Fictional Worlds

Create Your Own World!

“Create Your Own World!” is a motto of visionary artists. We all enjoy escaping into, and journeying within, fictional realms. Some aspire to create their own unique artistic worlds. 

Intended for all readers who love literature and film, and especially for writers, educators, narratologists, media scholars and practitioners, screenwriters, filmmakers, and videogame designers, the new set of books about narrative world-building points at new ways of navigating, exploring, and creating entrancing fictional universes.

Available in print and as a four-part Kindle set, Fictional Worlds was also released on iTunes as an interactive, illustrated and expanded transmedia edition. The Fictional Worlds books are part of a new series Storytelling on Screen. 

Enter and browse Fictional Worlds  the book set and its website! We invite all visitors to leave comments and ask questions. Let discussions begin!

DEAR EDUCATORS!  

IF YOU TEACH LITERATURE, FILM, MEDIA, GENRES, ADAPTATION, CREATIVE WRITING, AND SCREENWRITING

CONSIDER FICTIONAL WORLDS AS A TEXTBOOK

View or Download a Printable Brochure with More Information

Click here to download Table of Contents (PDF)

Please find below information on the types of courses this textbook is suitable for, its method, style, educational levels, formats, and specific features.

The expanded 4-part transmedia edition, Fictional Worlds I-IV,  is a work in progress: Part One is already available on iTunes. The transmedia version may function as "a course in a box": when projected onscreen in a classroom, it provides instructors with all they may need for a semester-long study. You can work through most of its 38 sections by covering 2-3 per week. You may supplement lectures with the screenings and clips suggested and linked here.

Learn more on the ABOUT, REVIEWS, FOR WRITERS and COMMENTS pages of this site. See BIO for the author's teaching background. Send questions, comments, and inquiries about the examination and desk copies to: contact@storytellingonscreen.com

Courses and Programs

For literature-related courses: Introduction to Narrative, Comparative Literature, Story Structure, Narrative Genres, Poetics, Creative Writing, Drama, Tragedy, Mystery, Comedy, Myth and Literature, Storytelling and Gender, General Humanities

For media-related courses: World Cinemas, Media Genres, Screenwriting, Writing for the Media, Film Narratology, Film Directors, Adaptation, Media and Society, Interactive Storytelling, Fictional World-Building

Style (from reviews)

"Its very style – breezy, lucid, transparent – evokes that of a well–designed series of class lectures... Fictional Worlds constitutes an impressive treatise on narrative genres and heroic figures in film."  — Gerald Prince, author of Narratology, in Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, Issue 210, May 2016

Compelling... A page turner.  Wonderfully accessible!  One of the most impressive recent books, [it]... also succeeds in providing helpful practical suggestions for developing and improving your own visual narratives." — Andrew Horton, author of Screenwriting for the Global Market, in Film & History, Issue 46.1, Summer 2016

"Richly detailed, generous-spirited and inspiring book... filled with many intriguing ideas... Profoundly useful." — Ellen Berry, author of Transcultural Experiments; Founding Editor of the journal Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, in The Russian Review, Issue 75, April 2016

Structure

Fictional Worlds is organized as four books/parts, each divided into 2-3 chapters (12 total), with subdivisions (thematic sections), accompanied by case studies. The key terms, ideas, and conclusions are highlighted in bold face (students' favorite feature). A comprehensive Index, Glossary, as well as Bibliography and Filmography are included. While it is best to read and teach FW logically, from beginning to end, it is designed to be effective in any order, with the selected parts to be explored autonomously.  A specific feature of FW is its "expandable content": chapters and even sections contain condensed information and can "unfold" into resources for many separate courses. The Four Parts of Fictional Worlds are:

