Friday, November 25, 2011


In my novel, I am working on a scene in which an act of magic occurs. I was going to call it a trick, but as soon as I wrote that here, I changed my mind because the word seems to diminish the act or experience or whatever it is. Whatever I call it, as I write and refine and shape this scene, I have been thinking about magic more, and more deeply, than I usually do.
     The thing I've been thinking has to do with the audience and the conflict I/we feel between wanting to know "how it's done"--to get behind the scenes and catch-out the "trick"--versus wanting magic to exist, to be a real thing that occurs in the world, to let go of our rational inquiring minds, to feel wonder, to submit.
I have seen magicians "do" things that seemed truly impossible--that defied laws of time/space/gravity. I have read discussions about the psychology of magic and the limits of human perceptions, including this definition of magic from the astounding Teller: “The theatrical linking of a cause with an effect that has no basis in physical reality, but that — in our hearts — ought to.”
     The human mind is a mysterious thing--as is the human heart. We want to believe yet we don't want to be fooled. In writing a scene in which magic occurs, I don't have to contend with the laws of time/space/gravity in quite the way that a "real" magician does. After all, in the case of writing, it's all just dots on a page. But what could be more magical that that--creating a whole world built of dots on a page?


Anonymous said...

Although I do not believe in magic, I do believe that the writer's ability to transform me from my reading area to another place, time and/or emotion could be construed as magic.

GRAND RIVER AND JOY took me from Arizona back to my old neighborhoods in Detroit, but I attribute my feelings to your talent and, that word again, ability, not to an unknown which could be called "magic.'

Susan Messer said...

Okay, okay. And thanks a billion, zillions. But "ability" sounds so mundane held up side-by side with "magic."

Anonymous said...

Interesting the way two minds' eyes see a word so differently.

To me "magic" conjures a feeling like the lyrics to "Magic Man", Ann Wilson (Heart). "Ability" is concrete.

Let's say your writing spawns a magical ability to create feelings based on fact. Okay?


Susan Messer said...

Ah, okay. thanks for giving this so much thought. So to you magic means lacking in substance? Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. To me, magic is a feeling. "You sigh, the song begins; you speak and I hear violins, it's magic." That's a feeling and while we both may agree about that, the way you feel that magic may be very different than the way I do. Another comparison is the feeling of physical pain. It is a fact that I have a headache. Anyone who has had a headache can connect with that fact, but how much pain we each feel is not comparative because pain is a feeling. Its substance, if one chooses that word, is not based on fact.

A magician is not doing anything you could not do if you knew the trick. The trick is based on facts. The magic exists only because one does not know the facts.

I'm a thinker for sure. It's really me in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The magic is that I look like a creature made by Rodin. Sorry. Couldn't resist that.