Us writers are lot lot like magicians:
We both use misdirection. We sometimes have inappropriate facial hair. But mainly, we’re both pulling off a trick.
With nothing up or sleeves, we layer language to create fantastic realities. We draw the public in with promises of childhood, or romance, or suspense (usually a combination of the three).
These cheap thrills come at a price (a sacrificed dove, if you will). The reader falls in love with our character or imaginary world, only to see it vanish as they reach the last pages of the book.
But if you fool an audience into believing, just for a second, that the world is a little different than they expected, then you succeeded.
It’s a hard feat to pull off; magicians have props and contraptions and stooges in the audience. They have levitation and robes that aren’t meant to be worn out on the street. A rare few of them have actual magical abilities. You have a pen and paper.
Even though a reader may be on your side, he or she doesn’t start as a willing accomplice. You have to draw them in with sleight of word techniques and the promise of a page turner.
But fear not; you have an arsenal of tools to help in your magic act. Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, the greatest magician of the 19th century and arguably the greatest who ever lived (Houdini honored him with his stage name), began as a humble watchmaker. But when he entered the world of magic, he used his clockwork prowess to create automata like the world had never seen.
Robert-Houdin made oranges bloom on stage. He fashioned a woodwork chess player who could beat the masters of the day. But his greatest accomplishment was a Pinocchio story. He created, from machine parts, a boy named Antonio Diavolo. Antonio would perform an acrobatic routine completely unassisted, and the audience fell in love with him.
This character was so lifelike, complete with expressions and head nods, that the audience thought him real. They saw Robert-Houdin as a master who could create life from some scraps of wood and gears.
That is your job as a writer; to make your characters so full of life, so three dimensional that they pop out of your book and walk around with the reader. They should be so real that a reader’s heart drops if they fall, or sings if they get a first kiss.
Ian Singleton, master storyteller, is offering a course in just that: character development. Though based in LA, you need not be a resident to take advantage of his course (he’s offering it online as well). So whether you want to breathe life into a chapter or two or make the next great spiderman, this class can help.
Hurry up though, the deadline to sign up is February 22! Apply here.