The Symbolic Journey & The Genre System

Dramatic Characters & Dramatic Action

Tragedy & Mystery

Comedy & The Extraordinary

Part One (also available as an interactive transmedia edition) introduces the key concepts and theories of narrative and media communication, introducing a socio-anthropological theory of genres as a cultural system. Part One examines the Symbolic Journey stories, essential part of the ritual-mythological apparatus of culture, and a basis for many genres, including epic, action-adventure, coming of age, fantasy, Sci-Fi and a road movie. Proposing The Masterplot, the author adds essential new theories and ideas from anthropology to Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey paradigm. FW explores the complex, sometimes controversial, socio-historical roles of the Symbolic Fathers and Sons, framed differently by distinctive political eras. The book's meta-protagonist and its guide, Odysseus-Ulysses, is introduced in Part One, to accompany readers through all parts and chapters of Fictional Worlds. Case studies include political cinema and propaganda, The Odyssey onscreen, Roman Holiday, Seven Samurai, Cast Away, The Polar Express, and The Green Mile.

Part Two introduces drama as a cultural phenomenon, its social role, politics, poetics, and the ways of achieving a powerful dramatic and cathartic composition. Part Two focuses on the patterns and paradigms of drama, as well as the functions and possibilities behind different character types, including the protagonists and antagonists, with their excessive pride and tragic missteps (hubris and hamartia). The author proposes the idea of the Crossroads as a key to understanding the phenomenon of drama, and the Rule of the Three C's -- revealing the golden rules of the dramatic arc (vital to interactive storytelling and games as well). Case studies include a spectrum of the Journey-stories of the "Penelopes" -- The Symbolic Daughters and Mothers, as well as 12 Angry Men and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Part Three investigates the cultural functions, poetics and key themes of the genres, which focus on the hard to comprehend and resolve conflicts, violence and intolerance: from the classical tragedy to contemporary "difficult cinema" and dystopia, and from mystery to thriller, crime drama and the film noir. Discussions include Tragedy of Fate vs. Tragedy of Choice, the God's Eye View and the "consequential" serial drama, the stories of sacrifice and revenge, pathos vs. suspense, as well as the rise of the femme fatale and the global noir. This part further investigates what is the proposed in Part One as The Second Hero's Journey and why the Private Investigator becomes a new cultural hero. Case studies include a comparative analysis of The Trojan Women vs. Troy; a spectrum of screen narratives about men and boys on the path of revenge and war; the Joan of Ark story and an array of its politically-charged screen versions; as well as The Lottery, The Reader, Gosford Park, Checkpoints on the Roads, Road to Perdition, and The Departed.

Part Four provides a comic relief and explores the infinite possibilities of various forms of comedy and their cultural functions, offering two dozen formulas of symbolic inversions which ensure astonishment, laughter and success with the audiences. Tragic farce is investigated in the contexts of the classical tragedy, existentialism, and the "theater of the absurd", accompanied by the discussion of these elements in Shakespeare and the Coen Brothers. Part Four offers the exploration of the "expressiveness of realism" and the extraordinarily effective stories about the Everyman and Everywoman, who show the determination to overcome all obstacles and beat all the odds. This part also follows the figure of Odysseus-Ulysses, in the new "clothing" of the modern and the postmodern protagonist. While on the Journey, often arrogant and unaware of the Butterfly Effect, he is now viewed through the disapproving or laughing eyes of prominent 20th and 21st-century writers and directors. The discussion focuses on the philosophical and political aspects of "history vs. myth." Case studies include an array of screen references to The Odyssey and the symbolic journey in modernity and postmodern culture, which convey a spectrum of opinions on the humanity, from pessimistic to optimistic.

The "Conclusion" in Part Four, "Poetics of Tomorrow," offers the distilled "Twenty Most Effective Story Formulas" of the transcultural narrative tradition -- something a smart writer may put to good use. The Conclusion proposes key discussion points for further exploration of many paradigms and possibilities on the Symbolic Crossroads, in the interactive narratives, and in video games.

For more on the meaning of the symbolic roads and crossroads in storytelling, see the article on the Chronotope available online (not part of the FW text).

