Thursday, November 4, 2010

Magic

Nearly everyone who has undertaken the writing of a protracted piece of any length or genre knows the finished product is at some remove from the original vision of the work.  It is a cynical argument to insist that those who have undertaken the writing and don't know the final version will be different are either rashly naive or perhaps academics.

It is also cynical to think that the process can be made any different for those who believe in the magical of formula or, for that matter the formula of magic.

Magic does happen in life and in writing but not from any of the advertised sources; magic comes from the ordinary, the fussed-over detail, the uncertainty whether there will be enough in the pot to feed so many guests, enough scenes in the story to satisfy any kind of reader who, if he or she is any whit of good in the first place, approaches things with a modicum of cynicism.

Magic comes when the performer becomes aware of the need for some element to complete an earlier vision or, indeed, illusion; it does not come from outside sources, from little people running around with benign smiles and recondite spells; magic comes from the creator's anguish that some extra something would make the illusion more satisfying.  Magic comes when the performer has run out of finite properties and must bring in something previously unconsidered, perhaps even something not at first thought worthy.  Magic comes when the performer infuses the landscape with a combination of need, necessity, and the unspoken desire to provide a memorable experience to someone the performer considers special.

Magic comes to a story when the writer has used up all the artifice and formula, intuits there is a missing beat, a lacking nuance, a curtain that has hung unnoticed, a risk not yet considered.  This is a perfectly luxurious story, the writer seems to be saying, all done up as nicely as possible, but which is still missing the touch that will make it a story that reverberates rather than one that is reprinted in some anthology of paradigm short stories.

Magic is a coffee stain on an otherwise clean shirt, an unnoticed crumb at the corner of a perfect mouth, one lock of unruly hair, standing forth in cowlick glory, a pair of socks that do not match, an unnoticed zit at the end of a nose.  Magic is the quality humans supply when they are anxious to offer perfection instead of the true humanity of their gift, which is a smile instead of a package, a story instead of a perfectly cut diamond, a bunch of flowers instead of a Faberge egg, a novel instead of a necklace.

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