I recently recalled a story at a gathering of my fellow writers about the time our family tested out the Blu-ray player my husband had coveted for years. When I retold the story, it occurred to me – which the element of imagination is missing sometimes from readers. Not all readers. But those who seem to miss the point can be the most vocal.
We had saved to purchase it along with an appropriate television to view this new-geek-inspiring technology. My husband was all about how much more real our television viewing was going to be. One of the first films we watched in “Blu-ray” was The Polar Express.
Things being accurate, real, these are the things which are a focus for the engineer’s mind; such a mind my dearest one possesses. How he ended up with an artist, I’m sure perplexes many of our professional colleagues (they are just blind to the art of the code poetry they do in their computer engineering work).
Regardless, there is a scene in The Polar Express where the train jumps the tracks over the frozen lake and finds its wheels back on the tracks after quite the Evil Knievel jump back and the conductor and children inside the cars survive the iron horse acrobatics unscathed
“Oh that’s not even plausible! Come on!” My husband explains.
I respond, “Your suspension of disbelief left the station?”
It’s then when our daughter, 24 at the time, piped up and said, “Dad, weren’t you paying attention earlier – It’s a Magic Train, Dad!”
Hubby shakes his head and we continue to watch the film. Again there’s a scene that makes my hubby yell out again in aggravation at it’s unrealistic possibility. Before he can interrupt the viewing experience of the rest of the family my daughter repeats herself more emphatically now. “Dad, It’s a MAGIC train.”
He slumped back in the sofa left to brood about what that means.
What was it about the story that our adult daughter easily picked up on that my husband dismissed or completely missed? Because in the beginning of the story, one of the children in the story clearly states “It’s a Magic Train!” because the protagonist is suffering with the same issues my spouse was whilst viewing the film.
In today’s modern world, I feel like the audience out there (meaning anyone taking an interest out of working three jobs and slaving every day to read for pleasure) is insistent on the experience being so real that they forget the magic of fiction. I’m not saying that as a writer you don’t have a responsibility to suspend disbelief, you better be sure to do that. But, there is a bit that the reader gives, too. They have to not miss that it’s a magic train when it’s a magic train and that is one of the main elements why this is such a unique story.
When I recall this memory, it is because I’m struggling with balancing the magic in my story and the reality my readers may demand. Then Neil Gaimain’s words come into the internal conflict inside of me. Why are you writing this story? Who is directing it? It’s not your readers or the internal editor. It is you the writer, the vessel with which the voices in your head become real.
You can lead your readers, your characters, the story itself where it needs to go. And sometimes it’s not where you expect or intend – or when you intend it (read: missed deadlinesa), but it is where it needs to be. Sometimes that means it requires a leap of faith and knowing that sometimes it’s a magic train.
What’s your magic train moment?