East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Writing, magic and everything

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The first book I ever read by pulp giant Walter B. Gibson was not a Shadow novel, but a beautiful hardback called The Book of Secrets.


As I think I have mentioned in the past – if I didn’t, I’m doing it now – as a kid, between ten and fourteen, having discovered a big box of magic tricks in my grandmother’s attic, I had developed an interest in stage magic.
I was pretty good at coin, card and sponge balls manipulation, but really I never got anywhere – a modest amateur. But I read a lot of books on the subject, and Walter B. Gibson, to me, was the guy that wrote books about magic I could not read because my English was not good enough.
In the end, my English improved, I stopped doing magic tricks, and I bought me a copy of The Book of Secrets.

Now, in my last post I have talked about writing handbooks.
I often compare writing to stage magic, and I have often said that a good magic handbook is also a good writing handbook, if you can read between the lines.
And I was impressed and delighted when I heard British magician and entertainer Derren Brown speak about stage magic as narrative.
You need to build a story, and tell a story, to draw in the audience, in order for your trick to work – you need to use psychology, suggestion and misdirection, you have to have a feel for the audience, the people’s mood and the direction in which their attention is wandering, and you need to tie this all up in a story.
This is exactly my view on writing.
And it’s not that I am constantly thinking about it, but it needs to become sort of a second nature.
51p3gbVYLPL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Lawrence Block wrote a book called Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, which is highly recommended, and that more or less, in its title, goes roughly in the same direction.
Fiction writers are masters of deception.
And as I am at it I could also recall the song The Best Jewel Thief in the World, that talks about writing (by its author’s admission) using another sneaky and deception-centered metaphor – the writer as jewel thief, a combination of skill and deceptiveness, of adrenaline-fueled risk and self-assuredness.

All of this came to me a few hours ago when, to enforce my 5-to-6.30-pm Facebook moratorium, I listened to a recent Youtube episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, in which the guest was the aforementioned Dan Brown.
I’m linking it here – it’s quite long but highly entertaining, and it talks about magic, hypnotism, narratives, deception, happiness, Stoicism, shamanism, dealing with haters and a lot of other stuff.
Check it out, it’s a rich source of food for thought.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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