Andy Sagar shares some top tips on how to create magical words in your writing
Any story needs a healthy mix of memorable characters, thrilling plots, and a world you want to visit and never leave. Here are my three tips on conjuring up magical worlds that enthral readers, all of which I relied on heavily in my book Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup.
Tip Number One: ask questions.
This advice is always useful, regardless of whether you’re working on your plot, your characters, or your world. If you want to start fleshing out a magical world quickly, ask as many questions as you can. Where do people in this world live? What jobs do they do? Do they use magic? How do people learn magic? Can it be learned from books, or do you need to take an apprenticeship under an older master?
Questions can kick off an avalanche of inspiration. For example, while planning Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup, it was a matter of asking questions like: what would they sell in a magical teashop? Enchanted cakes? Charmed teas? What kind of customers would they receive? Witches? Faeries? Ghosts? What kind of a witch would run the teashop – and how would she do her magic…?
Tip Number Two: make it feel like we’re only catching a glimpse of a much vaster world than is actually on the page.
One way to give readers a sense of a wonderfully expansive world is to pepper the story with little hints here and there. Say your world is about witches and magical monsters. Perhaps we hear, in passing, of a great unicorn migration that happened last year. Maybe another character mentions that a spell was invented by some powerful wizard who won a legendary magical duel. Or perhaps someone could reference a great war that shook the foundations of the kingdom, a war that casts a long and fearful shadow.
The reason this tip can come in handy is because you can sprinkle in these hints into any story. Characters can absent-mindedly mention things in dialogue that seem utterly second-nature to them – and so don’t need lots of explanation, making those details deliciously mysterious and leaving your reader hungry for more.
And remember, the most tantalising details aren’t necessarily the big and glamourous ones. Sometimes, the commonplace, everyday hints of magic are the most exciting, because they help us imagine ourselves in that world.
In Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup, I tried to weave hints of magic into what might otherwise seem very humdrum and routine. I wanted a world where the washing-up is done by water spirits, where any witch needs a licence to practice magic, where milk comes from unicorns and eggs come from gryphons. Those little hints of even more magic beyond the pages of the book are what (I hope) makes the reader want to explore this new and fantastical world, while making that world feel like it’s only just out of reach.
Tip Number Three: take inspiration from the real world.
While we’ve been talking a lot about wizards and unicorns and fantasy worlds, it’s important to remember how much magic there is hidden in the real world – in the world all around us. When writing Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup, I took a huge amount of inspiration from the various teashops in Yorkshire, where I grew up. I glanced around me while waiting for my tea and couldn’t help noticing all the cakes in the counter, all the waiters and customers whizzing around, all the teapots waiting to be filled with marvellous concoctions.
So, when it came to building my own magical world, I had all this inspiration cooking up in the back of my mind. And it doesn’t have to stop there. There’s inspiration to be gleaned from our schools, from our supermarkets, from our homes, from our histories, from everything we see and everyone we meet. It’s just a matter of seeing the magic in the world we have, and finding a way to make it shine.
If you ask questions, leave tantalising hints, and mine the real world for inspiration, you’ll soon have magical worlds that readers can’t help but wish they could visit for themselves. Then all it will take is a pinch of plot, a sprinkling of themes, and a generous helping of lovable characters, and you’ll be creating unputdownable stories in no time.
Huge thanks to awesome author Andy Sagar for his top three tips on writing magical stories! Andy's latest book Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup is out now. You can also find out more about Andy and his work at www.andysagarbooks.com or follow him on Twitter.
If you're after more writing tips, check out our writing tips section on the blog to find more advice, recommendations and ways you can take your writing to the next level!