Have You Got Fantasy Genre Despair?

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by Theodora O’Brien
Developmental copy editor / Manuscript evaluations-critiques
man-goin-mad-800pxHave You Got Fantasy Genre Despair?

No surprise there.

The division of genres has become a bewildering game of slots, and the meaning within those slots, and woe betide those who send in a query to an agent who reps books that are in Slot A, not Slot B.

Take fantasy.

Is it children’s, young adult, or adult?

You decide which of those based on your protagonist’s age, not content. The age is not necessarily at the beginning or end or the story, but the bulk of the story, though generally YA is age 12-20 — which means the Harry Potter series was Young Adult, but I thoroughly enjoyed it in my fifties and wouldn’t have let my pre-teen kids (had they still been pre-teens at the time the books came out) read some of the later books (though I’ve read that the 8-12 year olds were the wildest fans); they were just too grim, dark, and depressing for children, in my “mother” opinion.

The next step to figure out is which slot your story belongs in. (List found on http://bestfantasybooks.com/#)

• Low Fantasy
• High Fantasy
• Coming-of-Age Fantasy
• Heroic Fantasy
• Gritty (Epic) Fantasy
• Dark Fantasy
• Paranormal Fantasy
• Christian Fantasy
• Romantic Fantasy
• Fantastic Romance
• Political Fantasy
• Literary Fantasy
• New Weird Fantasy
• Science Fantasy
• Alternate History Fantasy
• Comic/Humorous Fantasy
• Fables / Fairy Tale
• Mythic Fantasy

I’m sure you understand that with each explanation of what fits in those, there are sometimes two or three divisions within each of the sub-divisions.

As comprehensive as that list is, I still had to search further to help my author, whose novel’s protagonist is a human/wolf/dragon. A very confused little human/wolf/dragon in the beginning, as you can imagine, who has to figure out who she is, how to cope, how to handle her three bodies, and oh, yes, save her world at the end of the trilogy.

I asked myself what genre were the Uncle Wiggly stories listed as? The Narnia stories? The Redwall series? Were wolves ever considered mythical creatures, or Low Fantasy animals, or worse, just used in horror stories?

Eventually, here’s what we came up with for a sentence within the author’s opening query paragraph in a letter to an agent (she’s still compiling that list): “This is a Young Adult coming-of-age high fantasy with a protagonist named Velvet, a person who is also part wolf and part legendary dragon; she is a Darcall. Her destiny is to become the most powerful Star, capable of harnessing the force that holds her world together.”

You can do all this searching on your own, but why not have help? Professional editors do a lot more than just edit, and our knowledge base is wide and deep on the most unexpected things … like the difference between Political Fantasy and New Weird Fantasy.


Editor Theodora Bryant can mentor you with creative ideas and guide you through the whole gamut of what’s what in the publishing industry.

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