Case Study #2: “A World Without Toys”

“A World Without Toys”

By T. M. Wright

From “The Year’s Best Fantasy” Short Story Collection

Some basic notes:

  • story opener: “When the County Department of Public Works tore up part of St. Paul Street so workers could lay new pipe, they found a small green clapboard house 20 feet below street level. Only the front of the house and its rusted tin roof were visible from the street; there was a chimney, half of it gone, and small sections of the roof’s cap were missing, exposing portions of the framing beneath.”
  • Protagonist: no main character identified…several characters appeared: Alex, Blanche, some workers
  • Setting: these people are visiting the clapboard house and discover a bunch of toys within it; disturbing, mysterious
  • story begins to follow Blanche—and then alternates between Alex and Blanche—and then Alex—third person omniscient voice
  • direct, linear story lines with brief mentioning of the past


  • Gradually closes in to the characters; distance
  • abstractions; ideas; symbols
  • stream of consciousness?

The whole story is an idea…an abstraction. It was a really fascinating read. I think the author has done an excellent job weaving emotions into the story without directly mentioning it—something I need to learn from. I tend to metaphorize every single emotion I can think of—and most of the times they end up to be meaningless images. My stories lack that realness and that “distance”—too much internal descriptions. I need to use external descriptions to bring out the internal state/state of mind. 

Anyway. The story is basically talking about the lost child within us…the house full of toys buried underground represent the lost child-like qualities and imaginations we’ve left behind. They are not lost forever, and we just need to find it.

The story also describes the “adult world” or the world we grow into as incessantly mundane and repetitive. Aimless, dreamless, colourless and heavy with responsibly after responsibility. The protagonist Blanche becomes aware of that loss upon seeing the house. The attic in the house is where the lost child is—and that’s where she decides to go. In reality, this action, however, is seen as “foolish”—who would go underground in the midst of a horrible rain that can possibly cause the earth to collapse on top of you? It’s dangerous. It’s illogical. It’s…not accepted. But Blanche went there, and so did Alex, who has begun to “care for her”. A bond that forms after Blanche begins to question her own life, and begins to open herself to her past and welcoming back that lost child.

The realistic events are essentially a journey inside the mind. The vision. The discovery. The fright. The doubt. The determination. I love stories like this.

So what can I take from this story?

First and foremost…I definitely need to maintain that distance and not get too close to my characters. Or the story becomes too meaningless and self-centred. The readers can piece everything together with sufficient details. I don’t have to write everything. I CAN’T write everything. I’ll ruin the story…because a story is…only perfect and complete in its incompleteness.

Getting all poetic, eh? Hahaha.

Anyway. So that’s one important point. Maintain distance. Don’t let the character’s voice take over the story completely and override the details of the story. Or it’ll be too much.

Secondly…the abstract structure and the allegorical nature of the story can be utilized somehow…I am not sure. I don’t know how I am going to incorporate that into my story since I don’t want it to be too dense…and I really want to write a decent short story this time.

When I have time, I want to mimic this story’s structure and write one of my own as practice.


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