Blog #2: Wherefore Magic?

By Laurie Steven. September 26, 2022

Or – why folktales, why contemporary, and what’s the deal with magic?

Let’s define magic in folk tales as things that happen in the physical world that defy reason: objects that bring sudden beauty or riches, or spells that inflict dreadful curses. Sometimes these mysterious happenings are caused by supernatural beings, like witches, ogres, and goddesses. And these beings might act with good intentions or with malice.

What excites me is that these blasts of magic usually have a drastic impact on the lives of heroines and heroes. In fact, they often lead them on a tortured, marvel-filled path to a major personal transformation. Think browbeaten cinders-sweeper to go-for-it queen, via hard work, brave defiance and creative thinking, like using a pumpkin for transportation.

In the real world, if we want to change ourselves, or our situation, it can be a grindingly slow process of trial and error (or extensive therapy) over a lifetime.  Often, we never discover how we might change if something big happened to us. Without a fairy godmother or a magic spell, we get chained to the way things are.

What I love about folk tales is that their gifts of magic condense change into an explosive brew that catapults us, with the heroine, into a massively different future. That future is often a testing ground for the spirit, one where change is not just possible, but inevitable.

Folk tales and plays of all kinds usually have a moral. If it isn’t expressed on the surface, look for it in how the main character succeeds or fails. Snow White might discover that it’s sometimes best, when faced with a superior competitor out to destroy you, to chill out and let your seven plus friends help you, rather than deal with the enemy on your own.  This is also one of the lessons of The Art of War.

But what intrigues me most about setting folk tales in today’s world is to see if we can let the magic that causes dramatic change, stir our creative thinking, break the chains that limit our expectations, and help make wondrous things a reality.

I hope your journey down The Other Path brings a little magic into your life.

Blog #2: Wherefore Magic?2023-12-23T17:37:09+00:00

Blog #3: Gateways

By Laurie Steven. October 3, 2022

For this series, each of our writers had to devise a modern-day, magical world. To do that, they had to answer many questions.  What kind of magical beings live in this world? Where can they be found? How do people feel about them? And most importantly, how will their magic test our hero or heroine?

Since the plays are set in a version of our world, rather than in a sci-fi future, it might not be convincing if characters bumped into ogres at the gym or witches in the grocery story.

Most writers start in the normal world and let their characters discover the magical world. In fact, in our audio dramas, magic tends to be found in pockets on the fringes of society: a tract of wilderness hidden in an urban park, across the river in a forbidden part of town, or tucked away at a yard sale.

I think that’s because if we are caught up in everyday routines, we can’t give way to the irrational, such as magical objects or mythical beings. We, like the characters in our plays, need to step outside the ordinary to give magic a gateway into our imaginations or into our souls.

For the same reason these pockets of magic are often associated with nature. Nature, like magic, can represent the wild, uncontrolled, mysterious part of human nature and our world. So too, magical events often seem more believable in the dream-filled night than in the rational light of day.

It’s also possible that the magical world is an image of our subconscious. Perhaps this is why magic is often found in dangerous, forbidden places. If magic represents the buried parts of ourselves, could an ogre be our brutish instinctive side that we don’t want anyone to see? Could an object unlock manic greed we hide even from ourselves?

Entering the magical world or plunging into the subconscious force us to confront our deepest fears. But both ventures can be revealing. And in each case, the trip can help you if it doesn’t kill you.

To warm-up for this series, I walked through neighbourhoods in my town looking for mysterious places that might lead to alternate magical worlds or at least hide a mythical creature or two. Here are a few of the places I found. I’ll leave you to imagine what they hide.

Better still, you might want to go on your own hunting expeditions. It’s a fun way to see your world anew, and, as I did, you are likely to discover things about yourself.

Blog #3: Gateways2023-12-23T17:36:47+00:00

Blog #4: Harnessing Your Witch

By Laurie Steven. October 7, 2022

Witches in folk tales can be found feeding unfortunate heroines poisoned apples (Snow White), plumping up children to eat them (Hansel and Gretel) and trapping  damsels in towers (Rapunzel). They are not nice women.

These days we suspect that women healers in pagan religions were intentionally demonized as Christianity devoured its competition by burning women accused of witchcraft at the stake. In response, there has been an effort cast witches in a more positive light in works like the musical Wicked and in the Harry Potter series.

So what’s a writer to do?  First, I think we should ask: what can a witch do for your story?

Witches are tricksters who can lead people into danger. The rollercoaster journey that ensues as characters try to extract themselves from the clutches of death, forces them to grow and reach a greater understanding of themselves.

One of the ways of creating a witch is to find one in your life. No better place to start than by looking inside yourself.  Did a mischievous inner spirit ever trick you into a potentially devastating life decision and how did that work out?

Who whispered in my ear “make a podcast series, you can do it in six months, it can’t be that hard”? I suspect it was a sadistic workaholic who lurks in my subconscious, hatching sneaky plans that prey on my willful naiveté.

It’s not the first time I’ve been down this road only to find myself saying, two years later in this case, I can’t believe what a nest of toil and trouble I got myself into.

Just as we know that Snow White should not take that apple, I know I should look before I leap. But she takes that apple and I didn’t look. Ask yourself if you’ve ever had a voice whispering in your ear, luring you into your own hornets’ nest.

Once you find your own witch, you’ve got the beginnings of a great character and maybe a path to personal recovery.

Then again, if what your witch tricked you into turned out to be something quite rewarding, you may be back to square one, thinking: I can’t wait to begin work on The Other Path Season Two. Score another one for the witch! 

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy discovering Emily Pohl-Weary’s take on the magnificent witch, Baba Yaga, a multi-faceted immortal whose deadly tests make Lisa face her inner demons.

Blog #4: Harnessing Your Witch2023-12-23T17:37:35+00:00
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