Discussion: Reasons to write: Fantasy vs. Contemporary

So far I have attempted to write a contemporary novel and I am currently working on a fantasy novel. It is very different from my contemporary story and so far I am loving it. For this discussion, I wanted to discuss some of the differences and pros and cons of writing these two genres and compare them.

Fantasy vs. Contemporary

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Why write fantasy?

  • 3rd person perspective. I don’t know about you but when it comes to fantasy I really prefer 3rd person perspective (vs 1st person for contemporary) and it turns out I prefer writing it too (so far)!
  • Less research. For contemporary, you often need to research places your characters are going, how much time it takes to get from one place to another, real facts of stuff that happened, etc etc etc. I don’t like researching these things, I much rather just make it up on a whim (which is what I do all the time). For my contemporary I had to look up stuff all the time, like: if they’re going to walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, how much time does that take??
  • MAGIC. (that needs a bullet point on itself okay)
  • It doesn’t have to be realistic. Yes, it does, but I mean, for fantasy you can have an evil sorcerer or a teenage assassin, you can’t really do that in contemporary. Your characters can be a little more dramatic, messed up and morally grey (or like: morally pitch black).
  • It’s (often) action-packed. You don’t know what’s going to happen next in your story? Well, let something explode (that’s some solid advice, guys). You do need to have a lot of plot in your story but that makes it easier to go on with writing, I think. You don’t have to linger too much on conversations and slow scenes.

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Why write contemporary?

  • You can use your own experiences. It’s really easy to add things that happened in your own life and twist it into your contemporary story, BUT don’t do it too often because my character in my story became to be a little too much like me #oops.
  • You can add modern media. I love books with references and modern technology, but in my no-electricity fantasy world, I can’t say sentences like: “with eyes wide, like a deer caught in head lights” BECAUSE THERE IS NO ELECTRICITY OR CARS OR LAMPS. (and also how do people find each other, like do they yell and hope they come running because they don’t have phones??) In contemporary, you can add in all the technology, references and media you want.
  • No worldbuilding. The worldbuilding I have done so far isn’t much BUT with contemporary, you don’t have to do it at all! How wonderful!
  • You can set it in your hometown or a place you already know. Because why not? For fantasy, you’ll have to create something yourself! And make it consistent because you can’t have your clock tower move from the North to the East between scenes. That’s just odd (or it’s a moving towerΒ because you can go ahead and add moving tower to your fantasy story, that’d be awesome)
  • It’s (often) more character-based. The story is often filled with character development and relationships between characters and the plot is usually not that action-packed.

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I think the conclusion is that neither is better than the other, it’s just a matter of preference. Right now I prefer writing fantasy but that’s just because I’m working on that at the moment. I like reading both genres and I love to take the strength of the one and put it in the other. I am trying to make my work in progress both plot and character based, my characters are I think very well developed and undergo quite the development.

What is your preference? Do you like writing fantasy over contemporary or the other way around? Did I miss any pros/cons?

32 thoughts on “Discussion: Reasons to write: Fantasy vs. Contemporary

  1. I literally survive off magical realism. Fantasy is something I’m new to reading & loving so writing it takes a lot of effort. Contemporary is much easier to write yet I find it hard to make in interesting and find myself getting bored easily. I feel MR is a good balance for me right now.

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    1. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve barely read any magical realism… I don’t know why. I do love the idea of incorporating magical things in the real world but I barely read about it :/

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  2. Contemporary is something I found that although I enjoy writing it – fantasy is so much cooler to write cause you can create literally ANYTHING! You have limitations with contemporary though which is also something I like as someone who is lazy with world building and all that stuff.

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    1. Yes! I can definitely see the fun in writing contemporary (I wrote about 40k of a contemporary book after all), but I love the endless possibilities of fantasy!

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  3. I find contemporary stories easier to write, and I think it is because I can make them more character-driven. I’m not great at coming up with elaborate plots that you often need for a fantasy so when it comes to a contemporary, I don’t have to worry about those road blocks. I also find it easier to add diversity to a contemporary, especially disability and long-term health conditions that you want to keep more human and not magical.

    In terms of fantasy though, I agree about the third person perspective. I find it easier to understand the characters and the story when I’m following them/it from a distance. And the setting can be more descriptive too, because it’s not focused on one particular viewpoint. In a contemporary, especially one with an important subject matter, you’re more likely to follow one main character and their personal journey so there, a first person perspective is the best way of conveying their world to a wider audience.

    However, the one thing I don’t do with contemporaries is add too much modern media because I think it does eventually make them dated. Modern teenage slang is also something I avoid. I personally don’t like it in general anyway, but with how language is constantly evolving, the words come and go, and you find yourself stuck in a restricted time and setting.

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    1. I do agree it’s easier to write character-driven and diverse contemporary, but it is definitely also possible in fantasy. My story right now is a little bit of both worlds, it is character-driven but also plot-driven (more of the latter though) and almost all my characters are diverse. But for disabilities it’s definitely not easy, none of my characters are disabled and I don’t really see how I could incorporate that. It does make me want to go write some disabled characters though haha.
      The third person perspective is one of my favourite things right now, I love that you can use description without having to keep in mind the particular viewpoint!
      Hmm… that’s just a thing of preference I think. Both having modern media and not having modern media have its advantages. I do really love to see it incorporated in books because the book then really shows the world as it is right now and what makes it special.

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      1. Yeah I know what you mean about media. I suppose a pro is that it’s another way of being able to personally connect with a contemporary. I think if I use it in any contemporary, I’d reference it sparingly so it’s not too much.

