What Is Fantasy?


Fantasy is fiction or a "made up" story that has elements or parts that are not realistic. Characters may have magical or supernatural powers or use some futuristic technology that allows fantastic things to happen. Fantasies may contain talking beasts, underground kingdoms, secret immortality (living forever or never dying), and mysterious wizards. Characteristics of fantasy include the following:

Subgenres include:

Fantastic Stories

Characters can be like or unlike humans with magical qualities such as personified toys, animals, or objects. Personified means behaving like people. Plot can have any kind of conflict. Setting is often the realistic world with some fantastic qualities. Theme and style can vary. Tone is often humorous. Examples are The Borrowers, Charlotte's Web, Winnie the Pooh.

High Fantasy

Characters are realistically portrayed. Plot has any kind of conflict but the underlying conflict is usually good versus evil. Setting is often a special world where the time and place have special qualities of expansion (goes on and on) or limitation (space is small and limited). Theme is universal such as good and evil in conflict. Style is usually highly sensory or descriptive and the tone is serious. Examples are The Hero and the Crown, The Hobbit, Harry Potter series.

Science Fiction

Science fiction often includes futuristic technology with its blend of scientific facts and fantasy. Characters are realistic and often able to perform feats using the possible technology of the future. Plot may have any kind of conflict but often mechanical or natural forces are on the opposing side. Plots are usually progressive (go forward) and suspenseful (very exciting). Setting often distinguishes one story from another and is frequently set in a future time, sometimes on an unexplored planet. Style has much description and tone is often objective (without bias) and factual. Examples are The Lost Star, My Robot Buddy, Star Wars, and A Wrinkle in Time.


Science Fiction vs Modern Fantasy

Science Fiction
Modern Fantasy

The major events might really happen, based on scientific facts that we know to be true.

The major events could not happen, according to science as we know it today.



Time is usually in the near or distant future. Place can be Earth, or another location that real scientists theorize may exist.

Time is usually right now. Place is usually a realistic place on earth.


The characters solve a problem by using actual scientific data.

The characters solve a problem by using magic or impossible strategies.


Characters are fictional but they act in ways that make sense from a scientific point of view.

Characters are fictional but they act in ways that make sense in a fantasy situation.