Grimdark, Noblebright, Grimlight & Nobledark Fantasy

Okay, let's get these definitions straight...

Grimdark Fantasy - A fantasy story in which the protagonist is an anti-hero and the story is dark/negative (and possibly depressing). [Not to be confused with Dark Fantasy / Horror Fantasy!!!]

Noblebright Fantasy - A fantasy story in which the protagonist is heroic and the story is uplifting/positive.

Grimlight Fantasy - A fantasy story in which the protagonist is an anti-hero, but the story ends up being positive. Sometimes called "Grimbright", but Grimlight seems to be the more popular name.

Nobledark Fantasy - A fantasy story in which the protagonist is a hero, but the story ends up being dark/negative/depressing.

So for example let's say you are writing a Grimlight Fantasy story... What could that story be about?

  • A greedy cowardly murderer/thief becomes a hero by accidentally beating up the local villain, but then gets tricked into leading a group of woodland thieves into fighting against an upstart prince who dabbles in dark magic, represses the poor, makes taxes too high, and the cowardly thief sees this as an opportunity for himself to make some money. Possible title: "Robin Hoodwinked". So very similar to the classic Robin Hood story, but Robin himself is an anti-hero because he is cowardly/greedy and he isn't above murdering people with his arrows.

Or let's say the story is a Nobledark Fantasy...

  • During the a horrible plague a noble knight embarks on a quest to find a cure to the disease, but on the way he encounters bandits, corrupt nobility, difficult choices, desperate starving villagers, cannibals, plague zombies, militaries using the zombies as weapons of war... The knight himself manages to complete his quest to cure the disease, but then the people just go right back to warring against each other so the ending is still depressing.

So which of these do I prefer to write?

Honestly, I kind of like all of them. Generally speaking my protagonists tend to be heroic (but not all of them fall into that category). Here's a few examples from the Adventures of Wrathgar series:

  • Wrathgar - Hero
  • Soljargon - Hero
  • Bizbald - Anti-Hero

The series in question I would say is overall positive stories, but does contain some dark elements so they aren't completely "Noblebright". I would argue that there is realm of stories between positive/negative that are either neutral or contain both.

I also believe that a writer could theoretically tell all 4 of those options above by writing a story in which there are 4 different characters (2 heroes and 2 anti-heroes) and their stories are intertwined but plot wise end up being a mix of positive and negative experiences / endings.

I also believe that characters can sometimes be nuanced. Eg. In one story I once had a group of heroes (and one anti-hero) find themselves in a situation where they end up torturing a minor villain for information. Some of the characters were against torturing the villain, while others aren't opposed to it. Thus within a group of heroes there were nevertheless nuances when it came to the ethics of torture.

Thus some people like the concept of there being Neutral or Mixed categories in between the polar opposites.


Publishing a fantasy book? Make sure you get a professional fantasy book editor.

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