Reading Assignment

There’s an interesting overlap between Maggie’s process and Mary’s, which was unexpected because Maggie seems to be very much a planner (even if it starts off all in her head), while Mary strongly prefers writing into the abyss (with the caveat of having a Big Question and Story Destinations as guideposts). So, it’s been fascinating to see certain ideas repeated in both sources. Both present their ideas with disclaimers (this is how it works for them, your milage may vary) and speak conversationally about the way they approach their art. I’m not going to go into too much detail about what I’m learning, because they do both sell their lesson, but I strongly recommend them as sources for writing advice (and Mary’s podcast is free!).

My mentor text for this week is Book 3 of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I enjoy the world building in this series, but I find that I miss the way the characters were portrayed in the tv show. This is, no doubt, partly due to the charisma of Paul Blackthorne, who plays Harry in the show, but I’ve also started to look at how the author develops characters in the books to understand why I’m not connecting with them in the same way.

Dresden is kind of an antihero in both the books and the show, but the show’s presentation of him tends more towards gruff frustration with the situations he gets into, while the books tend to lean more into his weaknesses and fears. This, combined with the way the POV character views women, makes him difficult to root for. It’s becoming a running joke for me every time Harry notices the way some woman’s clothing cups her breasts. He seems to be constantly getting into positions with female antagonists where the women are rubbing against him, or otherwise showing him their boobies.

Susan and Murphy are strong women who can take care of themselves, but they mostly exist to give Harry someone to save. Yes, this is a necessary role for plot development, but it feels like the reader is constantly being told how strong (and sexy) Harry believes they are without the characters getting much opportunity to prove it. I do have sixty or so pages left of this book, so maybe they step up in Act 3.

The bulk of the chapter is devoted to understanding the Circumstances that allow for success. Although he acknowledges that certain spells might work better under specific worldly circumstances (like the phases of the moon or other astrological alignments), he compares the effects of those alignments to a weather forecast. You don’t cancel your workout plan just because it’s supposed to rain, but you might adjust your routine from an outdoor run to an indoor treadmill.

The Circumstances that do strongly affect a spell’s success are internal: your emotional state, focus, and intent (34). He describes intention fog as the first challenge to overcome, and honestly, this section could apply to any kind of goal setting. “Not having a clear understanding of what you need quite often leads to an undesirable result or no result at all” (35). If you don’t have a clear vision of what success looks like, how could you possibly know what steps to take to achieve it? This same concept came up in Mary Adkins’s 10,000 Word Challenge today, and was a recurring idea in my teacher training. This is the stuff SMART goals are made of (Is it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely?). The more clearly you visualize the outcome, the more easily you can plan the journey, and the more likely you are to stay motivated.

The author’s discussion of an effective emotional state, “emotional lightning,” is a little less precise (36). It basically boils down to feeling that you deeply need whatever intention you have set. There is definitely a difference in the product an artist creates when going through the motions vs when they are fully invested, but it is difficult to ascertain whether they could actively bring on this emotional lightning through their own efforts, or if they are expected to wait for it to strike.

The next passage seems to indicate the former. In “Scattered Showers,” the author emphasizes the work involved in making magic. “Effective magic requires that you align your combined magical and mundane efforts with your internal Circumstances to bring an intention to fruition” (36). This means not sitting around waiting for your candle and a wish to bring you your desire, but actively following through on whatever nonmagical steps you could be taking to achieve your goals. It’s kind of a “God helps those who help themselves” mindset that implies the magic is mostly directing your intention into the world and focusing your own efforts. This idea that magic “assists with weighting the scales of possibility in your favor,” rather than directly resolving your desire, was previously discussed in chapter two (21).

Fire Lyte closes the chapter on why magic sometimes fails with a discussion of the fact that successful magic might not be as common as it appears. People lie. There are lots of reasons why people lie, and he details several of them, along with references from Psychology Today. So, the reader should not be disappointed in their own progress simply because they seem to see others succeeding. Maybe the Circumstances were right for those other people. Maybe they lied.

In summary, these are the primary reasons he believes magic fails (39):

  • it’s a new skill you haven’t mastered
  • magic was the wrong tool for this intention
  • you didn’t take the appropriate mundane actions to support your magic
  • your expectations were too high

“Magic is most effective when it is reasonable, clearly defined, and possible” (39).

Other fun stuff:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: