Here's a guide to writing cozy fantasy, including some examples of the subgenre and some ideas to get you started.
What Is Cozy Fantasy?
Cozy fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy literature that prioritises low stakes, charm, and a sense of comfort. These stories typically feature small, close-knit communities, magical elements, and a focus on characters and their relationships rather than epic battles or world-saving quests. The genre often incorporates elements of mystery, romance, or humour.
What Are Some Cozy Fantasy Novels?
Popular examples of the cozy fantasy subgenre include:
- Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree
- Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
- Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono
- The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa
- Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
- The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Key Characteristics of Cozy Fantasy
In cozy fantasy, the stakes are usually low. This is important! The conflicts and challenges faced by characters are not world-altering or life-threatening. Instead, the focus is on more personal, relatable problems like running a bookshop or founding a jousting club.
Cozy fantasy tends to explore lighter themes such as friendship, community, and the everyday life of characters in a fantasy world. Unlike darker fantasy subgenres, the tone is gentle, and the atmosphere is designed to be cozy and pleasant.
The protagonists in cozy fantasy often grapple with relatable problems, such as building a new life, pursuing dreams, or working a relatively normal job (with fantasy elements, of course). These problems are not necessarily world-ending but resonate with readers seeking a more grounded and relatable narrative.
Character development is usually a central focus in this subgenre, so these books tend to feature characters with whom readers can easily connect. The characters are often quirky, charming, and relatable, contributing to the overall cozy atmosphere.
The settings in cozy fantasy are often charming and quaint. Small villages, magical forests, cottages, and whimsical shops are common settings that add to the comforting feel of the stories.
Cozy fantasy often explores the theme of found family, where characters form close-knit bonds and support each other. This sense of community and camaraderie is a key element of the genre.
Magic in cozy fantasy is often integrated into everyday life. It may include magical teapots, spells for everyday chores, or potions for cosmetic purposes.
What Are Some Cozy Fantasy Settings?
Quirky and magical shops are a staple in cozy fantasy. These shops may sell enchanted items, magical ingredients, or artefacts – or even just completely non-magical items. The shopkeepers are often eccentric side-characters, sometimes acting as mentor figures.
Bakeries, Tea Shops, and Cafés
Bakeries, tea shops and cafés, especially those that serve magical customers, are popular settings in cozy fantasy. The shop's regulars can provide a cute cast of supporting characters.
Small Towns and Villages
These settings feature a close-knit community where everyone knows each other. The quaintness of small-town life contributes to the overall warmth and coziness of the narrative.
Taverns and Inns
Taverns and inns often serve as central gathering places for characters in cozy fantasy. The innkeeper may be a central character. The cozy firelight and the ambient sounds can add to a familiar and comfortable atmosphere.
Libraries and Bookshops
Magical libraries and bookshops are common settings, with the librarian or bookshop owner typically a knowledgeable and quirky character, often the protagonist.
Cozy Fantasy Character Ideas
Often, the main character is an outsider who brings a unique perspective to the cozy world. This character might be new to the magical community, a visitor from another realm, or someone who doesn't quite fit into the traditional mould.
The Eccentric One
Cozy fantasy thrives on characters with unusual habits, hobbies, or personalities. These quirks add charm and humour to the story, and can lead to some endearing moments.
A Really Bad Magician
In cozy fantasy, protagonists or side characters are often amateurs in the magical arts. They might have recently discovered their magical abilities, or they’re just not especially gifted. Either way, it’s a good excuse for hijinx.
A Cute Pet
Whether it's a sassy talking cat, a mischievous little demon, or a wise owl, animal companions are often a cute addition to this subgenre.
This subgenre often has characters who may appear to be evil due to their fantasy race (e.g. trolls, orcs, etc.) or profession (e.g. necromancer) but are actually pretty sweet or awkward.
Cozy Fantasy Playlist