What comes into your mind upon hearing the genre dark fantasy?
Bleak. Gloomy. Evil
These are the terminologies associated with the dark fantasy genre. From its name, stories categorized under this are shelves away from being lighthearted and wholesome. Instead, they’re filled with dread, with storylines narrated by morally grey characters making questionable decisions.
In recent media, shows like Witcher, Game of Thrones, and even the classic movie Coraline are continuously making sound due to their exciting and seat-gripping stories. Their plots are like no other, for no evident heroes exist in their worlds, and the difference between good and bad is almost non-existent. Despite the genre’s connotation, dark fantasy isn’t always gloomy, sappy, and evil. When written well, they account for high-quality and stirring novels challenging people’s moralities and beliefs. Stories under the genre break through the typical, establishing a new type of storytelling.
But how do authors create stories that teeter between black and white?
Beyond Black, Dark Fantasy Defined
Readers can choose from no concrete and apparent sides in dark fantasy stories. Reading through these, they’re always divided about whether they’re rooting for the right side. There’s no true black and white, no good or evil, as every character and situation is a beautiful blend of grey. Unlike the typical stories, heroes live questionable lives, and villains can have goodness in their hearts.
Dark fantasy is what happens when the world is flipped upside-down. It’s shortly defined as an inverted, deconstructed, and the darkest version of standard fantasy tropes, such that they’re still magical and whimsical but with darker undertones woven into their stories.
It’s horrific but in a completely different way, and very intriguing storylines.
Author Steven Koutz writes a book that subtly touches on a darker theme. In Shadowed Stars, a science fiction book with mature themes, readers are introduced to a chaotic world. From human abductions to governmental crises, everything that can turn bad has gone into worst-case scenarios. It’s borderline horror in most of the plot’s aspects, with its gritty and gloomy aesthetic. What makes it different from the typical horror is that it isn’t aimed at scaring the readers but rather to create thrill and intrigue in its theme.
Dark fantasy serves as the tip of a horrifying iceberg.
How do authors sculpt this into something beautiful?
Focus On Creating Impactful Details
Like any genre, the world-building is always the cornerstone of making an excellent story. It’s what houses the characters and where the crucial events take place. In dark fantasy stories, this isn’t any different. But unlike other novels, the details displayed in these worlds are darker, scarier, and more dangerous. These must have a flare of terror, spaces where details and the atmosphere raise alarms.
Think of dark allies or monster dens. These places can be ingredients to a fantasy world, but with the correct details, they are most suitable for dark fantasies. When authors plan their world, they must add characteristics that paint these places with fear.
Don’t Be Afraid of Blood
Gore or people’s demise is a hallmark of horror stories, and as it’s closely horrific as it is fantasy, dark fantasy stories would also benefit from a fair share of these. It’s not a requirement, and authors don’t necessarily have to insert scenes with gore in their stories. But if the situation calls for it, they shouldn’t shy away from maximizing its potential.
Under any signs of bloodshed is an underlying ounce of terror that readers must stomach and characters must cope with. These can also enhance the scene’s impact, especially when called back from another chapter.
Tap From Reality
Events are especially horrific when readers can relate to what’s happening. This way, when they read through what’s happening, they can vividly envision it and ponder whether they may encounter such a situation. Sure, fantasy is characterized by the unusual, the impossible, and the magical. But for dark fantasy to work, it can incorporate an actual event or a relatively close equivalent.
For instance, in the beloved Caroline, the story doesn’t revolve solely around the frightening other dimension. Instead, it’s about a young girl who feels neglected and sad about a sudden change of environment. Carrie was a bullied young woman. And most horror movies are about families experiencing the paranormal and other problems. Make the story realistic and relatable to readers. Make characters more humane and put them in situations that can realistically happen.