Do You Know Your Audience? Pt. 7

Fantasy

fan·ta·sy
/ˈfantəsē/
Noun
The faculty or activity of imagining things that are impossible or improbable.
Verb
Imagine the occurrence of; fantasize about.

Ah, fantasy. When one says fantasy, one usually thinks of the usual epic fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Some people shudder and hide. They don’t want to read fantasy! That involves fictional languages and dragons and 500+ page books that usually end up in a series and fans who wear costumes.

The Founders by Holly Barbo

Fantasy and science fiction collide!

As evidenced by the above definition, fantasy is much more than that. It can be anything that can’t happen in the real world and is one of the most beloved genres in fiction, whether people realize it or not. There’s actually quite a bit of overlap with fantasy and science fiction, especially in regards to lighter science fiction and fantasy. This problem arose when it came time for me to put a genre to the Sage Seed Chronicles series by Holly Barbo when it came time to publish them over at Paper Crane Books. There were some fantasy elements (other world, psychic powers) and there were some science fiction elements (aliens helped Earthlings colonize the planet, essences of tech was involved) so what should I classify it as? We decided to compromise and label it as science fantasy.

Way before there were any sort of genres of fiction, people told stories. They involved gods and goddesses, talking animals, fairies and elves, and wolves who might eat little girls. Those tales have now become known to us as fairytales and mythological stories. But stop and think for just a second. Aren’t powerful beings and fairies and talking animals impossible or improbable? But wait! What about some classic novels that don’t actually feel like fantasy, like Animal Farm? Lit Reactor states the following:

Take Richard Adams’s Watership Down, a novel that drops us into the lives of rabbits. Adams draws on the actual observed behavior of rabbits in the real world, but we can agree that the level of communication and societal constructs that he ascribes to the rabbits is far beyond their capabilities. So one would technically have to call it a fantasy. And yet, to me, the book doesn’t quite fee like a fantasy (actually, I think that it’s a great example of a post-apocalyptic novel, but that’s for an entirely different column). Or what about George Orwell’s Animal Farm? Again, talking animals who can plan and plot. It’s clearly satire, but technically it falls under the Fantasy umbrella.

Big

It’s fantasy, yo!

And what about movies? Even some movies that don’t seem like fantasy are fantasy movies at their core. Take Big for example. Seems like a normal movie, but it’s impossible for a kid to magically become an adult overnight due to a wish. So even though it’s set in the real world, the movie could easily be classified as fantasy (and actually it might be…)

So, sure you can go all out with your fantasy elements and have orcs and giants and wizards galore, dueling it all out at the end of the book or series in one final epic showdown. Or you can be as subtle with your fantasy elements and base it in the real world with supernatural elements like vampires (Twilight) or even toys that can come to life (Indian in the Cupboard) or even a man who realizes that he’s a character in a book (Stranger than Fiction).

I really love what Lit Reactor wrote about fantasy:

Fantasy knows no limits. It should know no limits. We should be able to roam as widely as we can, whether it be to the land of Oz with all its wonders, or the hidden world right in front of us. And, I think, we should learn something along the way.

Just take a closer look at your fiction. Though it might seem harmless at first and seem very much set in the real world, how much of it is actually fantasy-based? Did you actually write a fantasy novel instead of a contemporary novel?

Catch up on the latest “Audience” series and see what’s upcoming!

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