Ever wonder why some movies, TV shows, and books have rabid fans that make them huge hits and others fall flat? While there are lots of different factors that go into making a hit, successful stories connect with audiences’ emotions.

How do you make your stories emotional? Give people an experience they’re craving but can’t experience in real life.

Today, we’re diving into a transformative concept that can elevate your storytelling: ​T. Taylor’s​ theory of Universal Fantasy, from her book Seven Figure Fiction: How to use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Books to Anyone. Taylor is a romance novelist, but universal fantasy works for any genre in movies, TV, and books.

Using universal fantasy can make your stories irresistible, helping you create dedicated fans. It adds zing to your pitches, getting the audience to buy your project.

What is Universal Fantasy?

Universal fantasy is the idea that certain scenarios resonate universally. These fantasies tap into our deepest desires, fears, and dreams, evoking powerful emotions. Of course, everyone does not have each fantasy, but they are common enough to hit a large swathe of readers and viewers.

According to Taylor, universal fantasy is not about escapism or whimsical worlds, but core emotional beats that draw readers into a story. It’s the secret sauce (or as she says butter, because butter makes everything taste better) that makes a story pop.

Key Elements of Universal Fantasy

1. Desire for Belonging: Stories that revolve around the protagonist finding their place in the world, discovering their tribe, or becoming part of a community tap into our innate need for connection.

2. Power and Control: People like stories where characters gain power, overcome adversity, or take control of their destiny. These stories provide a vicarious thrill and a sense of empowerment.

3. Moral Clarity: Tales of good versus evil, where justice prevails and wrongs are righted, resonate deeply. They fulfill our desire for fairness and moral order.

4. Transformation and Growth: Stories featuring characters who undergo significant personal growth appeal to our aspirations for change.

5. Love and Acceptance: At the heart of many favorite stories is the pursuit of love and acceptance. Whether it’s romantic love, familial bonds, or friendships, these themes are universal.

Examples of Universal Fantasy

· Removal from a Boring Life

· The Most Popular/Richest Guy Chooses You

· Love Triangle – More Than One Person Wants You

· Love at First Sight – Instalove

· Comeback Kids & Underdogs

· Makeovers

Tropes vs. Universal Fantasy

Trope is your story’s what it is. Universal fantasy is your trope’s why it’s good.

T. Taylor

What is the difference between a universal fantasy and a trope? They can be the same thing but aren’t always.

· In the romance genre, enemies to lovers is a trope, not a universal fantasy. People don’t fantasize about falling in love with their enemy.

· Cinderella is both a trope and a universal fantasy. Some women fantasize about what it would be like to fall in love with a wealthy man who can whisk them away to a new life.

· Driving fast cool cars is a universal fantasy, not a trope. This universal fantasy has driven (pun intended) the Fast and Furious franchise to 10 movies.

· Wearing beautiful clothes and living in stunning houses is a universal fantasy, not a trope that is an important part of lots of stories. Clothes and houses are central to Sex and the City, Nancy Myers movies, and The Devil Wears Prada, to name a few.

Examples of Universal Fantasy in Popular Culture

· Harry Potter: The desire for belonging, finding a family, and the triumph of good over evil resonate universally.

· The Hunger Games: Power, control, rebellion against injustice, and protecting your family tap into universal fantasies of empowerment and moral clarity.

· Marvel Cinematic Universe: Being the hero, fitting in, finding a family, and justice contribute to the movies’ immense popularity.

Using Universal Fantasy in Your Writing

1. Your Concept: Look at your big idea. What universal fantasies does it tap into? Design your story to take advantage of and emphasize these fantasies. If a fantasy doesn’t easily come to mind, think about which ones fit your story and how to integrate them into your idea.

2. Write Your Cocktail Pitch First: Taylor advises writing your book blurb (​short pitch​) before you start writing. This will help you hone your concept and give you a story map, even if you are a ​pantser​. As you write, refer to your cocktail pitch often. Are your core universal fantasies coming through in your story?

3. Your Scenes: Taylor suggests each scene should include an individual fantasy of its own. Your scene fantasies don’t have to be your story fantasy. For instance, a character getting a makeover taps into the universal fantasies of transformation and cool clothes that may not be the story’s main universal fantasy.


More About Universal Fantasy

​Seven Figure Fiction Website ​

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