Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do You Believe in Magic?

When you listen to the Lovin' Spoonful croon their hit, "Do You Believe in Magic?", you just have to smile. And when Zally does the re-launch 'cause he messed up? There's a little hiccup of pixie potion dusting the audience. They really do believe in magic.

But when it comes to writing, I don't believe in magic. I believe in hard work, diligence, inspiration, and a good dollop of luck. Not random luck, but that type of luck that favors the prepared. But what about those completely unexplainable moments when lightning strikes and showers of creativity-sparks pelt your fine, writerly skin?

When Uppington posted yesterday about flying monkeys, I had to laugh. And then nod, sheepishly. I recognize the symptom. There are times when our characters make choices within the plot that we authors don't initiate.

This is not voodoo or mysticism or silliness: it's simply the consequence of well-developed characters and an inner editor firmly attached to the balloon of inspiration. We all know that if a character introduced an idea completely at odds with our plot, we'd nix it in a heartbeat. My Eliahna, firmly entrenched in high fantasy countryside, will not be driving a porshe into her stable anytime soon. Regardless of the emblem.

Of course, if I were better acquainted with psychology, I might talk about transferring or projecting. But since I'm not, I won't.

What of your characters? Do they make choices on their own, do things they shouldn't, sneak off into trouble? Or are they all lined up, standing at attention, ready to do your beck and call?


  1. What an interesting question! What I think is that good writing is the marriage of inspiration and hard work. Without the discipline and hard work involved, the inspiration doesn't get far. Without the magic of inspired ideas, the hard work ends up being drudgery.

  2. My characters hijack the story all the time . . . and I let them. Internal editor or magic, I really don't care.

    I also had a very minor character make such an impression on me, that she became a main character in one of the many revision phases of the project.

    So, magic, internal editor, or whatever, if it works, I just go with the flow!


  3. I have discovered that, often times, my characters have better ideas than I do! I let them have their way...in the first draft. It's when I take a sober second look that the work of writing it well begins.


  4. Yeah, I wouldn't have her drive a Porsche either, I'd go for the Ferrari :-)

    Seriously, I agree. There is no magic in writing. It's hard work and preparation, and when an inspiration hits you, it's because your conscious mind is willing to understand the possibilities that you accept it. Otherwise you might just think
    "OK, that's weird..."

  5. I find my characters taking over, doing things I never would have thought of (or imagined on occasion!), it happens all the time and I'm quite happy to let them run rampant, it is after all their story. It never falls outside of what fits within the story anyways, which is the main thing.

  6. I've had characters do things that I did not see coming. One character died heroically that way. It's one of my favorite parts, and it does get me emotional.

    I remember shortly after that character died that I had a sad feeling, that was mixed with admiration, and I thought, "I'm going to miss that guy."


Join the conversation, add insight, or disagree with us! We welcome your thoughts.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.