes then we feel misled. Unfortunately, this is a problem that was created by the publishers themselves, by training us to need such strict labels in the first place.

Genre crossing that is invisible to the naked eye

Next are two stories that are clearly one genre over the other, but one was extremely successful in its use of crossing genres while the other, in no fault of its own, became its biggest downfall.

starwarsposterStar Wars – (I sure hope I don’t have to explain this plot to you) Is a huge example of crossing genres, yet it was done in a brilliantly subtle way. It is actually both Science Fiction and Fantasy. The science fiction is obvious: Space battles, robots, space ships, far away galaxies, etc. The more subtle aspect is fantasy. The religion of the Jedi and the use of the force as a power they can control—an energy within all living things—is truly the stuff of fantasy. It is magic, whether or not it can or should be explained by science. It also employs one of the most popular of plot structures in fantasy, the Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey. By using this model Star Wars speaks to our hearts and our nature as human beings. Both ancient and modern stories alike have proven this model to be successful, as it nurtures our fears, struggles, and dreams at an emotional and even subconscious level.



fireflyposterFirefly – This one used two different genres, even three, to tell its (yes, I’ll say it) ‘unfinished’ story. The Western, which is a great way to include new and uncharted frontiers to explore, along with pointing out the huge gap in social classes that a greedy government system could create. You have ‘common man’ settlers, given only a patch of land and a few animals to start with, on a planet or moon that is still barely survivable, juxtaposed with the rich, technologically advanced civilized planets, where their every need and whim is catered to. The science fiction is as obvious as the Western here, but the less obvious is the third genre that is more subtly mixed in—Horror. Look at the Reavers, mere scary monster tales along the fringes of space, according to those who live in the safe environments of the Alliance. They were created by not only the greed, but by the god-like entitlement a gap in social and power classes evolve toward, thanks to human nature. It is a non-sustainable world that has crumbled, and will crumble again, over and over from the fall of Rome to the Battle of Serenity. (Humans will never learn, it seems…) And just like the Alliance, the higher powers-that-be of the executives of the FOX network, couldn’t relate to or understand the lowly wants of the viewers. Just like publishers, they needed a pigeonhole to fill, an easy three word tagline that could draw viewers in, and ‘cowboys in space’ just wasn’t enough for them, because really it was so much more, but they weren’t willing to put in the effort and stoop to the level of the common man to fulfill their needs adequately. Even though mixing these two genres was amazing and innovative, it actually was a logical progression that answered the question: What would newly terraformed planets really be like?

Staying close to the genre base

Some don’t mix genres at all even when they could. They follow the same rules as their forebears, whether it be the horror classics by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelly, or Edgar Allen Poe (Check out Penny Dreadful—on Showtime or Netflix—for a fun twist on these classic horror tales); the science fiction of H.G. Wells; or the epic fantasy that has birthed endless orcs and elves, made famous by J.R.R. Tolkien.

lofr dracula


walkingdeadposterThe Walking Dead – Is a modern take on what is clearly a post-apocalyptic horror. With the exception of one episode, they have never gone into the science of ‘why’ or ‘how’ the outbreak was started. The only time the writers explained the science of it was more to answer the question: How much of the walkers are still human, if any? And to point out that everyone is already infected. There is no other explanation than this because there doesn’t need to be. At this point, these facts have become irrelevant, and it has evolved into a story about the survival of life itself, along with the survival of the characters’ own humanity in a philosophical sense. The real question is: What makes a human, human?



Game of Thrones – Is strict epic fantasy, it’s old school all the way, though it could easily jump into horror because of the White Walkers and the Wights—Zombie-like creatures created by the White Walkers from the corpses of the fallen. As creepy as they are, they do not scare us in the traditional sense of the horror genre. Sure monsters are in horror, monsters are in fantasy, but it is how they are written that pushes them into one category or another. Maybe this will change as we approach their impending take-over of Westeros, where the creepy tropes of monster hunting with dimly lit torches in dark, abandoned castles or caves becomes the norm. If the camera angle switches to a close-up of an unnamed, idiot character as he slowly backs up toward a darkened corner just before the obvious jump-scare… Then yes, they have gone the way of horror.

There are no rules for crossing genres, it is a fun and refreshing way to surprise your readers. If you want to stick to strict fantasy, yet want a deeper more fulfilling moment of suspense, then add that element of horror. Look at what scares you most in both horror movies and literature. Lots of blood and slashing knives and/or chainsaws is not really frightening, it’s the psychological thrillers that are more chilling, along with the slow build up to… nothing, before the actual build up to a really good reveal. In my epic fantasy story I like to add small scenes that use horror elements because the pay off is even more satisfying. Also, and because I’m a sucker for a good love story, I use romance to build up another kind of tension between two, or even three, characters. It’s a human need and part of everyone’s existence (unless you’re Sherlock Holmes, apparently) If this part of their persona is missing, then your characters might feel a little flat. It doesn’t have to be trashy romance, just a real and natural evolution of any good relationship. Yet by paying attention to romance stories that have worked and are popular today, you are tapping into a side of human nature that is relatable and even wish fulfillment in some way. One other genre I jump into briefly, is science fiction. How dare I? It’s epic fantasy! Remember, you are writing for a genre-savvy, modern audience. If a moment comes up and it can be explained by science, even if your characters don’t understand, your readers will. Maybe it’s the actual world your characters live in that’s the scientific part, maybe it’s the magic… maybe it’s even how they came to have magic in the first place. It’s not surprising our own culture is riddled with the belief that ancient aliens came down from the stars and either made us or gave us our ability to think beyond the rest of the creatures on our planet. The same can be true for the world you create. No one said there can’t be a why or how to that world. By answering those questions, you only give it a richer and more intriguing history, with questions and plot lines that could be explored later.

