As I post my book reviews, I note how many of them are not the genre I write, which is medieval dark fantasy. As much as I like fire-breath dragons, swashbuckling battle scenes, a magic goodie or two, I find with reading I like almost everything. But that’s part of the joy of reading, it allows our minds to open up and expand, thus fulfilling the human experience.
When I’m writing the Gastar novellas, I think about story elements that would add to the plot and what inspires me other than the usual dark fantasy takers (Tolkien everlasting, still Frankenstein and Dracula these days in stories I’ve read). How can other genres enrich Dark Fantasy?
Non-fiction (not exactly “genre): Anything based on true stories, as I’ve written recently can add powerful elements, especially when dark fantasy writers use historic backdrops. The bestselling writer Anne Rice comes to mind when I think of history. But it need not be limited to that; one could use wartime examples (some say WWII inspired Tolkien) or known individual events (true crimes or historic families).
Romance seems to be expected and present in almost every fiction novel I review. With its absence in “Act of Redemption,” I got criticism for leaving it out by some readers and by my Mom. So, love is eternal and romantic elements powerfully drive the actions of characters. If Harlequin can do romance, so can I, so I’m still learning. Erotica can go in any story (example: “Game of Thrones, very R-rated).
What about intrigue, as seen in psychological and legal thrillers? Sure. Characters can lie to each other, cheat, play tricks, plan conspiracies, break laws and go to trials in Dark Fantasy. These elements can deepen a story and breakaway from the “kid grows to be tough to kill his father’s killer” cliché so often seen in Dark Fantasy. Gangster templates can either make clever enough protagonists to survive or evil antagonists to be eaten by dragons or ghouls in whatever gratifying way like a gangster would do, Dark Fantasy-style.
The everlasting serial murderer fiction has almost replaced the old-fashioned “whodunit” Agatha Christie style, but could either of these mystery templates add to Dark Fantasy? Of course! Who killed the King? Or Princess? Or last evil High Priest? (Shevata, who got her soul removed for it). Having your characters figure out by investigating a murder or stealth can again bend away from the clichés of rescuing a damsel in distress from a fire-breathing dragon.
Last, but not least, what about women’s literature? How can my recent review of “Love and Other Impossible Pursuits” inspire a Dark Fantasy story? A woman’s child dies by natural causes her first day home in the book. A woman’s child is taken from her and raised by a magician named Merlin (sound familiar?) A mother had to save her baby by making a small boat and floating it down the river and the King’s daughter picked up the child and raised him (from Moses story in the Bible). So in Dark Fantasy these powerful emotional tools can move a plot and develop a character’s background, be it the child, the mother, or a story told by a sage.
New authors, writing a genre need not limit inspiration from that genre. Dark Fantasy may influence other genres; “Twilight” is probably the best well-known example of teen romance with nice vampires in a modern day backdrop. Though Edward sparkled, was sensitive, and the werewolf guy never put his shirt on in the films, to give credit to Meyer, the story was creative. Maybe not for everyone, but that’s OK, books aren’t supposed to be for everyone. Now go write something great. Make the story sparkle in our minds.