Monday, April 5, 2010

0 The Magical Recipe of Story

I'm a sucker for anything to do with literary magic, so the title of James Killick's latest blog post, "Where's the Magic?" got my finger clicking. And I read the post with increasing awe--especially since I've just finished Albert Zuckerman's Writing the Blockbuster Novel.  According to Killick, with a tip of the hat to BubbleCow (who I LOVE), the recipe to a blockbuster boils down to story, love, and milieu.  Zuckerman's list is a little different, but not as much as you might think. It includes:
  • High stakes
  • Larger than life characters
  • A high-suspense dramatic question
  • A hot concept
  • Multiple points of view
  • Setting
Killick used literary works to illustrate his point: The Da Vinci Code, Twilight and the Harry Potter series. He is right in pointing out that none of these are exceptionally well-written, but they transport you someplace outside yourself, keep you turning the pages, hold you in a spell so magical that you forget to examine the words you are reading. They draw you into a world that keeps a grip on your heart long after you put the book away and start to feel surprised and, perhaps, even a little embarassed about how much you loved it.

Thinking about Killick's list as well as Zuckerman's, I had a revelation about my own recent reading list, which includes: War for the Oaks, Darklight, Heist Society, Fallen, and Shiver. It turns out, I'm a sucker for complicated love, high stakes, and suspenseful story. But what really gets me is the setting. For me, it really is about the magic, whether or not that is truly magical. War for the Oaks, while it certainly has the element of faerie to lift it from out of the ordinary, is magical because of the way Emma Bull uses the music and the urban setting. I am probably the least musical person on the planet, but I felt her riffs and inspiration. In Heist Society, the world of theives and society is so vivid and sophisticated I couldn't help but be drawn in. Not only did I feel transported as I read, I know I will carry little pieces of those worlds with me like jewels within my heart.

Killick's post was a great kick to help me put a little extra thought into the setting for my new novel. Turns out, I need that touch of magic.

Magical writing!


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