Are you looking for inspiration for your next fantasy story? We’ve got you covered.
Below you’ll find a selection of prompts and story ideas for dark fantasy, a popular fantasy subgenre. Before we get to the prompts, let’s develop a clearer understanding of this popular fantasy subgenre.
What is dark fantasy?
Dark fantasy refers to fantasy novels and short stories that incorporate elements of horror.
Dark fantasy is not a definitive subgenre but rather a mood or aesthetic that generally surrounds a fantasy story. The stories typically feature violence, gore, and vengeance.
Plot ideas for dark fantasy stories are thrilling, suspenseful, and sometimes gory.
They show a darker side to a character and often follow an anti-hero – a protagonist in a story who does not embody the typical hero and may embody the villain from another perspective.
Dark fantasy writing prompts
Below you’ll find some plot ideas and new writing prompts to spark inspiration for your next dark fantasy story.
- A character loses control of their supernatural powers.
- A murdered man returns from the dead to exact personal vengeance.
- An evil King and Queen abuse their power.
- A mercenary angel exits retirement to save a kingdom from evil spirits.
- A woman enters a dark forest and meets a bounty hunter and starts an unlikely love story.
- An occult ritual gone wrong awakes a supernatural force.
- A group of teens playing Dungeons and Dragons sense an evil threat.
- Three dark wizards fight over the possession of a magical stone until a more powerful evil wizard interferes.
- An ancient evil lives beyond a kingdom’s borders.
- A young autistic boy holds immense magical powers and is nominated to be killed in a cruel human sacrifice.
Dark fantasy setting ideas
Here are some story setting ideas for your dark fantasy work:
- The protagonist’s home is a tomb in a graveyard.
- An eerie forest.
- An abandoned castle.
- A dystopian wasteland.
- A school.
- A hospital.
- A spaceship.
- Outer space.
- A cave.
- A parallel dimension.
- A basement.
- An undiscovered jungle.
- Earth before modern humans.
- A house in the woods.
- An underground bunker.
Dark fantasy story ideas
Below we’ve included some dark fantasy story ideas to give you even more inspiration for your fantasy novel.
- A King asks a powerful witch to cast a spell. He wants his entire kingdom to become invisible to outsiders to prevent attacks. The witch grants his request but falls victim to an evil royal family from which the King was trying to protect his people. The witch, dead, cannot lift the spell using all the magic she knows, and now the kingdom is completely isolated from the outside world for centuries making life horrible.
- An angel cast out of heaven spends centuries on a hedonistic Earth. Having lived through his hedonistic urges, he comes to see the light once again. Our anti-hero embarks on a redemption story to regain access to heaven.
- A young girl finds an old, dusty book of fairy tales in her recently deceased grandmother’s attic. As her family clears from grandma’s house, the girl decides to keep the book a secret. She slides it into her bag and takes it home. Later that week, when she has time alone, the girl takes the book to the garden and starts to read it aloud. As she speaks the text, she doesn’t notice the sky around her turning a chilling gray, a stark contrast to the open blue sky above just minutes earlier.
- A former witch hunter falls in love. The object of his affection is the daughter of a family who has recently moved to town. The girl falls for him too, or so he believes. Believing it may be time to settle down and be happy with his beautiful new lover, the witch hunter lets his guard down. The paranormal romance unfolds with the girl revealed to be the spirit of witches he had burned and tortured in his earlier life. His punishment will not be quick.
- A spoiled young prince is the only rightful heir in a kingdom where paranormal beings live in harmony with humans. Power gained at such an early age is corruptive, and the prince is no exception. The story follows the dark coming-of-age of a spoiled child who acts out his twisted fantasies of darkest evil on those beneath him. The ancient gods bless a young boy who will turn out to be the hero in the once forsaken land.
- A spirit from another dimension embodies a young girl. Born into a family and raised as normal, the girl lived a normal life until her adolescence. On her sixteenth birthday, the dormant spirit awakens and seeks to exact revenge on the descendants of those who harmed the spirit in a past life.
- An evil spirit possesses residents of a small town every year. Each year, the townspeople lose loved ones to the intruding spirit. A satanic cult, formerly ostracized by the community, is now the only hope for the town.
- A soldier discovers a crying baby in the woods. Filled with compassion, he carries the baby to a nearby village to seek support and care for the innocent young one. When he reaches the village, the villagers look on in terror. When the soldier looks down, his own eyes fill with terror as the baby begins to decompose. Piercing screams come from the woods behind; a force has been disturbed.
- A woman discovers scientific truths that question the common understanding of how the world works. Threatened, the authorities call for her death, and the town begins a witch hunt. Only one person can save her, but she needs to take a long journey to find them.
- An evil force begins to control the flock of demons to attack a small town. The dark power takes control, burning houses and eating children. Angelic defense forces intervene and manage to save one child from a burning house. Both parents have been killed. The child is a twin but was alone when found. His brother was not saved by angels but taken by demons.
Tips for writing fantasy
Fantasy is one of the most beloved literary genres.
Consider the impact of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or the immense popularity of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Look at The Way of Kings author Brandon Sanderson’s world-building skills or Neil Gaiman’s character-driven writing style.
The vast fantasy genre is a testament to the wonders of human imagination.
So, if you want to write compelling stories, where do you begin? It helps to understand the elements that go into a great fantasy story.
Even though your characters are otherworldly, your setting unique, and your plot fantastical, that doesn’t mean that readers can’t or should not relate to your characters.
Even the most outlandish and evil characters must have some echo of humanity in them.
Avoid clichéd, two-dimensional, vague characters or countless deranged creatures that do not contribute anything to your fantasy novel. If you’re going to include a character in your book that gives a rich life, readers may love or hate them but what’s important is that they resonate on some level.
No matter which fantasy subgenre you choose, understand that most fantasy stories feature an underdog vs. authority theme. Even in dark fantasy, where your character is an anti-hero, they usually have a more significant force working against them.
A magic system
Magic is crucial in any fantasy story, whether dark, epic, urban, or medieval. The magical elements of a particular story set it apart from the rest.
Even though a general magic system exists and features many books, the particular style, and means of use vary. When writing your own dark fantasy story, you have full creative control over how our magic system works.
Just remember that your story ideas still have to make sense!
A magic system is a system of laws or rules that don’t apply to the world as we know it. Supernatural forces, ancient stones, and sorcery are common magical devices that help fantasy writers immerse readers in a unique world of mythical creatures.
Spend time crafting a seamless magic system. It frustrates readers to follow a story but see through significant holes in the narrative. Don’t let a flawed system ruin your reader’s experience.
Gods, mythical beings, ancient dragons, the supernatural, angels, demons, sorcery, and advanced technology are all exciting and loved magic systems, so feel free to dip into any and play with the rules.
Best dark fantasy books
Here are some of popular dark fantasy works you can read to get an idea of the genre:
- The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger – Stephen King
- Coraline – Neil Gaiman
- The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie
- Dracula – Bram Stoker
- Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
- House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
- The Hunger – Alma Katsu
- The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”– Michael Scott
Writing fantasy is a powerful exercise of the imagination. World-building, character creation, magic systems, and forces of good and evil are common elements in the fantasy genre that make it an enjoyable read and an adventurous writing experience.
The dark fantasy prompts will hopefully help get your creative juices flowing, whether you want to write a short story or a full-length fantasy novel.
Remember that each writing prompt above is just that – a prompt – you’re free to chop and change the prompts as you wish to suit your story idea better.