Above all, have fun, and don’t follow the rules of any one genre. In the end, it’s your world, your vision, and you can make it whatever you want it to be.


Berg_BioMelissa Berg is the author of the Shifting Balance Series, which has been her passion for the past ten years. She also works as an illustrator and studied art and design at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin. When she isn’t writing or painting or entertaining her son, she is pursuing the art of 3D computer illustration/animation, as a side project and to feed her fascination in the ever-expanding medium used for storytelling. She currently lives in Minnesota with her husband, young son, and a crazy Border Collie.

Check out my website or join my mailing list for further updates: http://theshiftingbalance.com

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Sean F. Gallagher — Mixed Genre: Mixed Metaphor, Mixed MetaGenre?

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming back a regular contributor to the EFW gang, Sean F. Gallagher. Sean is going to pick up the topic of genre cross-currents I kicked off last week. His debut novel Mysts of Mythos, in its final draft stage, spent some time with Inkshares but is now being developed independently. Check out his other contributions to EFW by clicking on his name above.

Bridge on the River Styx. A group of Greek soldiers, captured by the Persian army during the Battle of Thermopylae are brought to the shores of the famed river of death. The Persian general, grieving for his lost King wishes to cross the river with an army to force Hades to return his glorious ruler. Plucky hoplites use guile and wit to survive while plotting to destroy the bridge. Eventually they succeed and bring the bridge down, casting the remainder of the Persian army into the famed river in doing so.

Black Dragon Down. Members of the Imperial Sky Navy watch in horror as one of their airships is shot down behind rebel lines. They try to mount rescue efforts for the captain and crew who survived the crash only to have the rebels deploy potent anti-aircraft magics that bring down yet another airship. The situation for the surviving crew grows more desperate, but the Imperial Commander refuses to give up on them. He sends in crack teams of Paladins and Rangers, escorting a pair of Armored Personnel Oliphants, to hack their way through the rebel forces and bring their men to safety.

When Huzborg Met Sairahiniel. A young elf must travel across the empire for a promising career, but her parents insist she travel with someone rather than go it alone. Well meaning friends help them locate a young orc who is heading to the same city state for deployment in the imperial forces. At first things do not go well. Her elf sensibilities do not mesh well with the crass behavior and opinions of the orc. The trip though, is a long one, and fraught with difficulties. Both use their own particular skills and resources to get each other out of a few jams along the way. Disgruntled respect grows into friendship by the time the trip is done. Over a number of years they meet again a few times, rekindling their fragile friendship that eventually grows into much more.

The Maltese Griffin. Half-Elf detective Samwell Sparhelm and his partner Millard Bowman are hired by a mysterious woman, Lady Wimbly, to investigate a dwarf named Florin Thurheim. They think something is off about her story but accept because she offers a lot of gold. The next morning Sparhelm is called on by the city guard, who tell him that his partner has been found dead, along with a dwarf named Thurheim. The mystery deepens as Samwell receives a visit from a deformed halfling named Joe Chubb, who wants Sparhelm to track down a statue that has been shipped into town recently. Samwell suspects a connection between Chubb and “Lady Wimbly”. The plot thickens as the devious mastermind Lord “G” is brought into the mix. Eventually the plots are tied up, but Sparhelm is left without a partner, though a bit more wealthy, and a budding relationship with his partner’s widow.

I want to write one of these stories right now. Do you think I might run into some copyright issues? Ah well. They do sound kind of fun though, right? Anyone who wants to throw together a cover for one of those stories for me is highly encouraged to do so. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body when it comes to illustration. Sigh.

Growing up, my reading material was pretty much either pure Science Fiction or pure Fantasy. Stories like Foundation, Ringworld, and Dune matched others like Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, and Conan. As I grew older I got into a wider range of things, such as Horror like Cthulhu, and Historical Fiction like Clan of the Cave Bear.

It can be argued that my first exposure to cross genre work was Star Wars. Because of The Force there is a strong argument to be made that it is Space Fantasy, but I saw it when I was seven years old and always thought of it as sci-fi. The Force is magic I suppose but it’s presented in such a sci-fi setting that I don’t really see it as fantasy. Either way. Star Wars is movies and we’re talking about writing.

Princess Bride was probably the first truly cross genre novel that I ever read. I was captivated by the sword play but also the humor that Goldman represented the book with by lampooning the fictional author whose work he was supposedly editing. Neuromancer introduced me to another cross genre milieu. The mixture of Gibson’s eclectic prose with the technobabble of science fiction and the gritty feel of a punk society was electrifying.

Of course mixed genre writing has been around much longer than either of those books. One particular cross genre grouping, called Space Fantasy, has been around since the nineteen-forties with Heinlein’s Magic Inc., Hubbard’s Slaves of Sleep, and DeCamp’s Harold Shea stories.

