“The Ghost Prince” by Amaal Fawzi (Lebanon)
Issue 4.1 April 2022
Read the piece here.
Pre-Reading Quick Write
The genres of fantasy and science fiction allow writers to utilize the otherworldly for the sake of making deeply human truths accessible by way of a new reality. In other words, by transporting readers out of the world as they know it, authors are able to create a sort of distance in the reader that can, simultaneously, facilitate realizations about our current world or society that we may not be as open to facing in a strictly realistic fiction or nonfiction work.
Above all, science fiction and fantasy writing allow us to ask, “What if?” What if a magic spell could spread peace around the world? What if humans started a new society on the moon? What if computers cured disease, or dinosaurs held secret knowledge that could be, somehow, rediscovered and utilized for good? What if a world existed without segregation or discrimination? What from our earthly world would you want to change, or to stay the same, in a newly imagined reality?
For five minutes, make a list of as many “What if?” questions you can think of, tied in some way to the fantastical. The sky’s the limit! (Or maybe just the starting point?).
Consider the differences between setting and worldbuilding in fiction writing. How might you define and differentiate both of these terms? What are their similarities and differences? Where in Fawzi’s piece can you identify elements of both?
How might you describe the voice of Fawzi’s narrator? What about Fawzi’s writing lends this type of voice, in particular? What do you notice about Fawzi’s use of dialogue? How does dialogue add to or influence the voice of the piece? Are they similar? Different?
Discuss conflict. Make a list of the different types of conflict you identify in this piece (e.g. person versus self) and point to specific moments in the text when those conflicts are introduced, entertained/fleshed out, and resolved. What would you say is the central conflict at the heart of the piece, and what makes you say that?
In what ways does the fantasy genre inform the impact of Fawzi’s message as a writer? How might this story read differently if it were set in a more realistic fiction piece? What about the intersections between genre and plot inspires you to think differently, or with fresh perspective, about our human world as we know it? What universal truths are underscored or amplified through this piece?
Fantasy or science fiction: Return to your list of “What if?” questions generated through freewriting. Select one that you would especially like to explore and develop through a fantasy or science fiction scene or story (depending on the length of the assignment). Next, consider worldbuilding: What rules or laws, norms or expectations, belief systems or governmental structures operate in the world of your story? What about our human world do you wish to maintain or eschew? How can you balance explanation or exposition with scenes to both immerse readers in the story and ensure their understanding?
In addition, dream up the central conflict(s) that lie at the heart of your “What if?” question. What tensions or possibilities or takeaways lie at the core of your story and its underlying inquiry? What do you hope readers will glean from your story? What might they carry with them?