by Cheryl Owen-Wilson
In a past blog I shared a poem titled “Portal Home”. Today I’d like to expand on the subject. Portals are similar to the cosmological concept of a wormhole and some portals actually work using wormholes. When writing science fiction or fantasy a magical “portal” can be used to take characters to another time and/or location.
Why use portals?
- It literally gets your character from one place to another.
- It is a kind of decompression chamber, allowing your readers to make the transition from the realistic to the fantastic. It tells the audience that the rules of the story world are about to change in a big way. The passageway says, “Loosen up; don’t apply your normal concept of reality to what you are about to see”. This is essential in a highly symbolic, allegorical form like fantasy or science fiction, whose underlying themes explore the importance of looking at life from new perspectives and finding possibilities in even the most ordinary of things.
This tool in writing has no limits. Places linked to a portal can be:
- A world between worlds (parallel world)
- The past or future (time portal)
- Other planes of existence (heaven or hell)
The beauty of this story device is once your character has gone through the portal you then have license to create multiple portals—portals within portals!
A few examples you will recognize are:
- Rabbit holes (Alice In Wonderland)
- Mirrors (Through The Looking Glass)
- Cyclones (Wizard of Oz)
- A wardrobe (The Lion, The Witch and the Ward)
- A Chimney (Mary Poppins)
- The Door in the Living Room (Coraline)
- A Cairn Tunnel (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children)
- A Wall at the Train Station (Harry Potter)
- Television set (Pleasantville, Poltergeist)
- A Rope Swing Across a River (Bridge To Terabithia)
- A Science Lab (Back To The Future)
- A world between worlds (Stanger Things)
What I enjoy most when using portals in my writing is I’m not only taking my readers/characters on a journey through space and time. I’ve also taken myself “down the rabbit hole”. Worlds are limitless and reality is whatever you choose it to be. In my own writing somewhere deep in the swamps of southern Louisiana there is an Island void of present reality or the constraints of a date on a calendar. Now while traveling to this Island may take you through a portal beware because one there you may encounter many more portals—through mirrors, dolls, juju’s, dreams—the possibilities are endless.
At this time of year most of us watch the infamous “A Christmas Carol”. Which is your favorite movie? Mine is an older version (1951) featuring Alastair Sim as Scrooge.
In “A Christmas Carol” Scrooge is transported from present, to past, to future. In your opinion what was the portal used? What portals have you created in your own stories?
“Cosmic Birth” an original painting by Cheryl Owen-Wilson
In this painting I’ve imagined a cosmic tree of life giving birth to new worlds.