Once I was introduced to this concept of mixed genre I looked for more like it. My searches led me to many fun discoveries, such as Weird Westerns. Here I found familiar authors such as Robert E Howard, and new ones like William S Burroughs with The Place of Dead Roads. Reading Burroughs led me to one of the weirdest books I ever read, The Naked Lunch. A pretty famous, and very very strange movie, starring Peter Weller, was made from it. Probably the most famous of this cross genre is Steven King’s Dark Tower saga.

Almost certainly though, my favorite cross genre is Comic Fantasy. Stories like Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels, Robert Asperin’s Myth Adventures series, and Terry Pratchett’s epic Discworld stories, tickle me pink. I love to laugh along with these. They are so easy to read and shine a bright light upon their source material skewering them with insightful points of view. In particular the Myth books bring the “Road To…” movies by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby to literary fantasy in hilarious fashion. Interestingly, even though this is my favorite cross-genre, you will not find much to laugh about in my own work. Sadly I don’t seem to have the silly side necessary to produce good humor even though I appreciate it quite a lot. Perhaps it can be something I develop along the way.

Inspired by my exposure to all of these works, along with another stand alone genre, Alternate History, I came up with my own cross genre story. Mysts of Mythos is an Alternate Historical Science Fantasy. The science in that is fairly silent, but it’s there.

What is an Alternate History Science Fantasy? The alternate history part is pretty straightforward. I’m writing a story that diverts from what we perceive to be our true history at a certain point, on a certain day. Up until that day history is as we know it. That day an event occurs which irrevocably alters the path of history. The science part comes in from the quantum mechanical concept of Many-worlds. The quick breakdown is that every possible alternate history and future is real and represents another “world/universe”, including worlds in which the laws of reality work differently. Therein lies the connection to fantasy.

“All of Myth and Legend are but visions through a mysty veil. One day those visions step through.”

My concept for Mysts of Mythos is that throughout history some humans have had the ability to see past the veil of worlds to see into other universes. They told stories of what they saw and those tales grew into the myths and legends of our world. On The Day of Mysts our world is connected to other worlds and the beings and creatures, that were the source of those myths, come through, bringing with them new laws of reality. This is the source of the fantasy and magic for the World of Mysts.



Sean Gallagher is the author of the upcoming novel, Mysts of Mythos, first book in a new series of historical fantasy. Raised in Syracuse, NY he moved to Oregon while still in high school and currently resides in Portland with his wife, Monica, and son, Rune. The Gallaghers are also the proud human friends of Blanca the dog and Thor the cat.

Check out his website or join his mailing list for further updates:


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Twitter: @Faolan

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Crossing genres: exploring the different aspects of fantasy fiction

Welcome to September! I’m taking a moment away from my morning writing routine to introduce our topic, and thought that while I do so, I’ll take some time to reflect more on this great fantasy genre I write in and appreciate, via a detailed research tour, the diversity that exists around the unique narratives I’ve explored.

This month, our contributors will be writing more about what it means to cross genres or explore other aspects of fantasy, so to kick it all off, let’s talk about fantasy and just what it is and what sets it apart from the other genres.

johnrobinwall34The broad 4-group distinction

The fantasy genre is set apart from other genres in that it includes elements of the fantastic that vary from our mundane world of everyday experience. It is often categorized broadly based on the principles established in Farah Mendlesohn’s Rhetorics of Fantasy, wherein classification is determined on the manner by which the fantastic enters the narrative.

Portal fantasy refers to stories wherein the fantasy world is entered by some means from the real world. Often, the story takes on a quest form, where the basis of the quest relates to some manner of navigating the fantastical world. Examples of portal fantasy stories include:

  • C. S. Lewis’s novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • L. Frank Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass
  • Stephen R. Donaldson’s Mordent’s Need
  • Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander

Immersive fantasy refers to stories wherein the reader encounters the fantastical world through the eyes and ears a protagonist who is part of the fantastic world, without an explanatory narrative. The fantastic world is the real world for the characters who narrate it. Examples of immersive fantasy include:

  • Mary Gentle’s Ash
  • China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station
  • Ann McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern
  • Frank Herbert’s Dune
  • J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion
  • Piers Anthony’s A Spell for Chameleon
  • George R. R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series
  • Steven Erikson’s Malazan series
  • Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series

Intrusion fantasy refers to stories wherein the fantastic intrudes on reality (in contrast to portal fantasies, where the opposite happens), and the protagonists’ engagement with that intrusion drives the story. Intrusion fantasies are normally realist in style, because they assume the normal world as their base, and rely heavily on explanation and description. Immersive and portal fantasies may themselves host intrusions. Examples of intrusion fantasy include:

  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • H. P. Lovecraft’s works
  • J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series

Finally, liminal fantasy refers to a relatively rare type of story, where the fantastic enters a world that appears to be our own, but this is not perceived as intrusive but rather as normal by the protagonists, and this disconcerts and estranges the reader. Such fantasies adopt an ironic, blasé tone, as opposed to the straight-faced presentation of most other fantasy. An examples of liminal fantasy is Joan Aiken’s stories about the Armitage family, who are amazed that unicorns appear on their lawn on Tuesday, rather than Monday.

johnrobinwall21Crossing genres in fantasy, and further divisions

Fantasy can be classified based on other elements that cross over into genre, and this categorization of various fantasy sub-genres is a much better way of grouping together some of the very diverse works that have come into being in our present day. Let’s start by looking at some of the core, or “pure” kinds of fantasy.

