Dark Fantasy

This is a genre that’s been popularized, I think, by the success of HBO’s Game of Thrones based on his A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Personally, I love the sub-genre. There is something beautiful and sublime in tragedy. Ever since I first read Hamlet as a kid. Even Romeo and Juliet is pretty damn dark, despite how much people dislike the play and how many mediocre productions butcher it.

Dark fantasy plunges to new levels of suspense, tension, authenticity, and fear. It gets our hearts racing and then broken over and over.

So let’s talk about it

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Ages in Fantasy (And Other Work)

I was once writing a non-fantasy book in which one of my POV characters was in his 30s and had to have an argument/fight with a teenager. The problem I ran into was, why would a full grown adult in modern society get so pissed off at a teenager he wasn’t related to? The character was a well-adjusted, mature, level-headed adult.

This is just one example of the issues writers run into when writing characters of different ages. I love it when books, especially fantasy, have different aged characters. I think it helps the world come to life and we see how the plot has an impact on different aged people, and how different aged people understand the goings on.

But at the same time, I think fantasy tends to do this thing where young characters are just too mature. I’ll get more into that, but let’s start already.

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Endings in Fantasy

I’ve written about beginnings, but now it’s time to talk about endings.

Not gonna lie, I have trouble with endings. I’m far more confident in beginning and high point middle parts. That being said, the show must go on, but it must also end.

So let’s talk about endings.

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But Why Would My Character Do That?

This is a problem I encounter sometimes and have recently. My plot has a trajectory to go in a certain direction, but a character needs to do something to make them get to that point. Sometimes it feel sudden, out of character, or just out of place.

Here’s an example. One of my protagonists in a work in progress is an adult who ran away from her cushy background to try the life of a rogue. She meets a scholar and befriends him, but the scholar is working with his order to instigate political tension by way of my main character. Because of their friendship, he eventually betrays his order and tries to help the main character.

(That’s a really poor description, but hopefully you’re still with me.) But why would this guy betray his order? He barely knows the main character at the point this needs to happen, and I didn’t feel “he fell in love” was a good enough reason. I wanted to keep the character a bit enigmatic, but the problem was he was enigmatic to me.

So how do we solve these problems when we encounter them?

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Playing for High Stakes

One of the first things I was taught in one of my writing classes was to “play for high stakes”, which means that there should be a lot on the line for the characters in the story.

What does this accomplish? A few things. The characters have a lot to lose should they fail, the heart pounding tension of an action movie can be achieved, and because of the high stakes, the characters are forced to play and therefore drive the action.

So let’s talk stakes. As always, remember the first rule of writing is that there are no rules, so take what you like and what is useful to you. If nothing, then so be it.

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