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 will be an author capable of performing writing feats of wonder over and over, leaving the reader with a sense of awe and pure wonder.

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