Epic fantasy (often mistakenly combined with high fantasy) is characterized by a focus on large scale conflict and how it affects the world at large, often long-winded narratives, a large cast of characters, magic as a key part of plot/characters abilities, reliance on lots of subplots, and huge word counts (120k+ words). Epic fantasy is home base for this blog, and as a writer, I love epic fantasy. Some classic example of epic fantasy books:

  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
  • The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Belgariad by David Eddings
  • Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams
  • The Malazan series by Steven Erikson

High fantasy is quite similar to epic fantasy (hence why the two subgenres are often used interchangeably), except the focus in high fantasy is more on the setting and changes and choices made by the protagonist. It’s less about the scale of conflict and more about how the large world affects a specific person. It’s usually about the journey of the hero through an exotic landscape, where the inner journey of the character is as important as the ultimate quest or goal. While I love epic fantasy, my third novel was a high fantasy novel, and even in my own epic fantasy work, I prefer to focus on character journeys. Some great examples of high fantasy books:

  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

Low fantasy is set apart from high fantasy in that it does not focus on heroes or sweeping vistas. Often, it’s a grittier anti-hero story. It also is characterized by less, or even non-existent magic. Low fantasy books often explore moral ambiguity and flawed humanity, and the limitation on magic allows for more exploration of the aspects of the real-world human struggle within the immersive fantasy setting. The novel I’m currently writing would fit well in the low fantasy definition, with the exception of magic (that said, magic in this novel functions like to our present day technology, so the limitations placed on my characters therein are akin to those placed on humans in our present day world). Some great examples of low fantasy books:

  • Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
  • Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
  • Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick
  • A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
  • The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
  • Conan the Barbarian series by Robert E. Howard
  • Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly

Mundane fantasy takes a step further in the “anti-high” direction than low fantasy. The distinction exists because some books have pushed the boundaries so far by subtracting fantasy elements, for instance, presenting a mundane world rather than one rich with intricate world building, and rather than a high, mythic presentation, these stories are often contemporary in style. Some great examples of mundane fantasy:

  • The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Claire
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Hard fantasy might be seen as a slight crossover between hard science fiction and fantasy, wherein logic and reason rule the pages of the fantasy tale, much like how scientific rigor lies behind every consideration in a hard science fiction novel. But it’s a mistake to think of hard fantasy as simply scientific magic, but rather, fantasy where the narrative is concerned heavily with why behind how the world and the magic works the way it works. Examples of hard fantasy include:

  • Waldo & Magic Inc by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
  • A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (for its rigorous world building)
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

johnrobinwall23There are many other types of fantasy subgenres, but here are a few that are also worth mentioning as they are defined by how they incorporate elements of other genres:

  • Coming of age fantasy, where the protagonist deals with loss or alienation, influenced by the tradition of tales like Candide, Jane Eyre, and Tom Sawyer. The focus is often on the protagonist finding out more about who they are, and their journey is one of self-discovery. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and Harry Potter are great examples of coming of age fantasy tales.
  • Swashbuckling fantasy, with a focus on adventure and romance and men swinging swords with many a wise crack. There is also a strong focus on heroism and the upholding of virtues, so the downtrodden are protected, women are cared for, the loyal are rewarded. The Three Musketeers is a great example of swashbuckling fantasy, as is The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie.
  • Grimdark fantasy, perhaps viewed as a gritty reaction to the clean romantic-hero fantasy, fantasy where the story is not happy, or glamorized, and it drips with misery, is ruled by anti-heroes, bad decisions, and bleak humor. Great examples of grimdark fantasy include Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence, the Drenai Saga by David Gemmell, The Dark Tower by Stephen King, and The Black Company by Glen Cook.
  • Dark fantasy, a blend of horror and fantasy, where elements that define the horror genre are at play in a fantasy setting. This subgenre is strongly defined by the atmosphere it exhibits, and there are usually elements of gothic fiction, and magic might be connected to the occult. Some examples: The Warded Man by Brent Weeks, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and Elric of Melinbone by Michael Moorcock
  • Urban fantasy, a relatively new subgenre, where the focus is often on one setting, often with a contemporary feel, but it also often is characterized by being grittier (with hints of crime fiction or noir), and often elements of mystery, horror, and romance. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is a great example of urban fiction, as is The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
  • Contemporary fantasy, set in the modern world, has become popular after Harry Potter. Other great works of contemporary fantasy worth noting are: Holly Black’s Spiderwick Chronicles, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Charles DeLint’s Onion Girl, and Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles.
  • Paranormal fantasy, partly derived from the paranormal romance subgenre, is often defined by adventure and the characters have a contemporary, snarky bent. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In fact, many paranormal fantasy books involve vampires (there is even a vampire fantasy subgenre too). A great example of paranormal fantasy is the Twilight Mist series by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
  • Science fantasy, where there is more focus on technology, often set in a more contemporary period. Often times works of science fantasy are hard to separate from the science fiction genre, as worlds might be far past or far future extrapolations of our present world, wherein exotically different settings and peoples have arisen but where such societies have reached a similar level of advancement as our present day, but science fantasy books will often include some trace of magic as well. Great examples of science fantasy: Frank Herbert’s Dune, Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, and Anne McCaffrey’s Dinosaur Planet.
  • Steampunk fantasy, based on the premise that steam power from the Victorian era took hold as a major form of advancement, usually set in our world, but with elements of magic or other aspects of the fantastic. For instance, The Stone of Alchemy by Ekaterina Sedia combines elements of alchemy, while Cold Magic by Kate Elliot is set in a world where the steam innovation is happening but the power of mages still has hold of the world.
  • Magic realism, derived from literary fiction, where magic and the mundane world do not exist in conflict. The literary aspect is defined by the focus of these stories, being on exploring through character what it’s like to live in a world where magic is normal and how it defines the human experience. The term was coined by the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier in the 1940s, building on the already existing Latin American art forms wherein, it is theorized, the art was a form of reconciling the competing realities of being colonizers and being colonized. Magic realism often explores a world that is real but contrary to our objective understanding, and is epitomized by the works of China Mieville and Neil Gaiman. Time is not linear. Causality is subjective. It often leaves readers feeling tranquil and enchanted.