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  4. I think the great thing about writing fantasy is that it CAN be all the things contemporary fiction can be and then some. I’ve read fantasy set in modern Earth. Im reading one now that mixes magic with an industrialised civilization. Or you can deal with issues like class, gender, and race without being limited to real-world settings and situations. So I feel like fantasy offers more flexibility to inspire thought. Unfortunately, the genre is a bit overrun with stereotypes and lots of fantasy writers default to a sort of standard setting (I’m guilty myself) because it’s so well established and loved. Also, why does it seem to be a thing that contemporary fiction is first person so often??? That’s not a requirement! Lol.

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    1. That’s definitely a good point! And I agree! Fantasy can be anything contemporary is, which makes it all the more magical!
      It’s not a requirement for contemporary to be first person or something, but I do like it more that way for some reason.

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  5. I cannot even imagine trying to write a fantasy novel. I really enjoy reading them, but the idea of creating a magic system and a whole fantastical world is terrifying. Needless to say, I definitely prefer writing contemporary. Sometimes I don’t think that people get as creative as they could with stories told in the contemporary world, so I like pushing those boundaries and seeing how I can turn the genre on its head.

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    1. I can definitely see why it would be terrifying! It scares me a little bit too, but as it is my first fantasy book I haven’t made it too hard for myself. I mainly make up the world and magic system as I go, which is a bit less scary.
      I think in contemporary (in fantasy too sometimes) many writers are a bit stuck in a certain mindset of what a story should look like, which makes it a bit too much the same sometimes. So I’m not sure whether that is just a contemporary thing but fantasy does really make it easier to get out of the strict mindset!

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      1. I would agree with that! I think that some people also get wrapped up in this idea of “being realistic.” It’s something your should keep in mind, but shouldn’t be your focus. With fantasy because you can create your own world, your focus is more on the story you want to tell. Hopefully that made sense!

        Also your method on writing a fantasy definitely makes it sound easier. If I ever had an idea, I would totally do the same!

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  6. I LOVE THIS POST. I freaking love third person and will use it in everything. Including contemporary. I have yet to write contemporary but fantasy takes a whole lot of research too! Since you’re creating your own world, you have to make it realistic enough to believe.

    I’m a fantasy-lover at heart, but I’ve recently been getting into the contemporary genre. But then I discovered MAGICAL REALISM which is slowly become a fav genre and the plot bunnies I’ve been getting recently are all magical realism. SO. I think that magical realism would be my choice since it has contemporary elements with fantasy/magical elements. #compromise

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    1. True! Though the research you do for fantasy does not have to be completely accurate. You don’t have to base it off real physic laws and such so it can be however you want it to be.
      I am embarrassed to say I have not yet read a lot of magical realism??? I love the idea of it but I haven’t actually picked some books up yet and I don’t know why… It’s such a cool concept!

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  7. Great post! And I completely agree with you on writing fantasy. I love writing fantasy so much more, especially because I enjoy third person. First person feels more constricting to me because I feel like you can’t add too much description? Like, your character would only notice certain things based on their personality likely vs. fantasy you can note things even your own character doesn’t focus on. If that makes sense. And although it’s not a perfect translation, I think you still use your personal experiences in fantasy writing. Especially when it comes to figuring out your character’s inner workings. What motivates them, sets them off, etc.

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    1. I love third person too! I love that you can be very descriptive in everything without being constricted, like you said!
      Yes, definitely, you can still use your own experiences, but it might be a little harder to incorporate them!

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  8. I’m currently writing a fantasy and I’m finding it easier than writing a contemporary is. I am writing my fantasy is 2 POVs both in 1st person and I’m creating the world as I write.
    I don’t have much experience of what is out there in the real world so I find fantasy more intriguing to write because it is from my own mind and I can see it develop how I want. From governments and sovereignty to magic and everything in between is of my own making so it’s a stress free style for me personally.

    I do tend to add some fantasy elements to contemporary to make a hybrid that suits both style of writing if I cannot decided what I feel like writing.

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    1. I am doing the same, I have a general gist of the world, but I make most of it up as I go.
      Hybrids are great too! I love low fantasy and contemporary fantasy: when there are fantasy elements incorporated in a contemporary world!

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  9. You make some good points for both genres! I’m currently writing two stories, a Fantasy and a contemporary and they’re both very different from each other. I love 3rd person pov so I use that for pretty much all my stories. Because I live and breathe Fantasy worlds and superpowers, I always find Fantasy more interesting to write. The research that goes behind contemporary books can put me off sometimes too.

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    1. That’s pretty cool! I think it’s really interesting to see the difference between the two genres, especially when you’re writing two at both at the same time! Good luck with writing!

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  10. I really love this post! I haven’t thought about the writing of different genres much but I really like all the points you made. I also really prefer Fantasy in third person and Contemporary in first person. Also, I guess I never thought of how much research went into Contemporary, but I guess a lot has to because it all has to be realistic.

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    1. I’m happy you liked it! I guess both genres require research but contemporary does usually have to be realistic so that might be a bit harder to do!

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  11. The short story that I’ve been working on, but have put on hiatus is definitely fantasy. A while ago, like at the beginning of the year, I found a story that I had written when I was eight years-old and decided to completely re-write it.

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    1. That is such a cool idea, I don’t think I wrote stories when I was eight, or maybe I did but can’t remember. I do love reading old stories and thinking of all the weird ideas I came up with. They’re fun to look at! Rewriting one would be fun!

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