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WE 137 Writing Fantasies

Teacher Tips and Answers


Page 137

Writing Fantasies

Have you ever noticed that a book is bigger on the inside than on the outside? Opening the cover is like opening a magic wardrobe that leads to another world—or like stepping into the TARDIS and flying to another place and time.

When you write a fantasy story, you can become a Time Lord!

Imagine a mountain made of chocolate. Imagine a world where you can speak things into being. Converse with animals and aliens. Discover who lives just beneath the waves and who paints the leaves every fall.

Fantasy stories let your imagination fly—and let others ride along!

What’s Ahead

Selecting and Collecting
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Sample Fantasy

This fantasy tells of a heroic quest from an underground civilization into a forest maze to confront a dragon. With elves, kings, and mythical creatures, this story includes many common fantasy elements.

Into The Maze
Saul and Theo Weiss

The setting, characters, and problem are introduced.
Just beneath the earth, in a world called Underville, there lived a community of elves called the Lombards. Their king, Brawnwin, seemed about to succumb to a rare disease when the most powerful of the king’s subjects, Prius the Mage, called a meeting. At the meeting, Prius declared that six Lombards were needed to volunteer to go into the forest maze to retrieve one dragon’s tooth from the Mighty Maze Dragon, Skull.

Dialogue is used to explain the problem.
“Why us and not you?” cried the Lombards. “You are a mage—a man of great learning and power!”

“And, why a tooth?” a man called out.

“My fellow Lombards,” Prius said kindly, “had I trained a successor to my status as mage, I would have surely done the deed, but you cannot afford to lose me just yet. And the tooth I spoke of? I will tell you. A dragon’s tooth is the last ingredient I need to make the potion that will heal our king, Brawnwin.”

Action moves the plot forward. Six volunteers immediately stood up. The first to speak was Faith. “My friends and I are willing to retrieve a tooth from the Mighty Maze Dragon, Skull, but we will need some supplies.”

The village elders gathered food, ropes, swords, and armor because, they agreed, the volunteers couldn’t know what they would come upon nor how long the venture would take.

And so, the brave volunteers went forth into the forest maze in search of Skull. They weren’t there long when they heard a mighty roar. Faith jumped back, as did the other five. Right before their eyes stood Skull. But, surprisingly, Skull had tears in his eyes.

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“Mighty dragon,” Faith asked, “why are you crying?”

“I am crying,” Skull said, “because you are the first living creatures I have seen in all my years in the maze. You are brave to come, if truth be told, to face the mage who has trapped me thus.”

“Trapped you?” echoed the volunteers in unison. “What mage?”

“I am speaking of the one and only Mage of Antibion. All those living in your kingdom think a mage is a person of learning. That’s true enough. But some mages learn and use what is mean and hateful. Such is the Mage of Antibion.”

The characters discuss a plan to deal with their problem. Faith spoke: “I have a grand solution, one that will help us both. You are in need of help to escape the maze, and we are in need of just one tooth—one tooth of yours.”

With that, Skull began to gnaw on a nearby stone, with the hope of dislodging one mighty tooth. Slowly he worked at it, and while he did, the six brave volunteers began weaving a tree out of the rope the elders had gathered. Creatively, they spun a camouflage for Skull, and together they all headed back to Underville.

For a while everything seemed perfect. The spell worked. King Brawnwin survived. The Lombards rejoiced. Skull requested and received a name-change and was thereafter called Tearless Dragon of Underville—Tearless for short. Faith and her trusty volunteers brought Tearless into the fold, into the community of the Lombards.

A twist in the plot leads toward a climax. But just when all seemed quiet, when Tearless was safe and free of worry, the Mage of Antibion returned under the cover of dusk. Coming in from the east and heading toward the setting sun, he stealthily flew through the undersky and called to the Lombards below: “I want my dragon back. I need him back!”

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The Lombards looked up in sheer amazement, knowing what a mage could do. And, likewise, Prius, himself a mage, understood as well. Apprentice or not, Prius, was the one who had to act. And swiftly.

“I will take care of this,” said Prius to the Lombards, as he flew to intercept the Mage of Antibion.

The climax features action, strategy, and dialogue. They were evenly matched, both outfitted with powerful wands, which they used like swords to ward off attacks and counter spells. The Mage of Antibion took the first initiative and cast a spell that would turn Prius into a cat. But mage that he was, Prius read the Mage of Antibion’s mind and turned him into a mouse. The battle was now between Prius the Cat and Antibion the Mouse.

The battle might have ended right there, but just as Prius was about to capture Antibion, Antibion spoke: “Prius, before you eat me alive, you need to know that I have not always been mean and hateful. I am the victim of an enchantment put upon me thousands of years ago. The only way I could stay alive was to capture and keep a dragon within my reach. But if you will undo that enchantment, I will be free once again to be a kind and loving mage, one worthy of my title.”

The problem is resolved. Everyone is happy.
With that, Prius spoke in his usual kind manner: “Mage of Antibion, you have explained your situation, and in fairness, I must release you.”

Both mages then turned themselves back into their original forms, and together they flew from the undersky back to Underville.

Once again, there was peace in the land. For the rest of time, Brawnwin ruled Underville with his usual compassion and fairness—always bolstered by his two loving subjects, Prius and the Mage of Antibion.

And, what about Tearless, you ask? Fear not. Tearless, Dragon of Underville, stands guard.

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What Is a Fantasy?

