- a lot of action
- a little world building, but not much. Often exotic.
- dramatic tale of one hero with personal stakes. Can even be dark.
- axe-swinging heroes, blood spilling and heads decapitated
- the heroes fight monster with spells and swords
- heroes are rogues, barbarians, outcasts
- the heroes are rebels but with a good cause in mind (think Robin Hood transported in a fantasy world)
- action oriented
- fast-paced- the bad guys are killed at the end of the story
- the good guys win
- sexy non-innocent women who need rescue and reward the heroes with their charms
- elements of magic and supernatural
- the magic comes in the form of obstacles and monster to fight against
- the hero may use magic but it is unpredictable
- 60,000 and 75,000 words
"I feel more certain than ever that this field should be called the sword-and-sorcery story. This accurately describes the points of culture-level and supernatural element and also immediately distinguishes it from the cloak-and-sword (historical adventure) story—and (quite incidentally) from the cloak-and-dagger (international espionage) story too!"
-- (Fritz Leiber, Amra, July 1961)
"The term heroic fantasy . . . refers to a sub-genre of fantastic literature which chronicles the tales of heroes and their conquests in imaginary lands. Heroic fantasy emphasizes the conflict between good and evil, and often casts a reluctant protagonist (human or hobbit) in the role of champion. Though he may not always be saintly, the hero’s strength, wit, and resourcefulness help him triumph over evil forces. The background for that struggle is almost always an exotic one [ . . .] the settings are sometimes as important as their mythopoetic narratives. Often confused with sword and sorcery, weird fantasy, science fiction or historical romance, heroic fantasy is as old as the first stories told (and written down) about heroes and their legendary deeds."
-- (John Flynn, qtd. In Josep Parache, Howardiana #1 (Robert-E-Howard: Electronic Amateur Press Association, 2001) 4.)
Conan The Barbarian Series & Kull Series by Robert E. Howard.
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Kameron M. Franklin. "Writing sword-and-sorcery fiction." May 2008. <http://www.pensandswords.com/2008/05/23/writing-sword-and-sorcery-fiction/>
Joseph A. McCulloug. "The demarcation of sword and sorcery." Black Gate.