Writing Dark Fantasy


Writing Dark Fantasy

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Dark fantasy is a genre of fiction that breathes darkness and shadows. It explores the dark side of human nature - themes of darkness and evil are prevalent in our nightmares.

Dark fantasy also allows a writer to explore themes and ideas that aren't socially acceptable. The writer can explore dark and disturbing emotions, such as anger and jealousy, without fear of being judged.

The writer can also explore morally ambiguous situations. Such as a character tempted to murder without being condemned. This can make for exciting and emotionally charged stories.

What Is Dark Fantasy?

Dark fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy, a subgenre of fiction. Fantasy is the branch of the invention that involves magic and other supernatural elements. By contrast, dark fantasy is the branch of fiction that involves aspects of horror and gothic sensibilities. You can read more about this by taking a look at Horror Literature and Dark Fantasy: Challenging Genres.

The two are often combined to make a work of dark fantasy.

It's often set in a medieval or ancient setting. Involving knights, Vikings, and other warriors. It's also usually a thrilling and action-packed genre. It has heroes who are strong and courageous and villains who are terrifying and ruthless.

Heroes are often morally ambiguous. They may be tempted to murder but are prevented from doing so by a strong sense of right and wrong. And the villains are often terrifying. These villains may be influential magic users or cultists who worship dark gods.

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Elements Of Dark Fantasy

  • Dark/evil supernatural creatures
  • The theme is bleak, pessimistic, brutal, and gritty
  • Morally ambiguous heroes
  • Nothing is left black and white
  • Negative emotions are intense
  • Positive emotions are twisted
  • Good things happen to bad people
  • Bad endings
  • Battling inner demons
  • Struggles against impending doom

How To Write Dark Fantasy

Step 1. Start With The Setting

You'll want to make sure the world you create has everything your characters need to survive and thrive.

Don't worry about characters or plot—just pull up a blank document and start detailing your world. Get creative! What's your world like? Does it have more than one sun? Is it all made of ice? Are these things connected, or are they totally unrelated?

Step 2.Create Characters

These guys will be super important because they're going to help push the plot forward. They're going to have needs, goals, and flaws that will help you build a satisfying story for your readers.

Who will inhabit your dark and twisted world? What are they like? Are they brave and kind heroines who will rise up against evil and defend their reluctant kingdoms from destruction?

Or are they ruthless and greedy villains who will stop at nothing to fulfill their own selfish needs? Not caring who gets hurt in the process.

Step 3. Deconstruction

Deconstruction is where you take an idea or significant issue in the story and prove how ridiculous it is. You can do this by separating the problem and showing how it's full of flaws and inconsistencies.

Or, since this is dark fantasy, you'll want to take apart what we think of as normal and put it back together with a twist. Maybe even what we used to think was normal, if you're writing something that dates back from present time.

A perfect example of deconstruction would the racism that was protrayed in the To Kill A Mockingbird and the time in which it was written. And if you would like to do something similar with your own writing, I recommend reading Toward a Theory of the Dark Fantastic: The Role of Racial Difference.

Step 4. Magic

Think about magic. How does it work? Are there limits? What makes it different from the real world?

Step 5. Plot

The plot brings all the other pieces together, so use the elements in steps 1-4 to create an exciting narrative for your reader!

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Tips For Writing Dark Fantasy

Dark fantasy is a genre that can be difficult to write, but it can be gratifying when done correctly. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Start by creating a rich and detailed world. The more complex your world is, the more enjoyable your story is.

