Recently I’ve been watching old shows on Netflix with my son. The Magician’s Secrets (or something of the kind) is one we’ve been enjoying. My son has been learning how magicians use choreography, hidden pockets, rubber cement, mirrors, and pretty girls to distract, confuse, and misdirect attention to create illusions. I didn’t want to watch it but my son has a voracious mind and this was effectively setting a bunch of puzzles in front of him and having him figure them out.
Of course, I’m in the room while they’re playing, so now I’m involved in the show as well, trying to figure out how exactly they levitate a girl in a ‘hypnotic trance.’
Oh, and the three boxes one. I always wanted to know how they put a girl in three separate boxes.
The result was mixed. On the one hand, I was proud of my son for figuring out the tricks. As the show progressed he got better and better about guessing what methods they used to conceal how they did the trick. On the other hand, now I knew how they did what they did, and I preferred magic being magic. I liked wondering how they did it, but not actually putting in the effort to figure out how they did it. I liked to think that there was magic in the world, not tricks.
But there was some part of me that wanted to know how the put a girl in three separate boxes, so there I was, eating hummus, waiting for them to share out the next set of secrets.
Just yesterday my husband had Fool Us by Penn & Teller on, and they did the three separate boxes trick, and it was an entirely different way than the other show had done it, so even when you learn how it’s done, there are still many more variant ways to do it.
This is how writing works, too.
Okay, so there aren’t as many lovely assistants, but if you look into the pages of the story, undoubtedly there’s a lovely heroine somewhere inside, ready to kick ass and chew bubble gum. Or, there may be a story about a Chinese spy in World War II who finds a time-traveling labyrinth. Or, the protagonist could be turned into a bug. Or have his death be the way he redeems himself. There are so many stories that exist, and they are all written using magician’s tricks.
I wrote two blog posts yesterday, and both of them went on to explain how the beautiful woman is transformed into a tiger, or how I could stay underwater for eighteen minutes without drowning. They were personal, and shared something I wasn’t sure I wanted shared yet. So I pulled them. I did not delete them, because any writer knows that the words you didn’t use yesterday can be the words you use tomorrow. I just pulled them out of the BS queue, to be held in the wings until I’m ready to show you that part of the trick.
Instead, I decided to show you this part of the trick – that blog posts aren’t just born. They’re developed, just like any other part of the writer’s craft. If I hadn’t written those other two posts, I wouldn’t have thought of writing this one – and now you’ve seen behind the curtain.