Jul 24 2011

Magic Everywhere

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I nearly broke into a fast-paced sprint when Neighbor Mark pointed to this rock and announced that he thought it was a fertility rock. Think dust trails floating behind the roadrunner as he zooms away from the coyote. Yes, I felt like making that kind of escape. So did my husband.

This rock, silently telling its petroglyph tale, is not far from our home in southeastern Arizona. Any thoughts about the true meaning? Click to enlarge.

“Look at the groove on it, as if many people once sat there,” Mark said. “And look at the appendages on the bottom of each body.” Um, appendages… Hmm… His theory just might be right.

Close-up view of the stick figures’ ‘appendages.’ Rumor tells us that this area was once scoured by archaeologists from the University of Arizona. This is one of the only remaining clues that hint of a past civilization. Click to enlarge.

So, I obviously did get close enough to this fascinating piece of ancient history to photograph it (though I did not sit on it). And I have to say, I was mesmerized. The whole notion of a fertility rock and the magic surrounding it – the belief in the mystical power of this rock to summon a miraculous result – stuck with me.

When you think about it, magic really is a broad term, isn’t it? While it conjures up images of bubbling cauldrons, magic wands, potions and spells (and all things Harry Potter these days), I think it’s much more complex. In some ways magic is simply faith, isn’t it? It’s a trust and a belief (in this case, that sitting on a rock will bring fertility) that is so strong it cannot be questioned. Isn’t that what magic really is? And can’t we all use that kind of magic in our lives?

This petroglyph, a bit further from the fertility rock, highlights the figure of a man, but doesn’t have the appendages that adorn all of the other figures on the first rock. Maybe Mark was right? Click to enlarge.

This is the surrounding landscape of the magical area that is home to these petroglyphs. Click to enlarge.

For Writers: There is magic in all our stories – even if we aren’t fantasy or children’s authors. Magic doesn’t always take the form of black magic, magic tricks or fairytales. There’s the magic of love, of new discovery, of success. Our novels create magic through character relationships, through new settings, through the power of suggestion that the impossible can be possible, that everyday people can achieve the unthinkable – through faith.

What ways do you think novels portray magic? How important is the notion of magic in keeping the reader turning pages? Do you think certain genres handle magic differently? What elements of magic are in your current WIP?


38 Responses to “Magic Everywhere”

  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    That rock with petroglyphs is absolutely amazing! What an incredible thing to be able to see up close, out in the open! As for “magic,” I see it in all things natural — birds flying, the gardens we plant, the sun & sky. In my WIPs, magic is in my main character feeling drawn to a certain place that she has a history and a past, more than she can conciously realize. (p.s. you could even say there’s magic in the way social networking has worked to bring certain groups of writer friends together! Great post, Melissa!)

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    Melissa Reply:

    I’m with you, Julia – nature IS magic to me, too. The magical elements of your WIP sound wonderful! Can’t wait to read. And, yes, there is magic in the way social media can bring likeminded writer friends together.

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  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    Melissa, I swear I would never get back to my computer if I lived around the beauty and history you do! Every day is an adventure–and I’m so grateful to you for sharing these discoveries. This one is amazing!
    There is definitely magic in my WIP–ironically, it is a strong theme for my main character who holds a bit too strongly to the idea of “magic” in the world and refuses to let go of that belief, even if it means being unable to move forward in her life and relationships.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I have to admit that I DO have that problem of being reluctant to get behind the screen when I’d rather be outside playing! Ohh…your WIP sounds fantastic; I love novels that have elements of magic in them – esp. when the magic presents the ‘roadblock’ or ‘collision’ that gets the character into all kinds of trouble.

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    Love the beautiful photos, as always! My novel contains magic in the form of fate, I suppose. A meeting that could only happen if some other power had a hand in it.
    Magic is all around us. I feel it strongly when I sit down to write and something sort of takes me over and I write beautifully that day.
    That last photo looks like a place where magic could happen. I’m sure the people who lived there felt it. And you must have too…since you wanted to run from the fertility rock!! LOL!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Yes! Fate is a perfect example of magic in fiction. And those kinds of “meetings” do happen in real life, if we’re lucky (which makes them so much fun to read). I have often said to my husband – after a good writing session when incredibly descriptive words and plot points just seem to “come” to me – that it’s an other-worldly experience, and that I don’t know ‘where’ the ideas come from. Now I have a name for it: magic!

    My desire to run was pure and simple: instinct! Ha ha.

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    What an interesting find, Melissa; I need a neighbor like Neighbor Mark! I love how history provides us with such magic. My mother discovered a Native American spear on our property yesterday while we were taking a walk, and you would’ve thought she’d just found a piece of gold! I guess no matter our ages, the magic of discovery — whether it is found while writing a novel or sitting on a fertility rock — never leaves us.

