Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Presto--The Writer As Magician

I've seen people struggle when sitting in audience as a magician performs works of wonder. They feel perhaps that something is being put over on them, that they are the butt of a joke. Others feel that magic is for children, and that illusion is below them. Me? I sit in awe and delight.

Writing is like that, isn't it? A good read asks the reader to suspend disbelief. We then watch things unfold and coincidences or behaviors which would never fly in real life are accepted as a necessary device to let the characters develop and the plot unfold. And the more we are drawn in and the more we care about the characters, the more defined our suspension of disbelief.

The best writing is like the best magic trick. It begins simply and is inviting. Misdirection serves to keep the eye away from the craft behind the scenes. The reader absorbs symbolism, subtext, and metaphor almost at the subliminal level. Perhaps some writers demand more of a reader. Perhaps their plots twist, their characters are more complex and contradictory, and the prose requires patience and reader involvement.

In the end the goal is the same--- to touch the reader. To have the reader revel in the reveal.


Charles Gramlich said...

The other day a person in my critique group told me they tried to critique the story but kept getting caught up in it. I love when that happens, and I think that's the magic of storytelling.

Anonymous said...

When I'm critiquing for my writers' group and I forget to critique half of the story, I know it's good. Love it when that happens.

Joe Ponepinto said...

With my various literary commitments I spend more time critiquing fiction than reading for pleasure, which means I often sacrifice the feeling of getting lost in the story for an investigation of craft. Thanks for reminding me what it's really all about.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Charles, the thing about magic which is frightening, is that too often it is about mis-direction.
Christine, I'm sure you are talking about my writing.

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