Sunday, January 23, 2022

Subgenres: Portal Fantasy

Do you ever have those moments where you’re visiting in a garden and see a stone archway or maybe you’re walking in the woods and come across a peculiarly bent tree and think, “This looks like a portal to another world”? Sometimes I do.

Today, I’m picking back up with blogging with a new mini-series—subgenres! Every month for an undetermined time, I’m going to pick a subgenre and recommend a couple books. I’m going start with one of my favorites, and one of the more familiar ones—portal fantasy.


Portal fantasy: a subgenre of fantasy that features at least two different worlds. The character(s) often start in our world and travel to another world via some magical method, often a portal, which often takes the form of a door.



Many, though not all, portal fantasy stories tend to include some sort of coming-of-age protagonist, so it’s a great subgenre for young adult fiction. Part of the charm of portal fantasy is experiencing the wonder of a place through the perspective of a child.

Take C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia for example. When the Pevensie children first discover Narnia, they may not want to live there for the rest of theirs lives, but they soon come to love the talking animals of the land. In later books though, some of the characters “age out” of Narnia and are told it’s time to live in their own world from then on. While this can be disheartening, it’s a part of the growing up process (or in some cases, the re-growing up process) that the characters endure.


The Journey

Another feature includes one or more characters trying to stay in the other world or trying to get back to ours. In this sense, portal fantasy always features some sort of journey, from one world to another. Though why anybody would want to leave these fantasy worlds, I don’t know. They tend to be pretty awesome. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—if I happen to find myself in a magic realm, please leave me there. I don’t want to come back.

A lot of traveling takes place in Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, from a tiny little town in England called Wall across the realm of Faerie and even into the clouds where ships sail the skies. Not to mention various methods of travel from a magical candle to a unicorn to a ship to just plain walking. It’s a weird book. I like it.

One might even put Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones in this subgenre because it features a character originally from our world who ran away to another, and with a title like Moving Castle, yes there’s lots of traveling. I’m talking about the book, here, not the movie. England pops up once or twice, but it’s not the main setting. The castle also features a portal door, which lets out in various cities. Maybe I’m stretching it.


Magical Items and/or Abilities

Portal fantasy doesn’t just feature magically transporting from one world to another, though. It also tends to feature some sort of magical item or ability or both. Take the Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab. Some of the characters have the innate magical ability to world-hop, and some characters (sometimes the same ones) have magical items like a multi-sided cloak or an evil rock that will corrupt the heart of an entire realm.

The term world-hopping makes me think of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere books, but they don’t feature our world, so it’s not exactly portal fantasy… Oh, well.


Various Quests

One of my favorite things about fantasy is the variety of plots, and portal fantasy is no different. Some stories like Cornelia Funke’s Inkworld series feature a quest to defeat tyranny and go home (or find a new one), and others like Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January feature one character’s hunt for the truth while evading those trying to cover it up and uncovering many Doors along the way. Some stories are about realm or kingdom saving, and others have lower, more personal stakes. I enjoy them both.



I’m seeing a trend in author names. If you abbreviate one or two of your first names, you might be a perfect fit for the portal fantasy genre. L.A. Klein. What do you think, guys? Should I write a portal fantasy?

One might also argue that multi-verse stories could be portal fantasy, but I’m not actually a fan of most multi-verse stories or the multi-verse theory, so I’m going to leave those books alone for now.

Thanks for reading!


Let’s chat! What are some of your favorite portal fantasy novels? Have you read any that I listed? Are there any others that you’d recommend?




Similar posts: 7 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book-to-Movie Adaptations I Enjoy, 8 Popular Fantasy Novels I Enjoy, 7 Reasons I Enjoy Fantasy Novels

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Campfire Writing

There’s an app for that. We’ve all heard that phrase before, and honestly, it’s a little worn out. A couple of months ago, I was in between projects and trying to figure out what I wanted to write next. When I finally settled on a story idea—a fresh one that had zero development—I decided I wanted to try something new with outlining.

And I. Hate. Outlining.

It’s probably my least favorite part of the writing process because it’s like putting together a puzzle but you have to create the pieces and you don’t even know what the picture is supposed to look like. I wanted to try something similar to the notecard method again, where you write out a plot point on a notecard and can rearrange them any which way until you find a story you like.

Now, I try not to use paper, opting instead for all digital. (Maybe that’s why I can’t read e-books? Because staring at a screen feels like work?) My sister who’s also a writer suggested Campfire, so I thought I’d give it a try.

When I first started using the site, I got really excited because you can set it to different themes according to the genre of your story. I picked sci-fi for this particular project, but I also like the look of fantasy. You can also use Campfire to outline other projects, not just stories.



There are more options than what I list below, but I included the ones I used for this particular story.

  • Characters
    • Names. Nicknames. Age. Role. Personality Type. Positive and negative character traits. Description. You name it. There’s lots of options to choose from, and you can pick and choose what you want to fill out. You only get 10 characters in the free version, which is fine because not every story needs to have 100,000 characters, but still. When it comes to named characters, I think my last novel had about 20-something.

  • Locations
    • Like character descriptions but with different attributes. In in the free version, you only get 5. Good thing I wasn’t working on a travel story. Oh, wait… Any extra details I wanted to include if I didn’t have room, I just crammed into the timeline. Mwuahahaha!

  • Maps
    • Not to be confused with locations, though you can link the items together. This particular option allows you to upload a map, which is cool, but I wish they had the option to develop and edit a map. That would be awesome, but I understand why they don’t. To make my own map, I used the Polygon Map Generator by Red Blob Games.

