Children amaze me. Not just their eternal sense of wonder, but their keen insight into worlds we adults no longer see.
Bug is planning her first series. She’s twelve-years-old. That’s right, not even a teenager and she’s begun to plan out something many adults struggle with daily.
She said to me tonight, “All writers are magicians. We all just have different magic tricks.”
The conversation came about as most do — the two of us planning out mom and Bug activities. She began by suggesting brainstorming session where we help each other through ‘stuck’ parts of our plots. (Yeah, I love this kid.)
I told her, “If you make the world real for your characters, then it will be real for your readers. ”
“Like magic,” she said. “I love writing because we can build entire worlds and make people think they’re real. Like my Warrior Cat books. I believe in Warrior Cat clans because the writers did such a good job with the details. They explained everything like it was real. So it is.”
Out of the mouth of munchkins.
We often forget the power we have as writers. Think about it, we create universes. And done well, people can live in them for a brief time. Done exceptionally well, people find hope and wisdom in the lives of fictional characters and worlds.
But we didn’t come by this knowledge through chance. These are hopes and dreams we carry with us. Wisdom we’ve learned by beating our heads against enough walls until we finally broke through to some sort of truth. Our personal truth.
We only hedge to write what we’ve learned because of fear. Fear of judgement, fear we can’t say it like we’ve learned it, fear someone will stand up and say, “You’re full of crap.”
Kids don’t have this fear because it’s a learned behavior. They don’t yet recognize the voices saying it can’t really happen, something like that can’t possibly exist. Nope, they still wait by the windowsill, looking for Peter Pan to whisk them away. They still believe in a tribe of cats, healing the sick with ancient natural recipes.
They still believe.
Somewhere along the line we adults stop believing in magic. Not all, but most. We got caught up in bills and responsibilities and reality. Yuckers. The magic inside us, the one still seeing fairies dance on toadstools, dissipates or disappears, leaving us neck-deep in what must be real. Because fairy tales are childish things, not fit for grown-ups like us.
This is the death sentence of grown-up reality.
We as writers must step back into childhood, into the magic of other worlds we create in our heads. Though responsibilities linger, we must remember stories are crafted for play, crafted by the magic within us. It’s the only way to make them real for our readers. If we can’t believe that these universes exist, how can we then possibly expect our readers to live in them?
We can’t. More accurately, we don’t have the right to ask anyone to buy into worlds we ourselves don’t completely and totally play in. Otherwise, we run the risk of being hypocrites. Really, think about it, asking someone to accept something we don’t. Just doesn’t sit right, does it?
Pen and paper, keyboard and screen, we are magicians. If only for moment, we conjure through words — our slight of hand the plot twists and stories secrets of characters and worlds. We must be able to step away from our inner perfectionist and all the industry jargon that chokes away the play in our writing.
We must believe fairy tales are real. It’s the only way to absolutely convince our readers that our pens are wands and our universes are playgrounds for their minds.