Logic and Magic

Christmas is approaching and it occurs to me what a magical event it is for many of us – a time of sparkle and glitter and – make-believe. The season has set me thinking about magic – and its opposite in terms of writing – logic. To what extent do logic and magic relate – or conflict?

My seven year old granddaughter has a soft toy, an elf that comes out each Christmas when the tree is put up. He ‘moves’ around the house when no-one is looking. ‘Ooooh,’ she says, coming downstairs in the morning, ‘Look, Elf’s jumped onto the sofa.’ She goes to hug him. Christmas brings out the magic in all of us – Santa flying around on his sleigh – elves and reindeers. A glittery world in which anything can happen.

One day, as I walked my granddaughter to school in the rain, she stood in a puddle. ‘Imagine’ she said, her eyes sparkling, ‘if some of these puddles go all the way down into a world that is made of candy.’ Yes – imagine! Of course, she has been watching that delightful film, Enchanted, again. Another day, when we were stuck in a very frustrating traffic jam, she exclaimed suddenly, ‘ We need to make cars that can fly.’

Magic abounds in children’s fiction, with fairies, witches, monsters, princesses and giants. Even J. K Rowling brought the magic of wizardry to older child readers through Harry Potter – and, in so doing, encouraged many reluctant readers, especially boys, to read. My granddaughters are often glued to the TV, entranced by the antics of Ladybug; which they could watch for hours on end (if the TV is allowed to stay on).

What is the essential ingredient in magic and fantasy that makes us suspend our disbelief?
It seems to me that young minds are continually open to the idea that anything can happen. Therefore there are no barriers to magic. Is it only our adult logic that smothers that initial flame of a magical idea?

I have always admired authors who can invent other worlds; mainly because I have tended to write about reality. My stories have featured characters with problems. Could this be partly because my career has been in teaching children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in special and mainstream schools? My submersion into the real world of children, many of whom were experiencing self-perceived failure, or growing up in a harsh, often neglected, home environment has loomed large, and I think, overshadowed my capacity for limitless imagination.

Magic has sometimes featured in my animal characters through personification – as human characteristics, such as speech and language. But these early efforts always featured a form of SEND – the ladybird with no spots, the giraffe with a too-short neck that couldn’t reach the leaves, the baby bird who was afraid of heights and the elephant with no friends.

As adults, does logic often interfere with our capacity for unbound imagination? Do the writers of fantasy even consider the logic of characters’ thoughts and actions? Probably not, which is why they are so successful.

My latest story, for the 6-9 age group, features the magic of childish thinking – yet I feel that my story is still bound by my logical adult mind. I still ask myself – could this or that actually happen? Yet, in this age group, literally anything can happen because magic is just that. Magic is completely unbound by logic. If, as writers, fantasy is our aim, surely, thinking about the logic – effectively kills off the potential for a truly magical story. Now there’s an interesting, if conflicting phrase – truly magical? When the magic is unbound and limitless – is there a magical truth that gives the story strength and believability?

My next task is to polish my children’s story and delve down into that magical world of children – without my adult logic getting in the way.

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