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    Melissa Reply:

    But you also have your mom! WOW… I would have been over the moon and acting like I’d found 100 pieces of gold. A Native American spear? Super find!

    “The magic of discovery” … so well put. Those discoveries are enthralling in our own lives and as we discover the new worlds, hopes, fears, and dreams of the characters in the fiction we read and write.

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    Such beautiful pictures and findings! You are so lucky to have such surprises scattered around your home and inspiring you every day. Thanks so much for sharing them with us!

    I think the process of writing has magic to it. For me, that moment when the story finally becomes real–to the point that I believe in it and believe that others will feel it’s real–is magic. Like you say, it is a kind of faith. There’s magic to feeling something is true even though you know it’s fiction. There’s magic in bringing others along for that ride and having them experience things outside their own existence.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I consider myself so blessed to live in this area; it’s truly inspiring. Such a great way of looking at the magic involved in the process of creating a work that OTHERS have a connection to as well. I agree: being able to stir emotions in readers and transport them to a world YOU created … that is magic in the strongest sense!

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  • avatar Rebecca Harrison Says:

    Such beautiful surroundings and such inspiration. Love for me is magic and I completely agree that magic does not necessarily mean spells and hexes. I think I might trawl through some old holiday pictures and see if they spark further inspiration. I applaud your insight. Thank you for sharing.

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    Melissa Reply:

    How’d the holiday photo trawling go? Any magical inspiration? Thank YOU for stopping by, Rebecca.

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  • avatar Annie Neugebauer Says:

    Melissa,

    I love this post! I address “magic” in different ways in so many of my writings – both literally, in my horror and dark fantasy, and metaphorically, in my literary fiction. I love, particularly, the idea of faith as magic. It’s almost a type of energy, emotion, belief more than a substance. I’m working on a poetry manuscript right now that deals with those same ideas. This post really drew me in. And what a beautiful place you live! Thanks for sharing.

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    Melissa Reply:

    How interesting that you write in so many genres, but that you incorporate magic into them all! “Metaphorical magic” in your literary fiction … has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

    What a compliment to know that the post drew you in. I love thinking of magic in terms of energy and emotion – and belief.

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  • avatar Leah Says:

    First of all, if I ever visit you, I will not sit on that rock either. It’s pretty fascinating though. In terms of magic in WIPs, I guess there is a scene (it’s actually the opening scene of one of my novels) where the man flips a coin and that coin is what changes that man’s journey forever. You inspire me to keep writing that scene.

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    Melissa Reply:

    No desire to sit on the rock? Ha ha… Where’s your sense of adventure, Leah?

    Oh yes … the result of a coin-flip toss can, indeed, send someone on a magical journey! How many novels have you written, lady? Have you been holding out on us?

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  • avatar Nina Says:

    Melissa, your posts and photos always put my suburban, Midwest life in shame pit. 😉

    You ask a good question here . . . have to think about the answer.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Suburban midwest life can be quite rewarding. At least you don’t have to drive 45 mile for groceries. And I bet your electrical service is a tad bit more stable than ours … and that you don’t have to worry about desert rats chewing on your car wiring. Yet, despite it all, I LOVE it here :-).

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  • avatar Tracy Mangold Says:

    I think there is magic in everything, if only we SEE it and feel it. It weaves a quiet spell around us constantly. Some are oblivious to it while some of us embrace it and revel in it. Books have the potential to fire off magical sparks every time we crack them open. They affect us each differently in how they speak to us and ignite our spirits. Life is that way. It spills over into our writing, if we let it and we, dare I say, stop thinking and just “be”. Wonderful, wonderful post, Melissa!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Said so beautifully, like a true poet, Tracy. To stop thinking and just “be” … that IS the big challenge, isn’t it? By the way – some day, you’re taking me on a road trip to your old Montana stomping grounds :-).

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  • avatar Brandee Says:

    Such history…right at your doorstep! It’s fascinating to think that such things survive. My kids just travelled up to the Four Corners area and went to the Anasazi Ruins at Mesa Verde. They were blown away by the stories suggested by the parts of a life left behind.

    I am glad that there are things like this that survive more modern men.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I know… When you stand next to something with so MUCH history, it kind of takes your breath away. It’s such an honor and privilege, and so many thoughts run through my head… Who stood here before? Who touched this rock (or sat on it?). What was she thinking? Ahh… I love being lost in thought like that.

    I LOVE the Four Corners area; my parents took us to Mesa Verde on a “Griswold Adventure” trip in a motorhome when I was in sixth grade. Great memories.

