The Difference Between Fantasy and Paranormal Fiction

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Mastering the genres of literature and grasping the various elements needed for perfect execution may be easy, but delving into the sub-genres is quite a tough knot to untie. The worlds of fantasy and paranormal seems pretty much the same to me, well that was until I buckled up for adventure. Have you also wondered if paranormal was a subset of fantasy? Then, this quick class is for you. First, I would dabble in fantasy for the sake of familiarization before picking out its difference from paranormal.



Fantasy is an epic and broad genre that concentrates on imaginary elements that are usually intermingled with unrealistic magic, world-building, sorcery, magical creatures like fairies or monsters, and anything outside reality. Limitations are not placed on fantasies because of the wild imaginations associated with the creation of worlds.



The key aim of fantasy is to create an escape for writers and their audience outside the world. Imaginations are let on the loose in new worlds, new orders. This is what makes fantasy different and unlike other genres, it evolves and work with other subgenres.

  1. Medieval Fantasy; Fantasies that are under the subgenre are quite quaint and the human protagonists are opposed by supernatural antagonists.
  2. Epic Fantasy; It is mostly characterized by a protagonist on a quest, intertwining this subgenre with romance and adventure would be epic.
  3. Fairy Tales; Tales in this subgenre involves the use of fictitious princes and princesses, fairy godmothers, unicorns and so on.
  4. Mythological Fantasy; The stories are created to explain some myths in the universe, or historical events.
  5.  Fables; Fables are quite similar to fairy tales, but the distinct trait with them is that the end usually has a moral message to pass to the readers.


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I have read blog posts and other literary pieces on the basic requirements of every fantasy work, you need to escape from reality to be able to create fantasy. These are the necessary elements that should be adhered to.

  1. Magic
  2. Well-developed setting
  3. Complex characters
  4. Conflict
  5. Power Structure 



  1. Animal Fantasy- The Wind in the Willows
  2. Toy Fantasy- Winnie the Pooh
  3. Magical Fantasy- Snow White
  4. Alternative Worlds- Alice Adventures in Wonderland
  5. Quest Fantasy- The Lord of the Rings trilogy



Basically, we all know paranormal is anything that is unexplainable in science. But…


What Really Is Paranormal Fiction?

The paranormal genre of literary fiction includes beings and phenomena that are outside the realm of normal scientific understanding of the natural world. Though the paranormal genre may include supernaturalist elements, this fiction genre generally includes creatures that have been popularized by folklore, fairy tales, and popular culture, such as fairies, aliens, shapeshifters, and the undead.

In simple terms, 

“Paranormal fiction is the genre of fiction whose story lines revolve around the paranormal.”


Examples of Paranormal Fiction

Numerous wildly popular book series fall within the paranormal fiction genre.

  • Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (2005)
  • Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris (2001)
  • Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton (1993)
  • Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (2006)
  • Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward (2005)
  • Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice (1976)
  • The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher (2000)
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
  • Books of Blood series by Clive Barker (1984)
  • Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews (2014)
  • The Hollows series by Kim Harrison (2004)
  • Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh (2017)
  • Highlander series by Laren Marie Moning (1999)
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (2011)
  • Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole (2006)
  • The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (2007)


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The Differences 

There is a thin line between paranormal and fantasy in literature but there is also a key factor which we would be delving into. Although a story can embrace the elements of both genres, note that anything paranormal is within our world.

Paranormal stories happen in the real world, with a pint of fantasy. It has notable characters like vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, demons and telepaths. This is different from fantasy which has magical creatures like fairies, dragons, unicorns and myths. Urban fantasy is almost same as paranormal but the clear distinction is MAGIC and the CREATION OF WORLDS. 

I do hope that this has established the fact that as paranormal stories deals with physics and creatures like vampires, the setting and time frame correlates with the human world. Fantasy on the other hand, tends to do a lot more world-building and creation of magical creatures. 

Thank you.

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