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Spells, Palls, and Poisoned Apples

Flickr Creative Commons: Tim Deegan

Have you ever been under a spell?  I will bet that you have.  Have you ever fallen in love?  The initial infatuation is a kind of spell.  Against all reason, everything about the loved one is good.  He or she is attractive, adorable, fascinating, delightful.  That phase is followed later by others, naturally, but for a time the loved one is seen through enchanted eyes.

Have you ever fallen under a pall?  That’s likely too.  Have you ever had a day when nothing goes right?  You know that day.  The toast burns, the car battery dies, and you get dumped.  What else can you expect?  It’s a miserable day, that’s all.  There’s nothing you can do about it.

Have you ever taken a bite of a poisoned apple?  Probably so.  Did you ever learn a secret that you wish you hadn’t?  Have you ever cheated on a test?  Or a spouse?  Have you read someone else’s e-mail, texts or diary?  Is there a gift you wish you’d never received?  Have you come into money that did you no good?

The main difference between the spells, palls, and poisoned apples that befall us and those that befall characters in stories is that we mostly brush those things off.  For us, those things pass.  In stories, they don’t.  Or shouldn’t.  Why?   Because a spell is a golden plot opportunity.  A pall can hang around, affecting many.  A bite of a poisoned apple can have far-reaching consequences.  Spells, palls and poisoned apples can be the impetus for a story.  They can be a novel’s inciting incident, framework and main focus.

To profit from bewitchment and bad luck you don’t have to be writing a fairy tale.  Any story can benefit.  Spells can overtake anyone, or enchant anyplace.  A buoyant or gloomy mood can brighten or darken any scene.  Any protagonist can be cursed with knowledge, burdened with someone’s secret, or be punished for a poor choice.  When the people in your story are in thrall, there’s a good chance that we will be enthralled too.

Here are some ways to work the magic:

There’s no end of fun you can have with spells, palls, and poisoned apples.  They can work in any kind of story.  There are many ways to enchant, obsess, haunt, charm, curse, cloud, tempt, blind, sicken, single out, or warn protagonists.

Such elements hark back to fairy tales, perhaps, but it’s funny…we don’t mind.  Who doesn’t want to be swept away?

What spell, pall, or poisoned apple is at work in your story?  Let us know!

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About Donald Maass [1]

Donald Maass is president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency [2]. He has written several highly acclaimed craft books for novelists including The Breakout Novelist [3], The Fire in Fiction [4], Writing the Breakout Novel [5]and The Career Novelist [6].