And this is just scratching the surface! You can read more by doing some research on the many subgenres of fantasy if you’re curious about all the nooks and crannies, including Bangsian fantasy, the subgenre concerned with exploring the afterlife in the manner of the author John Kendrick Bangs, who did so by way of famous dead people, with a heavy dose of humor, and paved the way for many others (the Riverworld series by Philip Jose Farmer is worth noting); or if you’re curious about the HUGE subgenre known as media tie-in fantasy, so big it’s even got it’s own organization called the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

Look forward to some more blog posts this month about the influence of other genres in fantasy, from some of our talented crew of contributors! Now, time for me to get back to writing my low grimdark hard fantasy novel.

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When Things Change, Or Why I’m Writing About My Own Story – By Elan Samuel

Welcome back Elan Samuel who adds his take on the journey of the protagonist in epic fantasy. For more by Elan, click here.

I had this plan, see. I was going to write a blog post called “Every Story Has Already Been Told”, which would postulate that even though we have the tools to categorize stories and build compelling outlines like, even though people say that all stories have been told, we still have the opportunity to approach these cultural memes and patterns from new angles.

I was going to write about that.

And then the wonderful C. Brennecke wrote her post, “The Marriage of the Hero and the Fool,” which, if you haven’t read it, you should go read it.

Did you read it? Good.

I loved the premise of adopting Tarot to plot development, and was hooked on her explanation of the Fool’s Journey from the get-go. As I read point-by-point through her outline, I found that it aligned, almost one-to-one, to an epic fantasy tale I’ve been cranking at off-and-on for a few years. (I decided it was a little too complex, and that I wanted to improve as a storyteller before tackling the story.)

I’m not kidding. It’s almost identical to the outline for my story.

At first, I was a little discouraged, thinking the I’d unwittingly fallen into telling a very predictable, formulaic story. Then I remembered what I had been intending to write before this post—that even if every story has already been told (which I don’t necessarily believe), we can still create wonderful fiction.

After I’d realized the irony of my conflicting feelings, I took a second look at the Fool’s Journey. And realized that it’s a fantastic tool for keeping me, a relapsing “Pantser” (discovery writer) within the lines that I want to set for myself as I write. While it’s fun to just write and see where the story takes me, I have trouble finishing stories. They grow into a briar patch, cumbersome and thorny, and generally unpleasant.

Also they make no sense.

The great thing about seeing C. Brennecke’s post is that it resuscitated my comatose story. I wrote thirty thousand words of it in a feverish couple of months, then it scared me. I worried that I would wreck a great idea. Seeing this clear outline makes me less afraid—it tells me I was on the right track.

So what am I going to do with this newly rekindled desire to tell this story?

I’m going to copy the twenty-one steps of the Fool’s Journey, put them into a spreadsheet, and align my story as closely as I can to it. Then, I’m going to get back to writing.

Thanks Christine. You unknowingly lit a fire under me.

Make sure you read Christine’s Fool’s Journey post here — who knows, maybe you can relate in your own story as well?


Elan SamuelBy day, Elan Samuel is a writer and editor at a tech company in San Francisco. By night, he writes fiction and reviews books of all kinds on his blog, The Warbler. His wildest dreams include becoming a published author and building a career in which he can read all day, preferably near a body of water.

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The Marriage of the Hero and the Fool — C. Brennecke

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming a new regular contributor to the EFW gang. C. Brennecke, author of Seven Shards: The Colors of Wine, which is presently in production with Inkshares, joins us today with her first post, following this month’s lead on exploring character journeys in fantasy. 

In writing circles, especially fantasy writing circles, it is inevitable that the Hero’s Journey will be referenced from time to time. The same can be said of the Fool’s Journey in Tarot circles. By some stroke of chance, I discovered both of these sequential story structures around the same time. I realized almost immediately that, despite coming from completely different areas of study, the Hero and the Fool had a lot in common.

The Hero’s Journey, the story structure that appears time and time again in books and other stories throughout the ages, begins in the “known world” or “ordinary world,” which is then left behind thanks to a Call to Adventure. The Fool’s Journey, which is the path of life or path to wisdom as told by Tarot, begins in the “outer world,” which is departed thanks to the decision to leave home, as depicted by the Chariot card. As the journeys continue, both the Hero and the Fool experience a death/rebirth cycle, and just before the very end, both experience a final crossroad as well.