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  • avatar Country Wife Says:

    Making me think again. My brain hurts 🙂 . What keeps me turning the pages is the “magic” in the everyday, ordinary, but heard through a different lens. Sometimes it’s someone being able to say things most people are reluctant to say, and it’s refreshing.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Love this perspective. “Magic in the everyday, ordinary, but seen through a different lens.” This speaks to why the same themes can be written over and over in fiction, and no one tires of them. It’s other people’s perspectives and the way we can relate to the ‘ordinary’ that is magical.

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  • avatar Mahesh Raj Mohan Says:

    That is a really cool find. You definitely live in a magical place, and it seems like a font of neverending creativity.

    I think enchantment is a big reason why readers keep reading. Some folks like to escape into another world, and others like greater insights into their own world (or to be challenged), and a narrative that does one or all of those is definitely magical.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I think this area does provide never-ending creative sparks, which is why summer is so difficult for me. When it’s 100+ every day, I can’t get out as much and I feel I suffer creatively.
    You’re so right about the enrichment factor of reading. I think I’m one who reads for “greater insights into my own world/to be challenged.” ANd, yes, that transport to different ‘worlds’ is magical! I think I’ll go read .

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  • avatar Tracy Hahn-Burkett Says:

    Melissa, I love this. To me, all books are about magic: the magic of the possible. If you can imagine it and make it believable, if you can transport a reader to a world of your creation, there is a magic in that. And as a writer, no matter what genre you write, you can work out on the page things life may never permit you to work out in reality. Limitless magic.

    As an aside: I’m envious that you can walk outside and discover a rock like that! How fascinating. No wonder it sets your mind spinning every time you go out.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Said so well, Tracy: “the magic of the possible.” So insightful, too, that we can use writing to work things out that we can’t in real life.

    It really is a fabulous place to live! I confess that our neighbor showed us this rock; had I stumbled upon it on my own, you’d have heard my whooping and hollering across the country!

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  • avatar Hallie Sawyer Says:

    What a discovery! I think you nailed it saying magic is “simply faith” and “a trust and belief so strong”.

    To me, the creative process of writing is magic. We let our minds open while our fingers and pens do the work as if we are just the messengers. It might be junk at first but after it is all said and done, the process alone has to just blow your mind.

    When I read, experiencing a character’s arc, their transition from the beginning of the book to the end, is magical. Magic is when an author puts me right in the middle of the story and I feel every emotion the characters are feeling.

    Love this topic-thanks for adding another element to think about as I write!

    XO

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    Melissa Reply:

    I like your view of us just kind of being the messengers. Sometimes I feel this way about my fiction (and my nonfiction): it’s like, “Where did THAT sentence, idea, scene,” come from? It’s magic!

    Like you, I read to experience the emotion and “be” in the character’s shoes.

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  • avatar Patrick Ross Says:

    Love the post, love the rock. Also like the way you discreetly referred to the… appendages. Which makes me wonder. Is it really a fertility rock? Or is it a primitive form of, um, that adult entertainment that clutters the Internet? 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    I think Mark might have called the appendage by its “real, anatomical” name – though I wasn’t sure how that would affect spam, etc. on my site. Ha ha. But I have to say … you’ve made me think/wonder if this rock might be more than we think!

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  • avatar Lori Parker Says:

    I’m rolling on floor laughing!! I take it you don’t have kids? I don’t either and I don’t plan on getting Anywhere Near that crazy rock. I probably would have backed away and started looking for a telephoto lens. Very cool find, though.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Your assumption is correct (and I’m way too old … knocking on 40’s door… will be there in 2012)!

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    Lori Parker Reply:

    Honey, I got you beat by two years! A friend of mine DID have kids when she was our age… I watch her trying to keep up with an 8-year-old and 6-year-old, and am exhausted in her behalf. She does a great job, but I’m sure I’d collapse.

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  • avatar Shakirah Dawud Says:

    I’ve been thinking about this all week, Melissa. I think the wonderful question your post begs is: what is magic?
    Is it dark and dreadful? Is it delightful? What does it look like? Sound and feel like?
    I think there is a different perspective for each of us on what that special je ne sais quoi is, and we work hard to make that perspective glow in our work. That’s why the “magic” that shows up in our work is so widely varied, and why our readerships are, too. I may be blind to the “magic” of one author’s writing, while absolutely bedazzled by someone else’s.
    Quick, what’s 5+9? Aha, I got it :).

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    Melissa Reply:

    You are right on the money re: why some things resonate with us as readers and why others don’t: how aligned our perceptions of magic are with the author’s! Love it! And I really love when an author can show me a new magical orientation I hadn’t before considered.

    Um … 8+5 is ….

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  • avatar Shari Lopatin Says:

    SUCH an awesome discovery!! Let me know if you discover the true meaning of that rock, and if it is–indeed–a fertility rock. I believe not just in the magic of novels, but in the magic of stories. They have magic because they inspire hopes, dreams, even movements. I consider myself a person of stories, and I believe stories are where the true magic lies.

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