Monday, November 10, 2008

Magic Objects

In which you must not laugh at my quickly-penned writing example.

Today's No, Seriously. Just Try It* was inspired by leaf catching and by this hilarious video envisioning the sales pitch for the Harry Potter series.**

I love the "magic batteries" part.

Yesterday I took Tink out leaf-catching. We came back in and Captain Destructo saw her clutching the leaf she'd caught.

"My hab it?" he asked, using his favorite three words.

"No, you can't have it," she told him. "You can have one of those."

"It's just a leaf," someone said.

I thought, It's not just a leaf. She caught it.

It's a MAGIC leaf. And it's the story that makes it magic. Even if you don't write fantasy where talismans and seeing stones come in every bag, you can make magic objects in your writing. And they will use their magic to show (not tell) whatever you want them to.

Answer me this: What object does your main character always have with her? It can be anything: a seashell, an old box of raisins, a pair of shoes. I've used a paper bag full of candy, an old backpack, and a spray bottle of bleach.

Describe the magic object. What does it look like? How does it feel? Where does she carry it? How does it affect the way she walks? How has her carrying it changed it? Make us able to smell it, to feel it in our hands.

12 year-old Mira always carries a deflated balloon in her pocket. It's rubbery and sticky. It used to be bright red, but it's faded to pink. There are bits of hair and paper and lint stuck to it, but it still smells faintly of cherry lip gloss from the day she gave it a victory kiss.

Okay, tell me the story: why is it magic? Here's the catch: your story can't be "she got it from her (insert name of special person here)." Too easy and overdone. Make the story your character's own.

Mira won the balloon tossing a ping pong ball into a cup at the Welcome to Summer Fair at her church. Her dad bought her cotton candy, a stuffed cow, and three chances with the ping pong balls. An hour later, she'd eaten the cotton candy, lost the cow, and fallen off the Donkey Ride and broken her arm in three places. Two hours later her dad had explained why he was being so nice, and then kissed her goodbye. By three weeks later, all she had was the deflated balloon, stuck in her pocket everyday as a reminder what happens when you think things are going great.

Lastly, now that you've introduced us to your magic object, when can you bring it back? When in the story can your magic object appear, right when the character needs it, or realizes she no longer needs it? How can it change your story?

"Okay!" Mira agreed. She'd try it. She knew it wouldn't work, but it might be fun, and if David wanted to take her, she ought to give him a chance. She grabbed her shoes and her backpack.

"Do you have your bus pass?" David asked.

Mira reached into her back pocket for the bus pass. It wasn't there. Instead, she pulled out the balloon, faded and torn and glaring at her.

"What's that?" David asked.

"It's nothing," Mira said, stuffing the balloon back in her pocket. She handed him the key. "Look, this is stupid. It's never going to work. You go ahead. I have homework to do anyway."***

What is your character's magic object? How did it get to be magic, and how does it change your story? No, seriously. Just try it. And report back.

* No, Seriously. Just Try It is an ongoing (until I get bored of it) Monday feature with ideas for making your writing shinier. There's an explanation of how it started here.
** WARNING: a naughty word appears in this video.
***It's a quick idea to make a point people; stop gagging.


C.R. Evers said...

LOL! That was a funny video! I'll have to see if I can incorperate this somehow into my NaNo project.



The Bill Cochran said...

Love the video. And the magic object idea, too.
Oh, if I ever start writing a story instead of advertising again. I'm very non-NaNo...

Michele Thornton said...

I love the magic object idea, and it comes at the perfect time, when I'm fleshing out some new characters for a new story!

My current WIP is actually a fantasy and my MC wears a very important amulet at all times. It changes appearance late in the story, is lost at one point and regained. I'm looking forward to trying this kind of device in a non-fantasy work!

Liza Martz - Cogitations and Codswallop said...

Well, bless my soul! This idea is so inspirational I may just haul out my oft-rejected ms and breathe new life into it with a magic thing.

Jacqui said...

Christy, Michele, and Liza, I'm glad it inspired you. What are your objects? I'm curious.

The Bill, get writing. Kids need your books.

sruble said...

I like your example, except she shouldn't have lost the cow!

This might be an interesting idea for Sheila ... what would a zombie carry with her? And why? I think I know why, just not what.

Thanks for the exercise!

Jacqui said...

sruble, a reminder of when she was human, right? She's always got her pom-poms in your picture, but I wonder about something else. Hmm. I want to know what you decide on.