For the Fantasy Writers Out There

I like fantastic children's books.  They're my favorite type of kid books.  In fact, Fantasy and Science Fiction were my focuses when I did critical work in grad school.   I thought it might be fun if we spent some time discussing fantasy writing.

And I thought we'd start with the trickiest fantasy to write -- first person high fantasy.

Before I go any farther, let me define a few of the jargony terms I'll be using.  I tried to write this post without them, but it got too convoluted.
  • Primary World -- Our world.  The realistic, normal everyday world we live in.  Planet Earth.
  • Secondary World -- The fantastic world that is fundamentally different in some way from our own.  The difference could just be that it has a different history.  The world in a science fiction story that occurs on a different timeline from ours (ex. Hitler won WWII is a popular one) is a secondary world.  In a traditional fantasy like Lord of the Rings, Middle Earth is the secondary world.
  • High Fantasy -- A fantasy that takes place entirely on a secondary world.  Also thought of as "Sword & Sorcery" fantasies, they almost always take place in a pre-industrial society.  Examples include Eragon, Goose Girl, and Sabriel.
  • Low Fantasy -- A fantasy that takes place entirely on our world.  Supernatural or magical stuff infringes on our world.  Most ghost stories are low fantasy.  Some examples include the Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson, and Sister Grimm books.
  • Portal Fantasy -- The main characters transition between a primary and secondary world by some means.  In The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, the Pensieve kids transition from England into Narnia.  The wardrobe is the portal between the two worlds.
And this is starting to become a little long.  Tomorrow:  first person high fantasy -- why it's hard and a good example


PJ Hoover said...

Great, great post idea! I'm looking forward to a whole series of posts!

The Buried Editor said...

Yeah, it was just going to be one, but I think it's turning into a series.

Gottawrite Girl said...

The more, the better! We are learning-sponges. Many thanks, buried editor! I also read no matter what fantasy-world we write about, we can anchor readers by staying true to emotions.

Authoress said...

OOO, I'm sitting on the edge of my seat!

This is gonna be good... :)

Emily said...

This is great info. I'm frequently confused about what makes a certain fantasy fit into these categories, so I'll probably ask you to define them over and over again at work.

Let me try. Graceling is High Fantasy. In How to Ditch Your Fairy, New Avalon is the secondary world. Twilight is Low Fantasy. :)

CarmenInk said...

Thank you for your post.

I just learned that my book Two Moon Princess is Portal Fantasy where the protagonist travels to the primary world (California)from her fantasy world (a world similar to medieval Spain).

Snooty Aunt Cynthia said...

I have been reading fantasy and other worldly fantasy ( outer space places such as Andre Norton which might be considered to be science fiction but I alway s felt she was more like fantasy, wonderful reads! ) and have never ran across the terms low fantasy or portal fantasy before but do have to admit that they simplify the terms. High fantasy I always heard in terms of things such as Tolkien and the like.I have completed my first fantasy ( a bit dark for children ) and most people who have had a sneak peek have used the term surrealism to describe it. But from reading the descriptions here it sounds more like my fantasy would fall into the "ow and occasional portal fantasy.