Why write about MAGIC?

Fantasy stories just pull me in. I never seem to untangle myself, even after I’ve finished reading.

I’ve loved fantasy literature ever since I started reading it: Harry Potter in high school, Lord of the Rings in college. Even before then, I remember falling in love with a book in fifth grade about a girl who gets transported somehow to a magic land where she has to protect a powerful amulet from an evil woman who wants to use it to do some…. well, some bad stuff. Don’t remember more than that, which is weird, considering how much I enjoyed the story! And Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” was a CLASSIC.

I guess it’s no surprise fantasy became my genre of choice to write. I’ve always loved stories about magic, partly because they’re fun and escapist and my crazy imagination went wild at the thought of imagining myself, say, as a student at Hogwarts or fighting to survive in Middle Earth. Mainly, though, I love fantasy because of its ability to create an insightful allegory, say, about race relations or war, and its ability to teach. Stories with magic and characters like Harry Potter, Gandalf the Gray, Albus Dumbledore, or King Arthur teach the valuable lesson that our talents and abilities are responsibilities and duties. The more powerful we are, the stronger we should feel the call to use that power wisely, to set limits upon it, and to bend it to benefit others as much as, if not more than, ourselves.

Fantasy is such a great medium for this! It’s not the only medium, for sure, but fantasy worlds of knights, kings, and sorcerers make the lesson so crystal clear: those who seek great power are very, very rarely the ones who should ever be trusted with it. Fantasy’s villains are great warnings about the dangers of selfishness, greed, and uninhibited ambition. Ambitions are not bad things, but they must be controlled by the recognition that our actions will always affect more people than just ourselves. We all have great talent within us, whether that’s book smarts, athleticism, the graphic arts, or even being a fantastic listener and counselor. If you’re funny, and able to diffuse tension and help people feel at ease and put their troubles in perspective, that’s a wonderful gift: it’s certainly one I don’t have!

Maybe this is just me, and maybe I’m strange this way, but fantasy literature reminds me like few other genres that I shouldn’t underestimate the ability–and responsibility–I have to make a difference and change the lives of those around me for the better. I’m far too apt to draw into my own little world and wallow in self-pity at the thought of my own insignificant problems. I’m much happier, though, when I throw the spotlight on someone else. Fantasy literature, where the fate of an entire world is so often at play, pulls me out of myself and brings me to focus on others more as soon as I stop to contemplate what’s actually going in the story I’m reading. Kind of crazy to think something as unreal and well, fantastic, as magic serves to ground me, but it does. And that’s why I write about sorcerers.

Fellow writers: what brought you to choose your genre of choice? Do you write multiple genres? Readers: what are your preferred types of book, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please do comment!

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8 responses to “Why write about MAGIC?

  1. I love this post! And it is so true. Sometimes when I read fantasy where the author didn’t take the opportunity to take any risks, or explore social change, I really feel like they missed the mark. Love your take on this!

  2. You have a very broad view of the fantasy genre.
    1. ‘knights and kings’ are in no way inherent to the fantasy genre and neither is the ‘fate of the entire world’.
    2. ‘Social Change’ paints fantasy as a veneer for the author to lecture about their own morality. Again, not inherent nor exclusive.
    3. ‘escapist’ makes it sound like a literary drug. My opinion has been that all types of fiction could be used for that purpose and realistic fiction especially.

    As to the post’s title, you seem to write about ‘MAGIC’ because it involves people other than yourself, which can be done in any genre.

    If this post seems harsh allow me to explain. The idea that fantasy has to take place in a medieval european setting is a pet peeve of mine. Second, I have no tolerance for authors who use their stories as soap boxes because this usually leads to idiot balls, straw men and flat characters. Third I dont like escapism because it usually leads to immature plots and Mary Sues. Finally, I dislike hearing fantasy referred to as a child’s plaything.

    As to your question: one reason why I like fantasy is because of the possibilities that exist when one doesn’t have to work within the boundaries of reality.

    • Oh fantasy most certainly doesn’t have to take place in a medieval-type world, I agree. A lot of epic fantasy does, but look at Harry Potter…. And most urban fantasy is decidedly modern. I wasn’t meaning to say fantasy HAS to do these things, nor that these things were exclusive to the fantasy genre. I said the fate of a world “often” hangs in the balance, not always. I personally enjoy fantasy that exhibits the qualities I wrote about, that’s all.

      I do agree that good fiction is not about preaching. It’s not it’s not it’s not! Hope I didn’t come across that way…. I just think it’s an interesting way to explore real world problems and possible solutions.

      And if fantasy can be, in instances, a child’s plaything, I hardly think that’s a negative. Children learn through play. Teaching children is important, though clearly, fantasy is not limited to that role. It’s more than that. Thanks for commenting, Brian

  3. I write fantasy and \i love it because it is so broad and I can write in a variety of sub-genres. I love HP, Mortal Instruments and Morganville because they are so action-packed but they have alot of layers of depth.

    • I’m with you. I love the depth that I can achieve writing fantasy. Not that other genres aren’t or can’t be deep as well, but there’s something about the way fantasy can layer itself and interact with the real world while also being completely different that appeals to me.

  4. Pingback: The writer doldrums: Why can’t I read a first draft of my favorite book? Without the polish? | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  5. Pingback: What draws a writer to a genre? (Why I chose fantasy) | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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