Upon discovering these thematic overlaps, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to take a closer look and perhaps unite them into one hybrid journey. Thus, the seed of their marriage was born.

First, let’s take a look at the groom. Here is the Fool’s Journey, adapted for storytelling by yours truly. (To learn more about the Fool’s Journey, click here.)

  1. The Magician – We meet the Fool as he’s demonstrating his will/agency. This might be shown by a mastered skill, a rebellious decision, a recent accomplishment, learning to influence his environment. etc.
  2. The High Priestess – A foreshadowing of things to come. We get a hint that a much deeper world or greater opportunity is out there.
  3. The Empress – The Fool’s love for his family, friends, and/or home is established.
  4. The Emperor – The laws of the world are established, including expectations that are put upon the Fool.
  5. The Hierophant – The Fool’s beliefs are established. Alternatively, a mentor may give the Fool guidance or warning.
  6. The Lovers – A choice that inspires departure from the status quo. The Fool debates this decision and may face opposition from family, friends, or the law itself.
  7. The Chariot – The Fool goes all in on his decision, leaving home and/or loved ones behind.
  8. Strength – The decision is tested and the Fool endures. He demonstrates courage, cunning, resourcefulness, endurance, friendship, and/or kindness.
  9. The Hermit – The Fool regroups after his initial trial(s) and seeks out guidance as his resolve wanes. The guidance comes either from a mentor or through serious contemplation/meditation.
  10. Wheel of Fortune – A world change takes place corresponding with the maturation of the Fool.
  11. Justice – Having achieved moral clarity, the Fool faces his own faults and resolves to right them.
  12. The Hanged Man – The Fool faces a new point of view that challenges his own perspective. Instead of fighting it, he listens and learns. There may be a sacrifice at this stage.
  13. Death – The Fool’s original quest is completed, perhaps at great loss, and a new goal is taken up.
  14. Temperance – The Fool heals and learns to take a balanced approach in the pursuit of the new goal, incorporating the lessons he’s learned thus far.
  15. The Devil – The Fool is tempted or manipulated off his path. He may be scared or even captured by an enemy for a time.
  16. The Tower – An unexpected catastrophe takes place. A known establishment crumbles, either via physical destruction or the reveal of a huge secret that changes everything.
  17. The Star – The Fool focuses on his goal, receiving encouragement and support from another when needed most.
  18. The Moon – The Fool continues alone and his resolve momentarily wavers as he faces fear and confusion.
  19. Sun – A greater power (or powerful friend) comes to the Fool’s aid.
  20. Judgement – The final trial the the Fool must pass. This is a there’s-no-turning-back/now-or-never moment.
  21. The World – The Fool is triumphant. Celebration ensues.


Now, let’s take a look at the bride. Here is the Hero’s Journey, paraphrased in my own words. (To learn more about the Hero’s Journey, click here.)

  1. The Ordinary World – The Hero’s normal life and personal history is established. The Hero is unaware of the larger problems of the outside world.
  2. The Call to Adventure – The Hero is faced with a challenge or problem to overcome.
  3. Refusal of the Call – The Hero refuses or hesitates out of fear. Alternatively, another character might voice their doubts.
  4. Meeting with the Mentor – The Hero encounters a mentor (or beneficial object) that readies her for the task.
  5. Crossing the Threshold – The Hero commits to her task and leaves the known world to start the journey.
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies – The Hero learns about the new world she has entered. She encounters tests, foes, and new friends.
  7. Approach – The Hero and her new friends prepare for the major challenge ahead. A setback may occur, causing her to try a new approach or adopt new ideas.
  8. The Ordeal (Death and Rebirth) – The Hero encounters a major obstacle, usually a life or death scenario or the Hero’s greatest fear.
  9. The Reward – A temporary celebration. Having survived the Ordeal, the Hero accomplishes her goal or receives a reward.
  10. The Road Back – The Hero sets out to return home. There is a sense of urgency to the trip – ex.) the clock is ticking or an enemy is in pursuit.
  11. The Resurrection – The Hero faces a final test where everything is at stake. A sacrifice may be needed in order to pass this test.
  12. Return with the Elixir – The Hero returns home with her knowledge (“elixir”), which can be used to help others or be applied to future adventures.


And finally, let’s take a look at their marriage: The Journey of the Heroic Fool

Journey of the Heroic Fool

  1. Establishment of the Known World
  2. Introduction of the Unknown World
  3. Warning or Inner Conflict
  4. Commitment and Departure
  5. Trials
  6. Regrouping
  7. Moment of Clarity
  8. New Approach
  9. Death and Rebirth
  10. Wisdom Gained
  11. Final Temptation
  12. Catastrophe or Outside Pressure
  13. Resolve is Doubled
  14. Final Trial
  15. Triumph

So what do you think? Is this new spin helpful? Or is it all a bit foolish?

The Fool



1C. Brennecke is a fantasy writer, artist, and lifelong daydreamer. She works as a publications editor and organizes chaos for fun. Her first taste of world-building came when she discovered tabletop role-playing while studying art at Temple University, and she’s been creating worlds ever since. She spends many late nights on the computer in her suburban Philadelphia home, which she shares with her husband and a Sheltie that thinks he’s a cat.
Check out her website: http://www.mythsmistsmusings.com or follow her on twitter: @bonebonetweets





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The Conflicted Heart of a True Anti-hero – by Melissa Berg

What is it about the anti-hero that we love so much? Today on EFW, author Melissa Berg looks at what makes an anti-hero and why this type of character’s journey is so compelling both to read and to write. Want more of Melissa’s articles? Check them out HERE.

