This 1901 pen and ink illustration represents the wonder books have held for me since childhood—the promise of printed words strung together and pressed between the covers. Words blending with imagination to paint images in my mind and emotions in my heart. The magic of words. Amazing, isn’t it, how mere words printed on a piece of paper can be woven together to make you smile, laugh, cry, or hang on to the edge of your seat? They open doors to worlds and experiences far, far different from your day-to-day life. They can challenge you. Comfort you. Give you courage. Instill hope.
Kinda crazy, isn’t it? Magic.
One of Webster’s definitions of magic is “the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand.” Sleight means dexterity. Skill. So storytelling, if well done, can be magic -- “producing illusions by sleight of words.” That’s the art and craft of wordsmithing.
Take a few minutes and think back to the beloved stories that still linger in your thoughts. What was it that kept you entranced as a kid, a teen, a young adult? What was it about a book that recently made you, as a writer, wistfully say “I wish I’d written that”?
Why do these stories remain vividly in your mind? Was it a setting you could see, hear, smell, taste, touch? The jump-off-the-page atmosphere? Lyrical phrasing? Sparkling dialogue? Subtle humor? Could you relate at a profound level to a character or situation? Did the chemistry between hero and heroine echo through your thoughts days later? Did the suspense grab you by the throat and wouldn’t let go? Was it the page-turning plot? Deep-seated emotion? A life-altering premise?
If you look closely, maybe you’ll perceive a subtle pattern, a common denominator from favorite book to favorite book even though on the surface they may be as different as night is from day. What was the source of the “word magic” in those stories that won’t allow you forget them?
Then think about what you’re writing today. Does it excite you? Capture your imagination? Tug at your heartstrings? Does it daily draw you to your keyboard with anticipation? A sense of deep-down “rightness?” If not, why not? Could it be, perhaps, that your current work in progress is missing one of the integral elements you’ve come to cherish in your years of reading? A basic “something” that you subconsciously search for in every fiction book you pick up? A key element that would enrich not only your time spent on daily creation of the story, but also enrich what the reader will take away from it?
If you still possess those cherished volumes from the past, read again the scenes you recall. How did the author evoke the elements you’ve long remembered? Can you apply that bit of magic to your own WIP? If you’re published, what have readers/reviewers told you what they like most about your stories? Are you playing up those aspects in your next book? If you’re on the unpubbed contest circuit, what specifics have judges praised? Have you followed through with those elements throughout the manuscript, not just confining them to the first chapter that was judged?
If you have a few minutes, please share what bit of “magic” lingers from the books you’ve read – and what you would like to linger in YOUR reader’s heart and mind long after that last page is read and the book is closed!
An ACFW "Genesis" and RWA Faith, Hope & Love "Touched by Love" award winner, GLYNNA KAYE'S first published book DREAMING OF HOME is an October 2009 Steeple Hill Love Inspired release.