  • Choose your protagonist carefully. This character should be someone easy to root for, even when they do terrible things.
  • Don't be afraid to explore the dark side of human nature. Dark fantasy is all about exploring the darker aspects of life, and readers will love it.
  • Make sure that the dark elements feel like an organic part of the story. It will be very obvious to the reader if they don't, and they will likely lose interest.
  • Don't get too attached to your characters. You will have to put them through a lot before their eventual demise, and it will be much easier if you do not grow fond of them.
  • Try to be consistent with world-building, especially when it comes to magic. Magic should always come with boundaries and consequences. It should never be able to get the best of a character without serious repercussions.
  • Cruelty is often rooted in real-world motivations, and it takes many forms. On the one hand, some people have a severe mental illness that leads to their cruel behavior. But, some people may commit evil acts while motivated by altruism, such as they believe they are serving the greater good.
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    Prompts for Writing Dark Fantasy

  • You are a werewolf slayer whose duty is to protect humanity from the Lycan hoard. But, you never anticipated that your true love would become the one thing you were trained to kill.
  • For two long years, you searched deep within the Fagaras Mountains. For what many thought was just legend: a simple door standing alone in the middle of a clearing. Before you embarked on your search, you were a blacksmith with a loving wife and three children.
  • The love of your life is bitten by a werewolf and doomed to spend his life turning at every full moon each month. After consulting with a witch, your love acquires the "cure," but it forever traps him in this werewolf form.
  • The demon king and his vast army march across the land - devastate everything within their path. While the kings and lords argue amongst themselves, some even choosing suicide. You decide to follow a different way.
  • A once-powerful royal family has ruled the land for more than ten generations in a forsaken empire. Yet the lineage is cut short when the queen's fifth pregnancy ends in another stillbirth. Fearing that this was a sign of God's damnation, the royal council meets in secret and decides to kill anyone who has a right to the throne.
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    Examples Of Dark Fantasy

    Book: The Nine Princes of Amber by Roger Zelazny
    The Nine Princes of Amber tells the story of Prince Corwin, who plots to overthrow his brother Eric, Amber's tyrannical ruler. He must first find his way home from the dark and mysterious shadow world, where he has been imprisoned for years.

    On his journey, Corwin must outwit powerful enemies and solve the puzzles of Amber's dungeons. That is if he hopes to reclaim his rightful place as heir to the throne.

    Manga: Made In Abyss
    Made in Abyss is a dark fantasy manga series written and illustrated by Akihito Tsukushi. It has been serialized online in Takeshobo's digital publication Web Comic Gamma since March 2012.

    The series tells the story of Riko, a young orphan girl who, along with her more experienced friend Reg, descends into the titular Abyss. She searches for her mother, a legendary Adherer explorer.

    Anime: Beserk
    Berserk is a Japanese dark fantasy manga series written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura. It tells the story of Guts, a mercenary from Midland who joins the Band of the Hawk to fight for his freedom.

    The anime adaptation was broadcast on NTV from October 1997 to September 1998. Spanning 25 episodes, it covers the Golden Age story arc from the manga.

    TV Series: Hell Bound
    The group operates as a secret society, delivering bloody condemnations that send individuals to Hell. They are fueled by the idea of divine justice and retribution. Although their activities are veiled in secrecy, their presence is known to those who have been condemned.

    Dark fantasy appeals to readers who like horror, suspense, and the supernatural. They might also enjoy reading in other genres, such as adventure and science fiction. In short, dark fantasy can incorporate elements of any genre, making it a flexible and exciting genre of writing. So, why not try writing dark fantasy? 

    What is the appeal of dark fantasy?

    There are a few things that contribute to the appeal of dark fantasy. First, it's a way to explore the dark side of human nature without having to worry about the real-world consequences.

    Second, it's a way to tap into our fear of the unknown and imagine situations that are truly terrifying. Lastly, it's a way to visit different worlds where the rules of our own world no longer apply, which can be both exhilarating and freeing.

    What makes a good dark fantasy story?

    Many readers enjoy delving into a dark fantasy story because of the opportunities it provides to explore taboo subjects and ponder life’s great questions without necessarily providing easy answers. A well-written dark fantasy tale can leave readers feeling both disturbed and deeply thoughtful, longing for resolution even as they close the book.

    Is a limit to how dark a fantasy story can be before it becomes horror instead?

    Fantasy stories tend to be lighter in tone, focusing on the triumph of good over evil. Horror stories, on the other hand, are often much darker, exploring the darkest depths of human nature.

    While there is no definitive answer, there are certain elements that are typically associated with each genre. Ultimately, it is up to the reader to decide whether a particular story falls into the fantasy or horror category.


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