We love to talk about heroes. And why not? Bravery in the face of evil, the one who stands up for the side of right while others grovel in fear… We admire such a person, because we are amazed and wonder if we could do the same. We use heroes to teach our children about good and evil, right and wrong. And we see real people, every day, running forward in the face of danger instead of running away. The stories we write are full of such heroes. Big or small, they are the ones who end up winning the day. We know what they stand for, and even with their flaws and mistakes, we know that they will win—sometimes before the characters themselves even know.

And then there are the villains… Oh how we love a good villain. Whether they are the evil genius, or they believe they are right and the only ones capable of saving us all by ruling over us, or they just want to see the world burn, we still watch in horrified glee at these megalomaniac demagogues. They are the opposite of everything good. They are the dark against the light, and there is usually no question as to their real intent.

LokiMoriartyJoker              Loki – The Avengers               Moriarty – Sherlock               The Joker – The Dark Knight

So what about the anti-hero? Fiction is rife with anti-heroes that make us either love them or hate them in an intense relationship of give and take. The bad boys our mothers warned us about that make us love them, maybe even more than the hero of a story… I know I can say that I love to write them. My series has had three so far.



But why do we love the Anti-hero so much?

“Ooh, ooh, I know, I know!” And yes, picture Professor Snape rolling his eyes at Hermione…

The answer: Because they hold the key to the rich emotion and conflict of a story; they have a backstory and an environment that has shaped who they are more than anyone else.

And, I bring up Professor Snape because, in my opinion, he is one of the best anti-heroes of all. And what was so great about the telling of his story, is that we never knew for sure until the very end.

Commence crying in 3… 2… 1…


“The hero is who we all want to emulate, and the villain is the monster we must defeat, but the anti-hero is all of us, floundering in the dark, searching for the way of right… sometimes we may even find it.” ~ Melissa Berg

The arc of a character’s journey is what defines him or her as the anti-hero

SupermanVBatmanWhen we were kids, we all wished to be Superman, to have his god-like powers and be able to fly. But as we grew older and wiser, we realized that it is actually Batman who we relate to most, and it is within this complex character where we find our hero. Though it has its critics, I enjoyed the Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, because the most intriguing part was what I felt and related to most, and that was the story arc of these two great characters. An older, more pessimistic, Batman was starting out in a very dark place; he was more of an anti-hero than ever. Still trying to do what was right, he had started breaking some of his own rules, using guns and killing lower level criminals a lot more. He didn’t trust anyone, and was skeptical of anyone else whom the people thought to call a Hero—even Superman, though he had managed to save the entire planet. In the case of Lex Luther, however, his instinct of mistrust was spot on, while with Superman, he was wrong. Before he was sure of either, he let his paranoia and anger get the best of him.

Then we have the big guy in blue. This perfect Boy Scout, who saw the good of mankind and tried to be the best he could be and use his power as a gift, started to feel the dark of human nature directed toward him. The hero in Superman was losing his way. He started to see Batman as the embodiment of the people’s shift of their faith in him, and he began to question what his purpose here really was. His love for Lois Lane and his mother, along with their true belief in him, is what kept him from falling over the edge completely. It is when the courtroom blows up around him, and he can do nothing to save those people, that he realizes his mistake. We see, for the first time, that Superman is not perfect. He has his flaws, like any other man.


As for Batman… at this point, he has already fallen over the edge, until even Alfred was losing his faith in the man he served, but hopeful that the boy he loved would return. Though these two heroes had started on the same team, Batman and Superman had now become opposites.

Lex Luther said it best:

“And now you will fly to him, and you will battle him to the death. Black and blue. Fight night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: God versus man; day versus night; Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!” ~ Lex Luthor

But this was not the real battle. This was an illusion of the mind, all created by the little guy with huge ambitions. Neither had really turned to the ‘Dark Side’. By creating this lie, Lex had broken down the convictions that had made them both strong. When these two, supposedly opposing forces met, the storm that raged was not as massive as Lex had hoped it would be, for by now, our two heroes had both landed in a place of gray; the realm of the anti-hero. And it was here where the storm gave way. They came to realize the truth of the common ground they both still held in their hearts, which was the unconditional love of those who had believed in them the most, and there the lie was exposed. They rose together, back into the light, to defeat the real monster in the dark: Greed, corruption, and power… the vices of man.


Ding… Ding ding ding… Ding ding ding ding… ding…


The journey of the anti-hero is what is so important. He may be someone misguided, a tortured soul of sorts, but his heart is in the right place. He may step the wrong way, put others in danger, even deny his heart for a while and betray the one he loves. But it is where he ends up in the end that makes all the difference.

In the first two books of my series, The Shifting Balance, one of the characters I loved to write most was an anti-hero. He was inherently good, yet in thinking he could make a change for the better, his actions only made things worse. At the moment of his descent, he realizes his mistake, and becomes trapped by his own decisions, believing he no longer has a choice. He must betray someone he cares for. He uses anger and resentment, and finds a flawed logic to justify his actions, and thinks that what he is doing is sound. Yet in his heart he is miserable and tortures himself to no end before he realizes the real truth: He always had a choice. There were several chances to take the right path, but he was blinded by his own anger. He had feared and then denied the truth of his heart, which was that he loved this woman he was working to betray. And if he had only allowed himself to love her, he would have found a way to set himself free. At the lowest point of his journey, he realizes this truth, and though it may be too late, he comes to a crossroads and must make a choice. Will he be redeemed in the end?

