Posts made in December, 2013

The Writer as Magician

The Writer as Magician

While watching The Incredible Burt Wonderstone the other day, an interesting thought hit me–not just that Jim Carrie looks slimy with long. stringy hair.  While watching Steve Carell’s character get acquainted with his childhood hero, I was struck with how similar the magician is to a writer. When watching a magician perform, I do what I often do when reading.  I don’t focus on the artistry and presentation.  I focus on trying to figure out how the trick is being done.  Invariably, I fail, but I want to know how they tricked me.  Likewise, when reading, I get very caught up in what the author is doing and how he/she is doing it rather than enjoying the process.  However, there are times when the writing absorbs me.  I forget the fight to look behind the curtain and allow myself to get swept up in the artistry.  In the movie, there is a scene where Wonderstone’s mentor discusses how lazy he has become, how sloppy the tricks the younger magician perform have become.  He shows him how to better carry out the tricks.  Inspiration struck in that moment–once the trick is revealed and the magic is dead, it becomes a matter of artistry–a matter of craftsmanship.  How well can the performer carry out the trick?  Now it is less wonder and more admiration. In this way a writer is much like the magician.  Strip away the wonder and awe that a great story invokes, and you’re left with the artistry reached by a focus on craft.  BUT, while most magic tricks are easy to understand–not easy to figure out, but easy to understand once the trick has been demonstrated and explained–for the majority of readers and even writers, there is magic in a well-crafted tale.  And reading the author who can weave a tale of enchantment over and over again is nothing short of amazing–and bewildering.  How did he or she do it? As a writer, the trick is in careful study–reading, studying, breaking the writing into pieces to dissect and digest.  If successful, just as the magician with magic stripped away becomes an artist, so then does the author. So here’s the real trick for all aspiring writers to learn: study the craft, learn those tricks–the turn of phrase, the opening line, the all-important first chapter, authentic dialogue, the conflict and pacing–anything, everything that makes magic happen.  The results...

Read More

So I’m a boy…

So I’m a boy…

If you don’t know, I’m a big fan of Maggie Stiefvater.  The lady has a magical way with words reserved for people who are gifted enough to use them in the right order.  I read a post of hers the other day entitled “So.  I See I’m a Girl. :/” where she discusses growing up reading books/watching movies that lacked female characters who exhibited what might be considered to be male attributes: swagger, toughness, humor–strength.  She says it much better than me, and I don’t want to warp her words or put new ones in her mouth (please just read her post), but the gist is that the attributes she most admired were reserved for men.  And she envied them. Now, let me say.  I love Puck, Katniss, Tris.  Strong, independent female characters who don’t give ground to their male counterparts–who don’t need to.  But–puts hands in pockets and shrugs–I’m a dude.  Growing up in my neighborhood, <enter get off my yard mode> before 2″ x 3″ screens or handheld controllers kept kids off the yard </end mode> all the kids played outside.  Now there were plenty of girls in my neighborhood, and they could sword fight with the best of them, but there were times when, being a dude, I wanted to re-enact a scene from Star Wars–not THAT scene–I wanted to take the girl in my arms and swing her to safety.  (The part of the cables was played by a jumprope attached to a swing set sans the swings.)  The point is I wanted a girl to save.  A part of me needed that.  Didn’t have anything to do with a girl not being capable of doing it herself.  There were some girls I knew were capable of slinging me over a shoulder and jumping to the other side, but I totally get that some ladies dream of kicking butt and slugging it out, and I write characters like that because I like them too, but there are also times when, as a dude, I want to save them.  I think part of we of the other chromosome need...

Read More