A fantasy is a story in which something impossible is accepted as real. Our sample story features dragons, elves, wands, and a whole underground civilization. (See additional fantasy models.)

Keep It Real 🟪 You might ask, “If it’s impossible, how can I make my readers believe it?” Usually, readers are willing to pretend with the writer, as long as the characters’ actions make sense within the story.

In our sample, the elves have a quest to undertake. Although their journey into the forest maze and their encounter with a dragon is entirely made up, it sounds believable. The elves’ actions make sense because they are needed to solve the story’s problem.

Talking Fish
© Thoughtful Learning 2024

Gather Ideas 🟪 Ideas for fantasies can come from anywhere at any time. Most authors keep a notebook handy and write down ideas as they find them—a funny name, an unusual object, or a silly thought. Any one of these ideas can grow into a story in your imagination.

Ask “What If?” 🟪 Many fantasy stories explore “what if” questions. What if animals could talk? What if a rhinoceros wanted to become a tightrope walker? The author must then think about how this could work. What would happen first, second, and so on? How would other characters react? And before long a fantasy is born.

Writing Ideas

Once you have an idea, it’s time to start writing. The next two pages show how to develop your fantasy idea step-by-step through the writing process.

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Writing a Fantasy

Prewriting Planning Your Story

Invent Characters 🟪 Fantasy characters can be real people, talking animals, fire-belching dragons, or creatures you invent yourself. (Think of a main character and maybe one or two others.)

Express Yourself 🟪 What are your characters’ names? What do they look like? What do they like to do? What adventures have they had? Write about them and find out.

Create a Problem to Solve 🟪 Your main character may be searching for treasure, looking for the way back home, or trying to find the ingredients for a potion. The way your main character solves the big problem is the plot, the main part of your story.

Find a Setting 🟪 Fantasy can take place anywhere, anytime—in your neighborhood or in a magical place. (Give sights, sounds, and smells so that your readers can experience the setting in their minds.) (See fantasy writing topics.)

Writing Developing the First Draft

Get Started 🟪 Begin your story by introducing the main character or describing the setting. Or begin in the middle of the action—two characters arguing, a violent storm, a narrow escape. However you start, the beginning must lead to the story’s main problem.

Keep It Going 🟪 As you continue, try to make the main character’s life more and more difficult because of the problem. Include lots of dialogue and add complications. (See page 144.) This will keep your readers interested.

Stop When You Get to the End 🟪 When the problem is solved, you’ve reached the end of your story. Wrap things up as cleverly and quickly as you can. Sometimes writers go on and on and write too much.

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Revising Improving Your Writing

Let It Sit 🟪 After you’ve written your story, let it sit for a while. Then, when you read it again, try pretending someone else wrote it, and see what you think.

Make It Believable 🟪 Remember that your story should be imaginary and believable. Ask, “Do my characters act in a way that fits the story? Do the actions make sense in the setting?”

Share Your First Draft 🟪 Listen carefully to the questions your friends ask after reading or listening to your story. One reader may be confused by something you have said. Another may think that part of your story is too unbelievable. Use their questions and comments to make your story better.

End Strong 🟪 If you don’t like the ending, try removing the last sentence or paragraph. See if your story seems complete without it.

Editing and Proofreading Polishing Your Writing

After making the big changes, take a close look at the specific words and sentences in your story. Have you picked the best words to describe the setting, characters, and action? Are your sentences complete and clear? Have you checked for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling? (See page 66.)

Proofread 🟪 Compose a neat final copy of your fantasy. Then check it for errors before sharing it. (Use the editing and proofreading checklist to be sure you’ve thought of everything.)

Express Yourself

Writing and reading fantasies can be enjoyable. Here are some favorite authors of fantasy for young people: Joanna Cole, Roald Dahl, Kenneth Graham, Margaret Mahy, Cynthia Rylant, and C. S. Lewis.

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Writing Dialogue

Dialogue is one of a story writer’s most important tools. A well-written conversation between characters can draw readers directly into the action.

Without Dialogue

The Lombards wondered why the mage didn’t go get the dragon and why he needed a tooth. Prius said he needed the tooth for a spell to save the king, and that he was the only one who could cast the spell, so they couldn’t do without him.

With Dialogue

“Why us and not you?” cried the Lombards. “You are a mage—a man of great learning and power!”

“And why a tooth?” a man called out.

“My fellow Lombards,” Prius said kindly, “had I trained a successor to my status as mage, I would have surely done the deed, but you cannot afford to lose me just yet. And the tooth I spoke of? I will tell you. A dragon’s tooth is the last ingredient I need to make the potion that will heal our king, Brawnwin.”

Punctuating Dialogue

Notice how the dialogue in the story “Into the Maze” is punctuated. The following rules make it clear who’s talking, so readers don’t get confused.

  • The speaker’s words are in quotation marks.
  • The speaker’s words are often identified by terms like said and asked.
  • Each new speaker begins a new paragraph.
  • Commas and periods after quoted material go inside the quotation marks.

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Vocabulary List:
  • fantasy: a story in which the impossible becomes possible, including elements such as strange creatures, imaginary lands, magical abilities, and epic quests

Vocabulary List:
  • quest: a long journey with a specific purpose, leading the main characters to confront their own fears and overcome them; sometimes called the "hero's journey"

Vocabulary List:
  • plot: a series of events in which the main character confronts the big problem in the story

  • setting: the time and place in which a story happens

Vocabulary List:
  • dialogue: the words that characters speak to each other in a story

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