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Monday, January 27, 2014

Books are Magic



I can’t remember when I started reading. It seems like I've been reading all my life. Books transport me into places I’d never visited or ever will visit. Through the magic of books I can visit Rivendell, Hogwarts, Camp Half-Blood. I can go back in time to Regency England or travel on a starship to alien planets.

Until I read a recent blog post by Jeannie Ruesch on Writer Unboxed, I’d forgotten that not only reading but writing is magic, too. In her post, Ms. Ruesch quotes from Stephen King’s On Writing: “Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art.”

That quote sparked this post. Writing is magic. Characters pop into our heads, some fully formed, others only give us sneak peeks until we write their story. Sometimes they hint at a major road block to any type of relationship. Others are blatant about it. Digging into their pasts, making them open up can be quite a challenge. Non-writers may question this. You’re the writer. You made up those characters. Why don’t you know what they’re thinking? As many writers have discovered, characters don’t always behave the way we expect them to. They take on a life of their own and force us to listen to them. Secondary characters demand their own story. Villains insist they have good reasons for what they do. We grouse about that when it doesn't fit into our plans because we forget it’s magic.

While writing, we can enjoy a sunny Caribbean beach while it’s twenty below outside or a mountain retreat when everyone around us suffers through ninety degrees with ninety-nine percent humidity. The best time of year and location for our stories seem to flow from the story itself. While we are writing, we shut out the here-and-now and are transported to that place and time. That’s magic.

The spark that leads to a story can hit us in the middle of the night, while driving, or doing laundry. A first scene. An opening sentence. They seem to come out of nowhere. We have no idea why. In the middle of writing the current book, especially when we’re stalled, a strange character will pop up, saying I’m more fun, write my story. I used to call that my Muse talking to me. Now I think it’s magic.

Writing is a job. Like most jobs, we start out all bright-eyed, full of enthusiasm. After a while, the job can become onerous. The crunch of deadlines. Hours spent in promotion when we’d rather be writing. Great ideas fizzle out. Stress from outside sources undermines our creativity. Throw in other roadblocks and we forget what we knew in the beginning. Writing really is magic.


I’m too much a wuss to read Stephen King’s fiction, but On Writing is fabulous, a must-have for any writer, and an interesting read for non-writers. In her post, Ms. Ruesch recites other lessons she should have learned from that book. Like her, I’d forgotten them. I’m especially glad she reminded me about the magic.

Now if I could remember which unopened box that book is in, I would reread it.

16 comments:

  1. It really is magic, isn't it? And sometimes I'll go back and read something I've written and wonder, "Where did that come from?" Great post, Diane.

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    1. Thanks, Patty. I've felt the same way.

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  2. I need to get a copy of this book. I've always heard such wonderful things about it. Thanks for this post - it's a great reminder to be grateful that we were given the ability to do something as amazing as write!

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    1. Thanks, Kristen. That's exactly why that post hit me.

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  3. Magic indeed. There's no other word for it. Thanks for the, as Kristen said, Great Reminder.

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  4. It is magic, the joy and ideas and transportation are all things I've experienced as a writer. But I wish my characters were as magical as those of other writers. Mine don't really speak to me, and I don't get to know them until I'm well into the plot. But that's from being more plot driven than character driven, which kind of sucks, because a great story should be both.

    I enjoyed the post, and it's a good idea to remember the magic because that keeps us coming back and excited about our stories. AND, On Writing is a fantastic book...definitely a must read.

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    1. Thanks, Alicia. Like you, I don't really get to know my characters until I'm well into the story. Like peeling an onion, they reveal themselves slowly.

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  5. I'm starting 2014 replenishing the creative well a bit and making time to read. Sometimes when I'm really focused on deadlines, I neglect to do this. Discovering story magic in other authors' works can often be that needed spark that sends me back to the keyboard to rework a scene I'm struggling with.
    Like Alicia, I sometimes focus too much on the plot. When I'm promoting a story and the need is there to fill out character interview or create a tens list, I often discover new aspects of the character that I wish I'd known at the beginning. Hopefully, this year I'll be smart and do the interview at the beginning. Stephen King's book sounds like one I should get.

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  6. Thanks for the comment, Linda. Replenishing the well is so essential, yet we tend to forget that. Making time to read is exactly right because we'll never "find" time.

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  7. Thank you for reminding me what excitement it is to be a writer. :) I haven't read the book but heard many good things. :)

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    1. On Writing is one "writer's" book that was enjoyable to read. Not textbook-y, at all.

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  8. I've always loved to read, but I appreciate the hard work it takes to create a good book so much more than I ever did before I tried writing them. When everything comes together it's magical for the writer and the reader. It's a high.

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    1. Well said, Kim. Thanks for stopping by.

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