Wednesday, November 07, 2007

That Old Black Magic

You know, I might have titled a post this already, some time ago? This is how dull I've become. I'm copying myself.

I'm writing about magic. The new WIP is largely about magic, and ghosts, and all that good stuff. And drugs and drug dealers, but for the purposes of this post, we're talking about magic.

Now, I'm happy to suspend disbelief. I'm happy--nay, thrilled--to read books where characters can levitate, shoot lightning bolts, make fire materialize from nowhere (uh, duh, since I have characters in Personal Demons who can do some of the above), etc.

But what I hate is when they're lazy about it. Or obvious. Or just plain irritating.

I read a paranormal romance not long ago that, okay. Not great, not terrible, although the "they fell onto the bed and he made her feel like woman, then the next morning" one-line sex scenes irritated me (I know, big surprise, right?) But what really bugged me, more than anything else, was that not one of the characters in the damned book ever used a fucking match. They lived almost exclusively by candlelight, but magically starting a flame wasn't a reflex; they had to "mutter an incantation" in order to light one.

Which meant they were constantly wandering around talking to themselves.

Now, okay, I do understand part of this. If I could make a candle flare just by talking under my breath, you bet I'd do it. Several characters in PD can start fires with a wave of the hand, and they do it. But seriously. Is it necessary every time? If I had to physically hold the candle to light the fire, I'd be tempted to just use a lighter at some point. Wouldn't you get used to it at some point, so it was no longer a cool trick and more just a "Hell, I'll just flick my thumb and light this thing, save my breath." I don't want to talk all the time, me.

Not to mention, the author had to clarify for us, every single time, that her characters were PARANORMAL FOLK by telling us they muttered said incantation. Phrased just that way. Every time. Dozens of times. They couldn't just light the candle, oh no. They had to mutter an incantation to do so. You know, we get it. They are Teh Magikal, okay? Why else would they even use all those candles all the time? I love candles and light them whever I can, but let's face it, my vision is shit. If I'm reading a book, I ain't doing it by candlelight, not if I don't want to go completely blind. Which I don't. Hence the bright electric lights in my home.

It's just something I'm getting sick of, just like I grew tired of historical heroines who spent every free moment making poultices and administering to sick children. I still love paranormals, but I do wish we could stop with all the mutterings. Wouldn't it be fun if magic had to be loud? Like, the louder you spoke, the more powerful it was? Hee.

Unholy Ghosts

New Words: 2,602
Total wordcount: 36,623
The Good: Hey, you’re ugly but HOT!
The Bad: Baddie cleverly misleading Chess
The Gross: Ha! A character being artistically scarred, complete with gunpowder lit in the wound
The rampant drug use: None
Location: Tattoo parlor, warehouse
Research: WWI aviation insignia, unforms
Downspeech:“Goan, take it. I ain’t hurt you. Lookin all starved.Hunchback, you start feeding them kids, hear me?”
I Hate My Work: Ugh, any fool can figure out these clues. Lame, lame loser.


Charles Gramlich said...

That's like the writerly equivalent of the Easy button. And I agree, it's irritating to the reader and unnnecessary.

December/Stacia said...

You know, Charles, I almost said in the post that it was a lazy shortcut? Great minds... :-)
Yep, it was the constant repetition, and the fact that it felt so "Look! MAGIC!"

Rebecca said...

Author laziness is one of the things that has really started to stick out to me since I started writing - not saying every author I read is lazy at all - just that I notice it when an author has skimmed over a particularly difficult part. (or at least I imagine I do)

It particularly bugs me when something significant happens - where the protagonist should be noticeably scared, or upset, or shocked...and yet you barely get any sense of the character's emotional it all just got too hard or something.

December/Stacia said...

You know, Rebecca, I've found myself not only doing that when reading but when writing. I'll start to move on and then I think, "NO, you have to DEAL with that, you're being a lameass if you don't." Sigh.

Bernita said...

Sounds like padding, actually.

Robyn said...

Almost like the actual incantation was too hard to come up with, eh?

I would probably be okay with that as long as the mages didn't rhyme. Gad I hate rhyming spells.

December/Stacia said...

It felt like padding, Bernita. It bugged me. Can't you just say "She lit the candle"? Do you always have to frigging specify HOW?

Lol Robyn, I know, that bugs me. But then it bugs me when paranormal authors have witches in the past practicing Wicca, including the Rede, which is only about 60 years old.