Sunday, February 2, 2014

Seeing the Magic, Making the Magic

Say it’s winter, and you’re lucky enough to be on a southern beach instead of imprisoned in a northern cold front. Say you like that beach enough to put it in your novel. The easy, obvious course is describing the easy and obvious. Here goes: hundreds of folks glistening with oil or tanning lotion splay out on beach chairs facing the sun. Behind them, the waves lap rhythmically, soothingly. It’s true. Absolutely.

But who cares?  No one, really. No magic here. Only the easy and obvious.

Tip: To convey something magical, first you must see—not just skim the surface, but really see.

It’s actually harder to see than to craft sentences about what you’ve uncovered. Seeing is far more than half the battle.  Happily, looking deeply and creatively is a skill. Like any skill, it’s something you can learn. All you need is patience, practice, and determination to keep seeking what’s initially invisible.

A writer I know remarked on wanting to find what’s beautiful and special about any location. Even though many admire mountains and ocean more than farmland, finding magic wherever you are makes you a better novelist.

That’s the whole trick: looking past pedestrian clichés and tired, superficial imagery to the mystery and magic. In that world—which is actually everywhere—magic surrounds you, encompasses you, infiltrates you. Replace sunbathers (yawn) and raucous gulls (yawn, yawn) and lapping waves (not yawn but ouch!). How about a sliver of moon accompanying a star or two when your protagonist’s the only one in the hotel pool at 5 a.m. Or a protagonist who, with only blessing for compensation, walks the beach, forking litter from seaweed and broken coral, stowing other people’s refuse in a giant garbage bag.

~ Find the magic of fantasy.

If you’re lucky enough to imagine what elves lovingly whisper during elf trysts, or the spell an elderly       wizard casts when he knows his long life is winding down, then you transcend the ordinary.

~ Find the magic of reality.

Every novelist needs magic, and not all of us can or want to conjure elves, wizards, or unicorns. But magic is everywhere. All you have to do is really look, and you’ll begin to really see. Abracadabra.

There it is. Yours for the taking—yours for the giving. A version of blessed.

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