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Anyone know how to write the dark fae trope?

One of my characters felt a little undefined; I hadn't quite nailed her down yet. Then suddenly I realized that she was a dark fae. But I don't really know much about this trope, so I wonder how to go about making it instantly recognizeable?

Here's my notes so far (which may be dead wrong)

In some stories, fae is dark per definition, so there is no need to differate them from the nice ones.

I have a feeling that dark fae borders towards racist tropes in some ways.

Their skin is blue-tinted black, gooth white, soft green, rich dark violet.

They are always slender.

They have fangs and weird eyes. Their facial features looks inhuman and feral.

They are often streetwise and not entirely good guys. Hardboiled detective. Rogue. Assassin. Trickster.

They are good at killing, not only due to skills, but also due to less restrictive morals. But that particular dark fae in the story is typically "one of the good ones".

They are strange, mysterious and alien.

They are dead sexy.

Tribal. Tattoos. Scarification. Dressed in leather. Jewelery made by teeth, wood or clay.

Goth look, or maybe punk. Dirty, messy, like that guy from Pirates of the Carrabian.

The junkie from The Mall (S. L. Grey) come across pretty much as a dark fae.

They are chaotic and impulsive, slave to their instincts. With this angle Tinkerbell seems like an early dark fae prototype, although she is played for laughs --- here's some quotes from Peter and Wendy:

He let poor Tink out of the drawer, and she flew about the nursery screaming with fury.
Wendy was now almost overhead, and they could hear her plaintive cry. But more distinct came the shrill voice of Tinker Bell. The jealous fairy had now cast off all disguise of friendship, and was darting at her victim from every direction, pinching savagely each time she touched.
Tink was not all bad: or, rather, she was all bad just now, but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete change. At present she was full of jealousy of Wendy. What she said in her lovely tinkle Wendy could not of course understand, and I believe some of it was bad words, but it sounded kind, and she flew back and forward, plainly meaning 'Follow me, and all will be well.'
What else could poor Wendy do? She called to Peter and John and Michael, and got only mocking echoes in reply. She did not yet know that Tink hated her with the fierce hatred of a very woman. And so, bewildered, and now staggering in her flight, she followed Tink to her doom.
After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy.​
They also tend to be the Winter Court should the courts be a thing. And if they play off against Summer in their wars they are the cold vicious winter deaths to the Summers heated wars. They are killer shadows and the knives of winter wind. The howling of starving wolves and the slow cold death.

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
For inspiration, any design or book by Brian Froud, including the Dark Chyrstal, Labyrinth, and Legend.


Myth Weaver
Terry Pratchett has some books that may inspire you too. "Lords and Ladies" especially.


I built mine using the Norse legends, and then played with it quite a bit. Dark skin, fine features, fangs, black hair, tattoos, sorcery, and living in a hedonistic, pansexual underground paradise. It's a portal fantasy, and the locals are in a Viking-age-plus-magic level of tech, so it was a great place to start for my purposes.

This pic has been in my aesthetics folder for years:
Why do you care?

I understand that you want a recognisable type for your readers to latch onto early, but why not make up your own types/rules?

Surely it's the characters and their speeches/actions which will interest your readers - not their relativity to a category that only exists in the communal imagination.
I understand that you want a recognisable type for your readers to latch onto early, but why not make up your own types/rules?

Yeah, I think I might end up making my own creature, actually. But I still need to be aware of what the existing categories are. Like how NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD actively avoided using the word zombie, to distance the living dead from those Haitian ones. (okay, later movies decided to call them zombies anyway, because you had to call them zomething)