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Fantasy Subgenres

Last week, we examined the Con, Heist, & Prison Break skeleton. This week, we begin our examination of the Fantasy skeleton by taking a look at some of the subgenres.

High Fantasy encompasses fantasy stories set in worlds different from earth. In high fantasy, location trumps anything else no matter what genre you mix in with it.

Epic Fantasy encompasses the hero’s quest structure. There are sword fights, medieval castles and clothing, and damsels in distress. There be dragons and wizards and fairies and elves.

Dark Fantasy features vampires, werewolves, dragons etc. as protagonist. Rather than being the horror, they face obstacles that threaten their world.

Urban Fantasy combines the fantasy structure with a gritty, urban, contemporary setting in a well-known city.

Dystopian Fantasy combines a future setting where the people or beings are repressed and controlled by society.

Steampunk Fantasy combines a Victorian London-like setting wherein cities are powered by steam. It mixes the fantasy structure with science and futuristic inventions.

Paranormal Romance Fantasy mixes the fantasy structure with a subplot of romance. It usually features contemporary settings and mixes humans with vampires, werewolves, faeries, angels, magic, or psychic ability.


Next week, we will look at the building blocks for the Fantasy skeleton. The Fantasy Build A Plot Workbook is now available in Kindle and print along with the Build A World Workbook to help make your story world 3-D, also available in Kindle and print.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

Con, Heist, and Prison Break Skeleton

Last month, we explored the Comedy skeleton. This week, we will explore the Con, Heist, and Prison Break skeleton in which the overall story problem focuses on a person or group that wishes to escape from somewhere, steal something, or set someone up to fail. A vendetta is enacted or an injustice needs to be righted.

 The new Con, Heist & Prison Break Workbook is now available in print and e-book versions.

The reader asks: What is really going on and will they succeed?


 It plays on our tendency to construct elaborate payback fantasies, only the characters in these stories don't hold back. These are action and plot centered tales of revenge and redemption. Character development is sometimes minimal. They can fall under the umbrella of Thriller, but since they have a specialized structure, I give them their own category.

There is typically an assembling of a team. The leader of the team is considered the protagonist. In modern tales, the protagonist can be a criminal but the audience is rooting for him to succeed in his scheme because his cause is just. They often involve multiple plot twists and keep the audience rooting for a successful outcome.

In a Con, Heist & Prison Break, the antagonist is the proposed victim of the con or heist or the vicious prison warden. It can be a group such as the mafia, but there must be a mob boss to focus on. It could also be the leader of a rival group equally intent on carrying out the con or heist. Usually the antagonist (thief, mafia, etc) is taught a lesson.


External Conflict scenes follow the protagonist with his assembled team as they draft the plan and try to implement it. The gang tries and fails and tries again. Jail breaks are attempted. Banks are inspected for vulnerabilities. The team scales the building or opens the safe. These scenes reveal whether they are successful or not. They are actively taking part in the scheme, whatever it is.

Antagonist Conflict scenes pit the “good” guys or “good" bad guys against the “bad" bad guys or the "bad" good guys. You can also follow the antagonist and his cronies as they go through their preparations. You decide whether they are aware of or completely oblivious to the plot that is hatching against them. The con man faces off against his ex boss. The lead character sneaks into the antagonist’s house and is caught by him. The two face off at a party or crowded restaurant. The mob boss realizes he is being double crossed. 


The antagonist’s POV is sometimes explored in these stories. If so, you see him taking steps to capture or hold onto the criminal. The other team hatches their plan. The antagonist deals with setbacks or a complicating side story of his own.

Interpersonal Conflict scenes can explore subplots about each team member, especially if they have a personal issue that needs to be resolved. These scenes involve the cops who try to prevent the protagonist or antagonist from succeeding, unless a cop is the antagonist. 
The lead character meets up with the girl he loved and lost. The henchmen are taken out one by one. The bumbling cops nearly catch them. These scenes can show conflict between secondary members of both teams.

The love interest in this type of story is often a secondary character if she isn’t part of the team or involved in the con, heist, etc.  She is sometimes part of the protagonist's stakes.

Internal Conflict scenes usually focus on the wound that is driving the protagonist. He wrestles with his need for revenge. How far is he willing to go? Has he gone too far or hurt someone he didn’t intend? We find out about the friend, child, lover, or family he lost and why he is bent on vengeance. We see into the dark spaces of his soul. These are also moments of nobility where he decides to sacrifice himself for the good of the team.

Next week, we will examine Fantasy subgenres.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

Injecting Humor into Dialogue

Humor ranges from innocent jokes to darkest satire. What people find funny is highly personal. Something that tickles one person will offend another. What one considers ribald another might find vulgar. Dark gallows humor makes light of deadly serious topics. 

Comedies allow you to stealthily challenge people’s prejudices and belief systems in the name of good fun. Humor is a great way to lower resistance to make salient points.

You can’t please everyone, nor should you try. Use what works for the story you want to tell.

Ways to inject humor into dialogue:

1.       Clever banter between characters.

2.       Verbal digs can be barbless jibes between close friends or skewering points to drive home a serious point.

3.       Short anecdotes based on proven set-up, delivery, and punchline formulas can be inserted. They are best presented in dialogue between characters rather than narrator intrusions.

4.       Invented words or phrases can be repeated a few times throughout for effect.

5.       Giving things, people, or places titles, nicknames, or intentionally botching names can be hilarious, especially when the other party is oblivious or annoyed by it.

6.       Pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable or in good taste can make a point. It may even insult or anger, but the underlying message is memorable.

7.       Puns, riddles, Freudian slips, parables, and actual jokes can be added with a light hand. Unexpected answers and surprise can trigger laughter.

8.       Parroting and name-calling can infuse a light or dark note.

9.       Intentional mangling of language and grammar can be fun, but watch out for phonetic spelling abuse.

10.     Accents, voice styles, and vocabulary choices can be exaggerated for effect.

Pick up a copy of the latest entry in the Story Building Blocks series: Comedy, Build A Plot Workbook available through Amazon in print and at local bookstores on request. Also available for Kindle.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.