Fantasy fiction is a literary genre that includes stories that deal with characters or events that do not exist in the world as we know it. Fantastical settings, creatures, powers, and situations are often found in fantasy fiction, whether it is a modern story or one set in an ancient land. There are more than a dozen different types of fantasy fiction that are categorized according to the type of plot and story. These can be expanded into even more categories, depending on the different types of elements that appear in the plot. Some of the most popular types are alternative history, dark fantasy, modern or urban fantasy, epic fantasy, high fantasy, paranormal fiction, and sword and sorcery.
Each type of fantasy fiction usually has certain elements that help categorize it. Some categories blend together and can each accurately describe the same piece of fiction. Sword and sorcery fantasy, for instance, usually involves a medieval setting wherein there may be characters using swords to do things such as fight evil creatures, wizards, or dragons. Heroic fantasy is typically set in a fantasy world wherein the main character may serve as a clear hero who saves other characters or the entire world. These two categories often blend together when the setting clearly fits sword and sorcery and the hero character is the strongest one that drives the story.
Alternative history is a popular fantasy genre that typically involves actual history that has been rewritten enough to contain some fantastical elements. World War II being fought with dragons or being won with magic by Germany or Japan would be a good example of alternate history. Urban or modern fantasy, on the other hand, often has a present-day setting but with fantasy elements that are considered a natural part of the world, such as time travel, magic, or vampires. Paranormal fiction is a type of fantasy that can describe a story in any setting that contains elements of the paranormal, such as vampires, ghosts, psychics, or shapeshifters.
Epic fantasy fiction usually describes stories that have a large cast of characters, an in-depth world history, and scope beyond a simple plot or single story. Epic fantasy tales often take an entire series of novels to be told and can span decades, centuries, or millennia. Additionally, high fantasy fiction deals with parallel or completely made-up worlds, and often intersects with epic fantasy. Dark fantasy can contain elements of horror or such literary elements as post-apocalyptic settings that provide a grim backdrop for the characters and events.
Fantasy fiction usually falls into one of the most common categories, but may also be classified according to the general events in the story. A book that has fantasy elements but focuses on the budding relationship between the main character and his love interest, for instance, may be called romance fantasy or a fairy tale. Likewise, funny stories with fantastical settings can be called comic fantasy. More than one genre can also be represented in a fantasy novel, such as a story set in a fantasy world wherein horror elements and romance are both important to the plot.