Tuesday, May 10

The Phantom Tollbooth & Creating a World

Fantasy stories are speculative fiction, asking the question, 'What it?'  They have elements of magic, fantastical creatures, unnatural events; with events that take place in a different world.  An allegory is a story that has a hidden meaning, usually having something to do with politics, religion, or morality; uses symbolism where most things stand for something else. The Phantom Tollbooth is both fantasy and allegory...

Writing a story is a lot like building a house — even if you have all the right ideas, materials, and tools, your house won't stand without a strong foundation.  When it comes to writing fantasy fiction, world building is that foundation.

It involves more than just the setting though; it can be as complex as a unique setting with exotic creatures, rich political histories, and even new religions, or it can be as simple as tweaking the history of the world we live in today.  

There are two types of fantasy worlds:

  1. Real-World Fantasy - where you set your story in the world we live in, but your plot is either based on a real event (as in Outlander) or is one in which historical events occur differently (as in Man in the High Castle).
  2. Second-World Fantasy - where you create new lands, species, and government. You also invent a world rich in its own history, geography, and purpose.

The key in creating a believable fantasy world is keeping in mind that ‘fantasy’ does not mean ‘anything goes.'  Maintaining consistency throughout your world building and writing is crucial.  Whether you are basing your fantasy world on real history or inventing it entirely out of your own head, every aspect must be consistent with the world you’ve created.

You can create any kind of magical system that you like, but the key here is that it does need to be some kind of system. Whether it is based on numbers, plants, words or something else, whether characters study for years to become proficient in it or are born with the ability, it needs to be consistent. Characters cannot suddenly develop new abilities or go outside that system.

Whatever world you decide upon, be sure to create a world in which readers can lose themselves!  We experience everyday life through our senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Your world will come to life for readers when you let them do the same in your fictional world.

If your character wanders through a market, what spices and herbs might mingle in the air? These kinds of details within a world can help to make it feel more multidimensional and real. A lot of writers fall into the trap of relying on just a few of the senses, like sight and touch. But as you revise your manuscript, look for opportunities to round out these details with the other senses, too. 

Our spine read for this unit is The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

Access the entire unit in the Literary Elements Novel Study Bundle!!

Five unit studies covering literary styles and elements. Each unit addresses a new topic and includes introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.
  • After this text, you will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.

  • Literary Elements with Dragonwatch (product sample)
  • Creating a World with the Phantom Tollbooth
  • Writing Dystopia with the Giver
  • Writing Fantasy with the Hobbit
  • Writing Surrealism with Tuck Everlasting

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