Magical Thinking – Part II by Janine M. Donoho

Nina Sophia’s 1st Snowfall – A New World

Don’t you simply love building your own worlds? Whether visual, oral or written, we yearn to create a place we can return to habitually. During the writing process, we must go into this world each and every day. Thus it must be a reality that causes a relentless itch while also satisfying us. As writers, we hope that readers feel the same. While this process comes across as somewhat magical in itself, my premise is that for our worlds to engage an audience, they need certain features. Foremost, you need to disengage your readers’ critics. That means seamlessly arranging an entire world of physical systems, societal taboos and mores, along with rules throughout the entire landscape.

In biology, an ability to see systems comes in handy. Skill in diagnosing a habitat for likely damage, and even failure, can mean the difference between actual life and death. Thus, you need your starting point. Chris Vogler likes to call this the ordinary world. My foundation in MISTBORN TRILOGY begins with a bucolic world without magic. Then, when the curtain between worlds rips open, wild magic invades like a viral attack. Ah, the call to adventure. Rather than revisit what others like Joseph Campbell and Vogler have done so well, let me focus on one aspect, which for me proves the most interesting. That would be the game of ‘what if’, which depends upon critical thought processes.

What if certain species and individuals are genetically sensitive to transformation with the influx? What if others cannot handle the change successfully, either mentally or biologically, as in a cancerous mutation. What if a person who understands the inherent linkage between science and magic, yet who had lost her capability to network, is trapped in this world. What if her abilities are suspect and worse yet, she cannot diagnose the world’s damage without cueing a rapacious predator as to her location. What if a master merchant, who sees himself as quite average and anything but heroic, suddenly finds himself a repository of the extraordinary.

You see how this ‘what if’ game gets played? For me, the play went on for over 1500 manuscript pages. Yes, a trilogy was born. Of course, this process works at every level of conception, including development of species’ physiology, cultures, and even entire universes of worlds juxtapositioned to each other with little to no awareness of the grander scheme. Oh, other than an entire species of beings that travel between, although mostly for scholarly reasons.

The same process goes into the best of other forms of fiction. The parameters for my contemporary fantasy CALLING DOWN THE WIND again started with a societal outsider. Yes, it’s a recurring theme. In this case, a young woman reaches puberty just as a genetic toggle switches ‘ON’. Rue becomes preternaturally connected to natural cycles and beings. Of course, she believes she’s going mental. Her reality issues from a potentially untrustworthy point-of-view. Yes, she’s a teen, yet readers believe in Rue and her journey. Why? Because the rules of her world work according to how she sees it. Then, as she gains confidence in her abilities, so do readers.

You see, we writers set the rules, then play within those parameters. Otherwise, our readers, who we adore, stop suspending their disbelief. Quite possibly, this leads to throwing our tomes across the room in fits of exasperation. As an abused reader, I learned this response firsthand. That experience also galvanized me to write, since I figured I could do this writing thing so much better. A-HEM and blush.

Another world around the corner. What if…

There are many books that have taken us into their worlds, shaped us, then kept us as return visitors. For me, Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS, Guy Gavriel Kay’s FIONAVAR TAPESTRY, Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME, Anne McCaffrey’s DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN and Patricia McKillip’s RIDDLEMASTER OF HED served this grander purpose. First came fascinated appreciation for these stories along with a willingness to immerse self into them. Later, I returned to read them more critically. Even now, I lose myself in their mastery. Sigh.

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Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27, 2015
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