  • Timeline
    • My favorite part of the app, and yes, you can rearrange the events! I only used the description section, but you can link your characters to events. In the free version, you only get 20 events and 2 timelines. I was going to make a secondary timeline but decided to focus on my main timeline and ended up combining a bunch of events. There’s no limit to how much information each item you have access to can hold.

  • Encyclopedia
    • Want to include a list of stuff that doesn’t necessarily fit in anywhere else? Use this option! I particularly enjoyed the statistics table and the description column. In the free version, you can have 5 articles, but I only used 3.

  • Species
    • Lifespan. Sleep cycle. Average height. Average weight. Kingdom. Habitat. Descriptions. I actually used the subtitles here to add made up Latin names. In the free version, you only get up to 5 species. Sure, I only used 3 for this particular story, but I can come up with dozens of others if I was writing a fantasy novel.

  • Other: Manuscript, Research, Relationships, Magic, Cultures, and Items
    • The other options I might consider using for future projects include Magic and Cultures. Normally, I would use them, but I didn’t need them for this project.



  • Aesthetics
    • If you’re like me and you like to collect pretty things, then you might just enjoy this site. Not only does it have genre-based themes, but you can also add your own pictures. It’s almost like having an aesthetic board for your story on Pinterest but not really. The theme option really helps set the mood for creativity.

  • Easily accessed organization
    • Once you figure out how to navigate the site, you can link everything together. Or not. It’s up to you. But it’s really convenient to find exactly the information you want without having to scroll a bunch.

  • Plenty of options
    • Seriously, all the options! I didn’t even use them all, but they helped me a bunch with things like character development, world building, and my timeline.

  • Fun to use.
    • I actually enjoyed outlining for a change. Maybe that’s because the site is shiny and new to me, but I just might enjoy using it again in the future.



  • Limited use with the free version
    • I maxed out my characters and timeline events. I might have accidentally broken the timeline and ended up with 21/20 events. Don’t know how that happened, but I’m sticking with it.

  • Limited availability
    • I know the site claims it works on mobile devices, but my sister and I couldn’t figure out how to access it on both Android and Apple. So if I want to outline my story or develop my characters, I have to use my computer, and I have to have internet. It’s not difficult, but it’s not always convenient.

  • Slow processing
    • I’m not the fastest typist, but I can get up to 90 words per minutes when I’m on a role, and Campfire doesn’t always process typing that fast. Maybe it’s my computer? Also, the autocorrect suggestions are not as helpful as Microsoft Word.

  • Characters are geared towards humans
    • This one’s a little easier to work with considering you don’t have to include all the character development options. For example, I usually skip over character description, option for the bare minimum such as height.

  • Timeline dates are limited to Earth eras, and you can’t get rid of the date option
    • If you’re like me and you’re writing a sci-fi story that takes place in a new mythical era, or you’re writing fantasy and yours don’t even use Earthen months, this bit can be frustrating.


Overall Review of Campfire Write

Overall, I give the site 7/10 stars. To me, the pros outweigh the cons. For the first time in a long while, I actually enjoyed outlining and was ready to start my rough draft within two weeks. Which is great considering it usually takes me two to three months. Thank you, Campfire! I will likely be using the site more in the future.


Let’s chat! Have you tried Campfire before? Do you use any sites for your writing process? Which ones?




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Sunday, January 2, 2022

2022 Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year! *eyes 2022 warily* I don’t really put my hope in the New Year, but it is fun to evaluate my reading progress and make new goals. My aim this year is to be more realistic, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

Goal: 1 Book 700+ pages

Perhaps I can finally find time for The Priory of the Orange Tree, which has been on my list for… *checks calendar* …three years now?


Goal: 2 Writing Books

I’m a writer so this is a must, right?

I can’t remember the last time I read a book on writing. I’m a bit of a skeptic. I don’t really believe in writing rules because what works well for one person may not work well for another. Team prologue over here! My favorite dialogue tag is “said.” And when I write what I know, I know about dragons, okay?

Plenty of writing books can be helpful though. And it’s dangerous to assume you already know everything. That’s when we stop learning.


On my list:

  • The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donal Maass
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott


Goal: 3 Books Published in 2022

I’m a little behind on recent releases. What’s a recent release? What year is it? Granted, sometimes these books are a little harder to get your hands on when you rely on the library, but hey! I try.


On my list:

  • The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
  • The Lost Metal (Mistborn saga, book 7) by Brandon Sanderson


Goal: 3 Rereads

I did this last year, but it wasn’t exactly purposeful. Besides, I’d like to get back into some of my favorites that I considered worth buying. I don’t remember all of their plots anymore!


On my list:

  • Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
  • The Final Empire (Mistborn saga, book 1) by Brandon Sanderson


Goal: 5 Books I Own

Not rereads. There, I said it. Now I can’t cheat! Right?


On my list:

  • Inferno by Dante
  •  Journey to the Heart of the Abyss by London Shah
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne


Goal: 5 Books by 5 Different Non-American Authors

I’m going to go a step further and say I’m not going to count Manga. It’s really cool, but I read 35+ graphic novels last year, so that’s not challenging enough. That’s not to say I won’t read Manga, but rather that I won’t count it toward this particular goal.


On my list:

  • The Beast Warrior by Nahoko Uehashi


Goal: 1 Short Story Collection

I’m a little pickier when it comes to these. Usually, I’ll only finish it if features a story or several by an author I’ve read before. But they can be a lot of fun!


On my list:

  • Timely: A Phoenix Fiction Writers Anthology


Total books: 20


Is it doable? Yes. Realistic? *shrugs* Happy reading, everyone!




Let’s chat! What kind of books are on your list this year? Have you read or are planning to read any of these? Are there any books I didn’t list that I should consider reading?


Similar posts: 2021 Books in Review, 2021 Reading Resolutions, and Recommended Reading: Disability Representation