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!

Fictional Worlds - a Book on the Synergy of Myth, Literature, Film, and Interactive Narrative

Please note that the electronic editions are available in most countries via amazon and iTunes. The print edition is available in North America and Europe.

For the readers from other countries and regions, we recommend the digital editions in the Kindle and iBook formats. Please check out the new illustrated, expanded and interactive edition on iTunes. More interactive volumes are in the works.

The link below will take you to the amazon page of the print volume. This page shows Table of Contents for the 1st print edition of Fictional Worlds (Author: Lily Alexander, October 2013), with a complete list of chapters, sections and case studies. This 428-page volume has all four parts under one cover. If you wish to download the Table of Contents in PDF, please click here.

For the digital editions we split the original book into four parts. A set of four digital books is published on Kindle (2014), and is forthcoming on iTunes (Part One is already released). The new expanded, illustrated, and multi-touch iBook set will have new sections and more than 25% additional materials in each volume. 



Fictional Worlds I. The Symbolic Journey & The Genre System

1. Roots of Symbolic Storytelling


Creative Imagination and the Symbolic Construction of Community     1

Family as a Symbolic Community and the Language of Culture     3

Storytelling – Community – Experience     5

"Are You Talking to Me?" – Stories as Signal Systems and Behavioral Codes     7

Birth of Mass Society, Propaganda, and Visual Culture     17

Antagonists to the Symbolic Community     19

The Symbolic Family in Propaganda Films     20

          Case Studies: The Birth of a Nation (1915), Battleship Potemkin (1925),

          Triumph of the Will (1935)     20

Brady Bunch and The Wild Bunch     22

Culture’s Symbolic Protagonist: Odysseus/Ulysses     25

The Myth of the Returning Father: Odysseus Must Come Home     25

The Importance of Odysseus for Storytelling     27

          Case Studies. The Odyssey on Screen: L’Odissea (1968),

          Homer’s Odyssey (1997), Ulysses (1954)     30


       2. The Family Tree of Genres


Anthropological Theory of Genres     37

Action Movies     37

Romantic Drama and Comedy     38

Science Fiction: Utopia and Dystopia     39

Historical Drama     42

Film as Ritual and Ceremony     44

Fairytale and Melodrama     46

Spectrum of Genres: Court Drama, Mystery, Coming of Age, and Comedy     50

Genres-as-Rituals: the Table and Conclusions     53

          Case Study: Roman Holiday (1953)     55

Screwball Comedy: A Comic-Erotic Duel     57

          Case Study: Seven Samurai (1954)     60


3. Sons of Prometheus and the Paradigm of Death-Rebirth


The Hero’s Journey Begins: From Breach to Abyss     65

Code of Transformation: Symbolic Death-Rebirth     65

The Masterplot: Ten Phases of the Hero's Journey     69

Phase One: Beginning and Breach     69

Topography of the Journey. The Homeworld and the Wonderworld     69

Phases Two: Departure     73

Phase Three: "You Are Not in Kansas Anymore!" Crossing into the Wonderworld     74 

Phase Four: Secret Society – Games, Tests and Riddles     79

Phase Five: Taboo and Violation     87

           Case Studies: Cast Away (2000) and The Polar Express (2004)     91


4. From Abyss to Reward: The Hero’s Journey Completed


Phase Six: Punishment – Devouring Dragon and Symbolic Dismemberment     96

From Symbolic Death to Symbolic Rebirth     100

Phase Seven: Dreams and Alternative States of Consciousness     101

Phase Eight: Sacred Knowledge – The Journey Goal. Great Teachers’ Gift     104

Phases Nine and Ten: Reward and Return – Incorporation and Bliss     110

The Structure of Masterplot as a Logical Sequence     112

What If the Journey Fails?     114

ET Go Home: Failed Journeys as Politics     116

"Dos and Don'ts": Creative Solutions for the Formulaic Plot     118

Politics and Gender Demographics of the Hero’s Journey     121

Mothers and Daughters as Road Warriors     122

Ordeals of the Fathers: The Second Hero’s Journey and The Art of Film     123

         Case Study: The Green Mile (1999)     125

Pathos: Narrator’s Helping Hand and Rising Voice     128


Fictional Worlds II. Dramatic Characters & Dramatic Action

5. Character Dynamics: The Social Worlds of Drama


Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before? Character Patterns and Systems     130

Astonishment and The Grey Wolf Effect     133

Drama: Conflict within Community     136

          Case Study: 12 Angry Men (1957)     137

Protagonist, Cast of Characters, and Chorus     141

Types of Protagonist and Antagonist     146

The Protagonist’s Communal Goal and Story Purpose     148

Penelopes: Women and Water. The Islands of Isolation     153

          Case Studies. The Piano (1993), The Widow of Saint Pierre (2000), Deeply (2000), The Weight of Water (2000), The Day I Became a Woman (2000), Whale Rider (2003), Water (2005), Bliss (2007), Ponyo (2008)     153