This is the type of character arc that moves me the most. You want to hate him, but you also want to help him; you want to yell at him and tell him he’s got it all wrong. And when he finally sees the truth, you want to have hope, all over again, that he will be saved.

Some anti-heroes are really the hero in disguise, but because we don’t know who they are, we can never be sure. They have an unknown past that has shaped them, things that made them unable to see the truth of their own souls, even when those around them know that they are good. They think themselves unworthy, so they play the part of the uncaring, brooding, and sometimes high-functioning sociopath, to keep people away from their ‘dark’ nature. Benedict Cumberbatch’s vision of Sherlock Holmes weaves a beautifully complex anti-hero. He tells people that he doesn’t have friends, that he is above all that, and doesn’t have the time or the energy for such a frail human weakness as love. So this he claims, yet there are times when you feel he is pushing people away more in an effort to make himself truly believe it. Even watching ‘normal’ life happen from the sidelines with the slightest of yearning. We feel his need, we see his empathy and his capacity to love, yet that he constantly shuts others out, makes us wonder: Why does he feel so about himself? What happened in his past that makes him believe he is anything but a hero?

He says to his arch nemesis, Moriarty, during their final confrontation and battle of wits:

“I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them.” ~ Sherlock

sherlock HeroesHe says this in such a way, that I think he truly believes it, not just as a way to steer Moriarty toward a more amenable direction. He is an anti-hero still on the path of shadows, searching for the light of redemption, and only time and more seasons will show us what started this self-loathing to begin with.



This type of anti-hero’s journey is more subtle, but it is still just as interesting. We may know them for a hero better than they do. I have a character who I thought was an anti-hero in the traditional sense, but as his story grew, I realized that he is extremely good and loyal, and always strives to do the right thing, placing duty ahead of self, and wouldn’t think twice of rushing into danger. But his anti-hero tendencies have proven to be more about his attitude toward himself. He is a bit emotionally withdrawn. Though he is highly respected by those he serves, as well as by those he leads, his supposedly uncaring demeanor is actually a shell that he has built to hide and protect his true self. He was hurt by love in the past. So much so, that he has become trapped in a place that he cannot crawl out of. Because of this, his own self-loathing doesn’t allow him to live completely for the dark or for the light. He is in a world of gray, and could easily choose one way or the other. We begin to feel for him, and have hope that he will again, find love and set his true self free. But the question is: Which way will he choose? Maybe it is too late for him.

There is another favorite character similar to this type of anti-hero, and even a little like Severus Snape. Sawyer, from Lost, at first, seems to be a villain, then we see that maybe he isn’t so bad. But his actions crisscross over that gray area, merging and weaving with another anti-hero—Kate. It’s not until a few seasons in, that we find the truth of both of their pasts. Yes, they did bad things; yes, they expect others to stay away and not be ‘tainted’ by their terrible nature. But they are both inherently good, it is just their pasts and their environments shaping who they are and making them think that they are lost, when really, there is still a chance for their salvation; a light at the end of the tunnel—or in this case, the church entrance.

The last anti-hero’s journey that I use in my series, is a little like the first, but the main difference here is that his innocence, like playing with fire, gets him into trouble. When this character realizes what he has done, instead of fixing it, he chooses to lay blame on others and hide the real truth. Pretty soon, his lie has become so big, that he feels it is easier and better to stay the course rather than tell his closest friends the truth. He justifies his decisions by believing he is doing something right for a greater good, a last ditch effort, because he sees no other outcome. He hurts everyone he loves by choosing such a path. In the end, he hurts himself the most. But even for one such as he, there is still hope. It all depends on the real truth of his heart, the journey he takes, and whether or not he can find his way back to the side of Light.

This is where the true anti-hero’s Journey lies. It’s what is in the hearts of these characters which makes them not necessarily evil, only a misguided logic that takes them down the darker path. They do what they feel they must, even if it hurts others or themselves. They feel trapped by duty, having to weigh the odds in lives lost, rather than seeking the harder choices that could end with their own death. This is what sets the Anti-hero apart from the Hero. A hero will always save others at the cost of his/her own life. The anti-hero might choose themselves over others, but will believe that they are doing it for the better. They tend to believe the lies, whether those lies are created by outside forces or in their own head about themselves.

To be the full and true journey of the Anti-hero, they must go down the wrong path, while seeking to do good, and in the end, they must crawl from the abyss and become the real hero they were always meant to be.



Melissa Berg is the author of the Shifting Balance Series, which has been her passion for the past ten years. She also works as an illustrator and studied art and design at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin. When she isn’t writing or painting or entertaining her son, she is pursuing the art of 3D computer illustration/animation, as a side project and to feed her fascination in the ever-expanding medium used for storytelling. She currently lives in Minnesota with her husband, young son, and a crazy Border Collie.

Check out my website or join my mailing list for further updates: http://theshiftingbalance.com

‘Like’ my pages on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/theshiftingbalance/


Follow me on Twitter: @WhimzicalMusing

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