writing technique

Writing Charms

Using one thing to remind you of something else is symbolizing. We’ve been doing that since we sat in the Hohle Fels caverns in Germany 40,000 years ago carving pornographic figures from mammoth ivory. I wore a 40,000-year-old fossilized walrus tooth, recently carved into a face, on a chain around my neck while writing about the first human children to use language. It helped me to feel something 40,000 years old. When my story shifted to early Mesopotamia, I wore a golden bull’s head pendant copied from one found in the royal tombs at Ur, dating to around 2500 BC. It helped me to imagine what kind of people would make such a thing. That’s what writing charms do. They help us to feel a connection with the story and to imagine details.

Whenever you find yourself looking at what may be called charms, talismans, totems, fetishes, figurines, or whatnots, think writing charms! A good one can be anything that relates to what you are writing. M and I drove up to watch the last shuttle launch and she had us standing in line in the NASA gift shop so she could get a photo autographed by an astronaut. As the line wound past the obliging spaceman and towards the cash register, I spied a dark blob the size of a small marble displayed on white cotton in a glass case. It looked precious & at $35, I looked closer. It was a fragment of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite that landed in Russia in 1947. Subsequent research showed it to be from the Asteroid Belt, formed with the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Writing charm! Imaginations of life beyond earth become more real when you hold something from there.

Other charms in the drawer include a 1940s Alice Caviness gold typewriter pendant for when I just need to be reminded to write, a 19th century Half-Eagle coin for thinking about life before electricity and a new Charles Albert deaths-head pendant which does nothing for me now but I saw it and had to have it. Maybe I’ve been charmed into killing off one of my characters in order to think about it.

Writing charms are plentiful and inexpensive to acquire. They can appear in unexpected places and abound in second-hand markets from estate sales, antique shops, consignment shops, pawn shops, flea markets and garage sales. As symbols, they don’t have to be the real thing. They only have to focus your thoughts on your story. I could not afford an authentic prehistoric carving but a fossilized walrus tooth carved by a Renaissance Faire artist served the same purpose. And, serendipity, questing for a writing charm is a rewarding form of procrastination.



15 thoughts on “Writing Charms

  1. mimispeike says:

    A great idea and I’m going to use it. But not in the way you mean. When John Dee is trying to connect with one of his past-life mentors, Queen Rusudan of Circassia,* he fingers an amulet. Sly fetches him the wrong prop (he takes it for granted it’s a prop, part of the squirrely-show) during a seance with paying customers. Something – not sure what – goes very wrong.

    Thanks, GD. What kind of charm helps me summon Sly? A glass of wine. I guess that doesn’t really relate to a talking cat. Too bad, that’s what I use.

    It’s 5 am, I can’t sleep, I’m up reading the news. Here’s a good line from someone named Trent Reznor (a musician) on how he goes about scoring a film. Could be said about writing also.

    “What we normally do is sit around and overthink it for a while, then try to make some intelligent decisions.”

    That’s sort of what I do. Come up with way too many ideas and then see what it’s best to junk.

    * Rats! That ain’t gonna work. Rusudan ruled in the early eighteenth century. I latched on to her for her marvelous hieroglyphs, dug up by my marvelous husband, a researcher par excellence. I’ll create an alternative entity. And I have to invent a neat name for Sly, who is expected to play the part of her advisor/shoulder warmer.**

    ** There’s a story for that. I’ll be telling it in a footnote, when I get to that episode in the book. I’d been wondering how to sneak that story in. This is the place.

    Liked by 2 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      Yeh, actually, I did buy the meteorite, Sue. Then I had a jeweler put a gold loop on it so I can wear it on a neck chain. Maybe this weekend I’ll play w/the camera to get some photos. Not that the meteorite is that interesting to look at, being a small blob of 96% iron & 4% nickle with trace elements. Still, I’ve been meaning to do photos for insurance purposes. Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. atthysgage says:

    Yes. Excellent post. Talismans (talismen?) can be very helpful. I am reminded of our old pal Carl Reed, who said he never wrote without a handful of dice present, which he shook and tossed, as he crafted his excellent sentences. Why? I never asked. Perhaps merely to remind him of the essential random component that must be factored into any accurate appraisal of life or art or, well, pretty much anything. I’m trying to incorporate that character beat into my next novel in some way, but life is a bit of a mess these days, and I occasionally wonder whether I will ever actually complete another manuscript. Perhaps a walrus tooth or a cupful of dice wouldn’t be the worst idea.

    Speaking of which, does anybody know what became of Carl Reed?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. mimispeike says:

    We all know this is a hard row to hoe. Last time I talked to Carl, on Book Country, he was down. The piece coming up on anthologies looks like it could be a bright spot, and so perfect for Carl. I’ve googled him and can’t find him.

    Arnbar, who I was friendly with on Book Country, has pulled the plug on his writing. He has financial problems and must devote himself to earning a living.

    And so it goes.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. GD Deckard says:

    Life is rarely defined by a single episode; a man can be as surprised in the future as in the past. Carl Reed may be having a rough time now but he’ll be back because he’s, well, because he’s Carl Reed, whether or not he asked to be.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Perry Palin says:

    I don’t think I have any writing charms. I love Mimi’s reply – a glass of wine. My charm might be a Brandy Manhattan.

    I left my day job in April and thought I would find more time to write. In fact I have found so many other interesting things to do that I am writing less now than when I was working full time. Maybe writing was an escape from the job. I don’t have that to escape from anymore, and my writing charm was paid employment.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. mimispeike says:

    I just found an author page (sadly, no activity of any kind) for Carl on Amazon. I started a topic: Carl, come visit us on writercoop.wordpress.com – and I left a short message from all of us.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. GD Deckard says:

    Thanks to Sue Ranscht’s idea, there is now a page set up for photos of Writers Charms.

    There, you can have photos of your own writers charms -just email the photos & text to me and I’ll place them on the Writers Charms Page for you. Feel free to include a link to your own website. I may even make the page look more professional 🙂

    Other writers may well enjoy learning more about how writers charms are used.

    Liked by 1 person

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