Monday, June 22, 2015

Teach Your Students How to Use Magic in Writing!

If you have any reluctant writers (of course you do!! LOL), you already know that to get them to write ANYTHING, they must be totally engaged in the topic. What kid isn't enthralled with magic? The Harry Potter books prove that!

Get the discussion started by grabbing their attention with a great hook! For example, the video below shows one spell after another from Harry Potter. You only need to show a few to get the discussion started. How did magic make the Harry Potter books interesting? How do you think J.K. Rowling decided on the magic to be used? Did she follow any rules? Make a list of other books that use magic. How are they alike? Different?


Discuss with students that authors do follow certain rules to make sure the magic seems real. It's called suspended disbelief. The reader is willing to "believe" what they read because it makes sense.  To make that magic seem real, students should think about the rules below:

1. There must be rules for the magic! As the writer constructs the story, certain magical laws need to be put into place. For example, wands are used to do magic, magic carpets fly, a magic ring makes the one who wears it invisable.  These laws are as dependable as gravity, and can not be changed on the writer's whim.  That means before the story is started, the writer should plan out the magic. Who can do it, how is it done?

2. Magic has to have limits. If a magic word can solve all problems the minute it is said, where's the story in that? Magic may need certain tools to be carried out, like a magic lamp, or certain knowledge might be needed. It may take a special person (thinking fairy godmother here) or maybe it can only be used under certain conditions. These decisions should be made before the story is begun.

3. Be inventive. If the magic is the same, old same old, it's not as interesting as a fresh take on something. For example, maybe the car is magic, or a pencil.

4. The magic has to be important to the story. If it's not important to the story, why is it there? Students need to find a way to use the magic in the plot of the story. Students should ask themselves, "If there was no magic, would the story still work?" if so, then the magic isn't really needed in the story at all.

5. Use lots of descriptive words to describe what the magic looks like, feels like, or even how it smells! That's the way to pull the reader deeper into the story.

6. While magic is important in the story, it shouldn't be more important than the characters. Their story should shine through with the support of magic.

7. Make the magic unpredictable. What are the costs, problems, affects of using the magic. What happens when the magic doesn't work, or works in an unpredictable way?

8. Have fun with it! Writing a magical story should be exciting and fun. A student's mind should be pondering the next chapter or scene before going to sleep at night, on his way to school, or even during math class. Yes, it's true, that far away look in your students' eyes during fractions might just be the plot of the next best seller. Enjoy!!

These ideas were adapted from:

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