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Portal Fantasy

What is Portal Fantasy?

There is a real world—the world that we all know and love (or hate, as the case may be)--and a fantasy world created by our illustrious author. These two worlds are separate, but travel between them is possible. This sub-genre is part of alternate world fiction and, as the name so obviously indicates, portals into the alternate world are the primary piece of world-building.

Portal Fantasy has become a bit of a cliché. It is a doorway to a magical world. The problem with Portal Fantasy is that it runs the risk of spending too much time trying to get home, rather than exploring and experiencing the wonder of the fantasy world. But! Portal Fantasy can also invite dark and dangerous—entering the other world isn't necessarily an escape

Ultimately, aside from moving from the real world into another more magical world, Portal Fantasy is is a versatile and open-ended sub-genre where anything is possible.

Portal Fantasy vs Crossworld Fantasy

Portal Fantasy is very similar to Crosswords Fantasy with the difference being that Portal Fantasy can include traveling not only to difference worlds but also times as while Crosswords Fantasy deals with traveling to other...places but not necessarly times.

 

Portal Fantasy Characteristics

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  • Level of Magic

    Divided. Portal Fantasy is about moving from our world to another world. This other world may be highly magical, or not, but it will be different from ours in some fantastical way. Thus, part of the story is free of magic and the other part is full of it (or at least something supernatural or otherwise fantastical). In fact, Portal fantasies are often about ensuring that the worlds stay divided.

  • Level of Grand Ideas and Social Implications

    Moderate-High. Destiny is an idea constantly popping up in Portal Fantasies. As is self-discovery. Protagonists will undoubtably go on a journey of self-discovery, learning things about themselves they didn't think possible, accomplishing feats they felt beyond themselves. 

    Overall, these ideas lead to positive messages. (This positivity and penchant for lessons is perhaps why it's a popular sub-genre for children's stories.)

  • Level of Characterization

    High (at least for the protagonist). As the protagonist navigates the other world so too does the reader. As the protagonist learns so too does the reader. Readers will develop a deep understanding of the protagonist because they go on the same journey and are connected with the protagonists point of view. However, because readers are often so tied to the protagonist's point of view, secondary characters are not as well developed.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Moderate. Nearly all Portal fantasies are linear—that is there is a specific goal that must be achieved and all action moves toward that goal. Much of Portal Fantasy is the same: unexpectedly find a doorway to another world, go there, become a hero, and then return home.

  • Level of Violence

    Variable. Because Portal Fantasy is so versatile there is no set benchmark for levels of violence. However, because these stories tend to incorporate saving worlds from evil there are bound to be battle and some will be more violent and gruesome than others.

Related Fantasy Subgenres

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    Crossworlds Fantasy. The differences between these two sub-genres is blurry at best. Portal Fantasy has more possibilities in that portals connect not just worlds, but time.

  •  Juvenile Fantasy. Many stories for children utilize the magical door trope.

  •  Quest Fantasy. In the typical plot of a Portal Fantasy story the protagonist sets out on a quest—to vanquish evil and return home, usually.

Portal Fantasy Isn’t For You If...

If you're tired of the old cliché someone walks through a magical door.

Popular Portal Fantasy Books

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