Fantasy and world-building can come in many different shapes and forms. One of the great things about writing fantasy is its utter infinity of possibilities. A fantasy author is free in ways no other genre writer is, because he is not restricted by any rules in the world for his/her creation. He can literally be and do whatever he wants. However, in time an accepted fantasy spectrum has been set in place, not so much to restrict as it is to organize fantasy stories and make it easier for readers to identify them.
At one corner of the spectrum we have Noblebright Fantasy, the typical heroic fantasy in which the world is wondrous and beautiful and the heroes actively seek to protect it or defeat the villains that threaten it. On the other corner we have Grimdark Fantasy, stories that basically depict ravaged, unsafe worlds in which hopelessness is common, and the heroes don’t care to change it or improve it, or their efforts to do so are never good enough. However, the in-between is several shades of gray (bad pun, couldn’t resist!) and it allows for the richness and complexity of the fantasy genre as we know it. Let’s explore a bit more, shall we?
Noble vs Grim:
The Noble to Grim part of it refers to the actions of the characters (heroes) and how they influence their worlds. What is their motivation? Are they strong and willing to risk themselves for others? Are their actions able to change the fate of society and the world they live in?
In a Noble story: The characters are strong, capable, and their actions can alter the fate of the world. Usually a single villain threatens the world, and a hero or a group of heroes appear to save it, at great peril for themselves. The heroes are successful in their quests and ultimately defeat the evil and change the world for the better, and the villains are either destroyed or redeemed within the context of the world.
In a Grim story: The characters are restricted and hopeless, they refuse to take action and whatever initiative they display never amounts to much in the big scheme of things. They cannot change the world they live in, and whatever victories they achieve are ephemeral and often temporary. Their negative qualities are relished and their positive trait are ridiculed or mocked. Heroes are defined by their survival capabilities and not by altruistic deeds or motives, and villains are replaced with new villains in a never-ending cycle.
Bright vs Dark:
The Bright to Dark spectrum refers to the world in particular and the conditions it has regardless of the characters actions. How is the world as a place people live in? How is it perceived by the characters (and audience)?
A Bright World: is beautiful and hopeful. It may contain villains and flaws, but the world as a whole is a place that inspires wonder and desire to explore it. In a Bright world, happiness or the possibility of it, is widely accepted and shared, and characters expect and experience good things from the environment around them. Despite not being perfect, a bright world is a place you want to visit, and a place in which characters are not afraid to venture and get lost in.
A Dark World: has danger and hopelessness as its primary traits. It’s an inhospitable environment in which people’s lives is hard and death is frequent and real. A dark world does not spur characters into action, because the world itself is the enemy, where every action is dangerous and can have lethal consequences.
In between these corner points is the Neutral, which, whether referring to character or world, describes a story that hangs in the balance between the two qualities. While each fantasy story is as unique as a single snowflake, that complexity and diversity is what makes the genre popular and beloved by its fans, and discussions about Noblebright, Grimdark, Nobledark, Grimbright and the many other spots in between are what makes the Fantasy literature world a diverse, rich universe you should definitely consider visiting
Heroes and Swords: A Noblebright Fantasy Collection.
In the spirit of the classic fantasy of Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and Brandon Sanderson, authors of Noblebright Fantasy all around the world have come together in this E-book giveaway. With stories that are uplifting and full of hope, and heroes who strive for goodness and fight to save their worlds, Heroes and Swords will transport readers back to the glory of heroic fantasies, fabulous quests and characters full of charisma and courage.