Friday, December 18, 2009

Making Magic

Even if I didn’t write paranormal stories, I’d still get plenty of practice suspending disbelief by playing Santa Claus every Christmas. I’ve been at this for the better part of 20 years because my children are spaced just so: right as one child was about to stop believing, along came another to carry on the tradition.

This holiday season, for the first time, I can honestly say I’m ready to end the ruse. Unfortunately, my youngest is totally unaware that there might not be a Santa. He is an absolute reality that she sees no reason to question.

That’s the level of suspended disbelief I aspire to in my fiction.

Granted, it helps that Santa speaks to the youngest members of our society. Their unjaded senses are predisposed to possibility, which includes Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy right along with Narnia, Hogwartz and Eragon. But similarly, when most of us write, we aim for an audience as well: readers with open minds, willing to absorb plotlines that seasoned minds might resist. Finding them isn’t as easy as drawing a line around the “age of wisdom.”

For example, my oldest son stopped believing in Santa at six. Yes, six. He simply asked why Santa’s writing looked like mine and washed his hands of the whole notion. I was crushed. Yet, this wisened little soul grew up to love reading fantasy. Harry Potter landed on our bookshelves at his bidding. Likewise, he devoured the Goosebumps and Animorphs series and was my faithful companion during the Twilight Zone marathons on the SciFi (now SyFy) Channel. If I judged him by his early Santa humbug-ness, I might have missed out on sharing my favorite genre with him.

My second son held on to the Santa mystique several years longer. He didn’t want to run the risk of missing out on his Wish List by saying he didn’t believe. His tactic was to mail the letter – just in case. He, the pragmatic child, is also an avid fantasy reader.

Then, yes, there’s the youngest, who is utterly immersed in pretense. Whether its dolls, her journal, movies, books, or Christmas, imagination rules in her life. And while I’m tiring after two decades of the Santa charade, her reaction to half-eaten cookies and a Wish List fulfilled is priceless.

My “perfect” reader could be found in each of my kids. Whether it’s someone unshakeably logical looking for escape, or a person who thrives on Outer Limits, or the reader persuaded by a review who timidly approaches Stephen King’s latest, there’s room in my genre for all.

The trick to not tiring myself or my readers, I think, is crafting believable characters, and well-placed plot twists that keep us equally engaged. Do I have a 20-book series in me? That I don’t know. But I suppose I can put my experience at the Santa gig to good use in the quest to suspend disbelief, retain readers and create that magic sparkle in my little girl’s eyes.

Do you have a magical childhood memory? Santa, Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or creatures under the bed? I’d love to hear them!


Jewel Amethyst said...

I can't say I had a magical belief especially in Santa since having neither snow, reindeer or fireplaces where I grew up in the Caribbean made if difficult for parents to perpetuate the myth.

But my six year old is growing up amid all those myths and she doesn't believe in Santa. Never did; and by extention the tooth fairy, and easter bunny. Yet her imagination, like mines run wild.

I did however believe in Jumbies (ghosts), but they were more scary than magical.

Marissa Monteilh said...

I remember the night I saw my mom and step-dad wrapping gifts. I woke up my big brother to tell him there wasn't a Santa, and he said, "Of course there's not. Go back to sleep." (Big brothers can be more annoying than little brothers) Needless to day, I couldn't sleep. I told my mom years later that I saw her. She said she hated telling that lie, and I swore I wouldn't tell it and break my kid's hearts either. Well, I did tell it, but the joy of believing outweighs it all. Now my grandkids believe as well, and even the tooth fairy has gotten more sophisticated w/angel dust and dollar bills vs. coins. It's all grand and wonderful. And most of all, unforgettable. Thanks for this magical post, Stefanie. Happy Holidays!

Phyllis Bourne said...

My mom told me Santa was real, but he's a spirit that lives in heaven with Jesus. She said my dad buys the gifts to help Santa on earth. "So be sure to thank Daddy for helping Santa."

It made my Dad seem even more like a super hero in my little girl eyes, because he helped SANTA!!!! Wow! How cool is my dad!?!?!

Liane Spicer said...

Unlike Jewel, the logistics of living in the tropics had no effect on my belief in Santa. My imagination supplied the snow, chimneys, reindeer, etc. My son also believed although I was always torn between 'lying' to him and giving the gift of fantasy.

I never believed in jumbies because my mother scathingly dismissed all such as nonsense.

My father's version of the tooth fairy was the tooth rat and I believed in those too.