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Dark Fantasy

You can substitute “horror” for “dark fantasy” if you like, but fans of this sub-genre would probably be able to create sharp divisions between the two.  Just as horror fans would classify different types of horror stories (animals stalking humans, humans stalking humans, humans stalking animals), so too would they make room for tales that include more supernatural elements.

So when you get into werewolves stalking humans, or cars intent on murder, or any other supernatural activity taking place under a dark and brooding atmosphere, you're entering the realm of what is generally understood to be Dark Fantasy.

Dark fantasy is ALL about the atmosphere. Often, there are some gothic elements thrown in as well. And of course, there may or may not be a “horror” aspect to the story – something creepy and crawly that waits in the night. Fantasy books with some or all of these elements can be classified as Dark Fantasy.

Horror stories that treat the “horror” with some sympathy—which might even include being told from the point of view of the monster, or vampire, or what-have-you—can fall under this category; as can horror stories that have a more fantastical bent. Take an author pigeon-holed under “horror”, and if he produces a fantasy, you can bet it'll be called a dark fantasy.

These works are becoming less novels than short stories, and they are also diverging from classic horror to incorporate more paranormal adventure. A further evolution is that the paranormal element may even be the story's protagonist or hero, as opposed to merely being a sympathetic character.

 

Dark Fantasy Characteristics

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  • Level of Magic

    Magic, occult, paranormal—to some people, these are interchangeable terms. If you have a firm idea of magic being distinct from the other two practices, you'll find less of it here than in other fantasy works. The paranormal dominates.

  • Level of Characterization

    There is not much need for complex characters in this sub-genre, but some stories might explore difficult moral decisions.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Low levels of complexity when measured by sub-plots, twists and turns. These are meant to thrill and chill, and most of the complexity will be brought to the events by the reader according to their tastes.

  • Level of Violence

    As with classic movies versus today's over-produced blockbusters, the newer books eschew implied violence and revel in lots of gore. Violence and sexuality, if it exists, are closely linked.

Related Fantasy Subgenres

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Dark Fantasy Isn’t For You If...

You're scared of the dark and monsters. Many are essentially horror stories with a fantasy twist, and their firm intent is to scare. And others may have dark, brooding, and chilling atmoshphere. If you don't enjoy all that, you should look into some of the related types.

Popular Low Fantasy

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