Methods

While covering mandatory subjects and concepts required by related fields of knowledge, FW offers a spectrum of intriguing interdisciplinary angles, which add stimulating effect. The book's methodology is thoroughly addressed in the interviews with Professor Henry Jenkins (University of Southern California). FW combines theoretical and creative approaches toward storytelling: comprehensive, it clearly explains key issues of the discipline; practical, it offers numerous useful tips and inspiring techniques for the writers. Questions and comments are most welcome from the educators who are considering this textbook. Please inquire about methodology, writing or creative assignments, essay and discussion topics, as well as the screenings and tests. 

Levels

As a textbook, Fictional Worlds is engaging, accessible, yet intellectually challenging, which makes it suitable for the levels ranging from the 2nd year of undergraduate programs to graduate courses, depending on the instructor's approach. Fictional Worlds has been extensively classroom-tested on all levels, and used as a textbook in eight courses at the City University of New York and New York University. Students demonstrate excellent understanding of the course material.  For the responses/feedback from the undergraduate students, who took courses based on Fictional Worlds as a textbook, see COMMENTS page on this site.

Contents

View the detailed Table of Contents here. Or download a PDF.

Formats

Three formats are available. The print volume contains all four parts. Digital editions come as a four-book set.

* print edition (amazon.com sites, North America and Europe)

* digital Kindle edition, a 4-ebook set (worldwide), and

* 4-iBook set, a transmedia, visually-enhanced, interactive edition for the Apple platform: Mac computers and iPads (worldwide). The iBooks Two, Three and Four are coming soon to the iTunes store.

Creativity

While FW examines the sources and forces of creativity in the storytelling practice, for courses in creative writing and screenwriting, please also see the page FOR WRITERS of this site.

Video Resources

Clips for the screening in class or home assignment, related to the chapters and case studies, may be accessed via the page VIDEOLINKS on this site. Video resources will be continuously added.

Feedback

See comments from the students, teachers, and scholars on the pages ABOUT, REVIEWS, and COMMENTS on this site.

Why IS Fictional Worlds an effective tool for educators?

 

A volume Fictional Worlds: Traditions in Narrative and the Age of Visual Culture or the four-part digital sets offer the following:

•    12 chapters and Conclusion match the time frame of an academic semester (print edition)

•    may be employed for a spectrum of courses, by using selected chapters, sections and case studies -- as noted by book reviewers, FW has enough materials to support specific course foci, such as Mystery and Crime Fiction; Gender, i.e. Symbolic Mothers and Daughters; or Films about Joan of Arc)

•    relying on the Aristotelian concepts of Astonishment and Recognition, vital to creativity and learning, FW has many exciting themes and subjects up its sleeve to surprise its readers

•    features engaging case studies based on outstanding books and films of world culture, both familiar and new to most students

•    the films featured as case studies are widely available and can be effective for class screenings and in-class analysis

•    the transmedia edition may serve as a visual lecture series; for example, Part One, with its 38 sections, supports a semester-long study

•    while a serious scholarly and educational text, FW does not shy away from humor and what the students call "fun", highlighting that learning doesn't have to be boring

•    the iBook digital editions are searchable and have digital glossaries, as well as interactive visual galleries with 100+ images and content-related captions

•    accessible language; clearly explains core theories and key concepts essential to the studies of narrative, cinema/media and culture

•    introduces well-known and new or poorly studied conceptions and theories, vital to the humanities

•    the pull-quotes and keywords, highlighted in bold face, help to focus on significant issues;  also serving as a resource for test and exam questions, or essay topics

•    interdisciplinary deliberations are logical and grounded in such fundamental and "relatable" issues as human bonds, compassion, family and community

•    the humanistic pathos of this book is underscored by the meticulous analyses of narrative traditions and trends

•    highlights both similarities and differences in the global narrative and media traditions

•    encourages and provokes discussion in the classroom

•    providing comprehensive glossary, index, filmography and bibliography, FW can also serve as a reference book for student individual research and writing projects.

Many students commented that they chose to keep this book because they found it to be useful long-term, potentially supporting a spectrum of courses and a variety of projects.

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