What Went Wrong? The Tragic Flaw and the Hero’s Missteps     160 


6. Action: The Art of Dramatic Storytelling


Drama as Change: Plot Reversal and Reversal of Fortune     165

Consequences: The Ripple Effect and the Butterfly Effect     170

Secrets of the Arc: The Phases and Elements of Dramatic Action     171

Rising Action: Conflict Development and Accumulation of Tension     173

The Crown of Drama – The Midpoint Shift: Crossroad and Choice     180

The Gods at the Crossroads     181

Falling Action: Catastrophe – “Something Bad Is Going to Happen”     183

Dramatic Resolution: Recognition-Catharsis-Denouement     186

Relief and Transformation: Vital Dramatic Experience     189

Resistance to Catharsis     192

Untying all the Knots     194

What is Climax? Midpoint/Resolution as Cause/Effect     197

Drama as Ritual     197

          Case Study: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)     198


Fictional Worlds III. Tragedy & Mystery

7. High Tragedy from Scapegoats to Screen Culture  


Ritual Roots of Tragedy and Its Cultural Functions     203

Birth of Tragedy: the Tragic Hero is One of Us     204     

Tragedy as Optimization of Community     205

The Nasty Girl: Revolt of Oedipus’ Daughter     206

The Dignity of Tragedy     208

The Ways of Love: Bonding in Tragedy     209

Lame Tyrants and Fallen Heroes     210

Tragedy of Fate and Tragedy of Choice     211

Family Curse or Role Confusion?     212

Generations, Time, and God’s Eye View in Drama     216

Hamlet and Hecuba: What is Hecuba to Us?     218

          Case Study: The Trojan Women (1971)     221

A Grieving Mother or a Mad Dog?     223

          Case Study: Troy (2004)     224

Symbolic Fathers and Sons on the Paths of Revenge and War     230

          Case Studies: Ivan’s Childhood (1962), The Son (2002), Dry Season (2006)     230

          Ballad of a Soldier (1959), The Thief (1997)     232   


8. Tales of Intolerance as Modern Tragedy


Stories of Ostracism on Screen     235

The Mechanisms of Bias     238

Unity-Building by Exclusion: Stories about the Social Dynamics of Ostracism     240

The Nuremberg Principles on Screen     241

Diaries of Isolation: the Daughters’ Memories     242

          Case Study: The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)     243

Many Faces of Joan of Arc     245

          Case Study: Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery     248

          Case Study: Checkpoints on the Roads (1971)     250

          Case Study: The Reader (2008)     253

Symbolism of the Devouring Mother     256


9. Murder Mystery and Suspense: Narrative Maze from Ritual Riddle to Pop Culture


Mystery as Tragedy     258

Murder Mystery and a Knowledge Process     260

Famous Detectives     262

Crime Investigation as Recognition     263

Magic Objects: Secret Signs and Silent Witnesses     264

Crime Drama, Purity and Danger     265

          Case Study: Gosford Park (2001)     266

Thrill, Fear and Horror: Mystery as Symbolic Death     268

Subgenres: Whodunit, Thriller and Film Noir     270

          Case Study: Road to Perdition (2002)     272


10. Film Noir – A New Genre? The Bladerunner, the Woman, the Night, and the City


Ritual Code of Mystery     274

Pathos and Suspense     275

Ulysses as an International Man of Mystery     278

          Case Studies: Pepe le Moko (1937), Port of Shadows (1938), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Contempt (1963), The Stranger (1967), The Passenger (1975), Nostalgia (1983), Paris, Texas (1984), Voyager (1991), The Return (2003), The Good Shepherd (2006)    278

The Bladerunner: Private Detective as a Cultural Hero     287

The Femme Fatale, the Night, and the City     291

          Case Study: The Departed (2006)     295


Fictional Worlds IV. Comedy & the Extraordinary

11. Fools on Top in Reversible Worlds: The Paradox of the Topsy-Turvy


Upside-Down Worlds and the Genre of Comedy     300

Comic Reversals and Their Cultural Functions     303

Laughing through Tears, at Ourselves, with the Coen Brothers     309

          Case Studies: Fargo (1996), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), Burn after Reading (2008), The Big Lebowski (1998)     309

Sacred Bond between Tragedy and Farce: Symbolic Inversions in King Lear     312


12. The Stories of Extraordinary Ordinary People   


The Naked Man, the Little Man, the Mass-Man, and the Everyman     316

Everyman and Mass Society     317

“Laugh at Me!” – The Poor Old Fools     218

The Munchausen Effect     220

The Right to Pursue Happiness     222

The Little Man: Compassion or Pity?     224

The Underdog Wins and the Guy/Girl Next Door     326

Stories of Unforgiving Fate and the Reverse Pathos Technique     326

          Case Study: Leo (2002)     325

          Case Study: The Big Kahuna (1999)     330

          Case Study: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)     332

Odysseus-Ulysses-Bloom: Everyman as Mythic Hero     334

Everyman’s Cunning Intelligence: Escaping Like/As Ulysses     336

Borges: Joyce is Ulysses – The Author as Hero     337

Can Everyman Survive by Escaping from History into Myth?     339

          Case Studies: Russian Ark (2002), Bloom (2003)     339

Checkpoints on the Roads in the Garden of Forking Paths     345

Techniques of Elevating the Ordinary to the Extraordinary     346


Conclusion. The Future of Storytelling: Homer and Hamlet on the Holodeck    


The Key Points of the Book: Summary     349

Symbolic Community as a Self-Organizing System via Storytelling     351

Twenty Effective Narrative Strategies and Story Types     353

Symbolic Family as a Modeling System     356

Poetics of Tomorrow     359

Symbolic Crossroads: Infinite Possibilities and Moral Choice     363

Symbolic Community as Media-ted Experimentation     363


Glossary     365

Bibliography     370

Indexed Filmography and General Index     377


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