Have you ever found yourself eager to dabble in a bit of magic into your narratives? Welcome to the world of witch lit, where the extraordinary hides within the ordinary. Witch lit is a subgenre of fiction that intricately weaves elements of witchcraft into everyday life, creating stories where the mundane and the magical coexist.
Rather than grand, over-the-top spells and sorcery, witch lit often focuses on subtler forms of magic, embedding them into familiar settings and experiences. It’s a dance of enchantment, fusing historical practices, real-world rituals, and the imagination’s whimsy, creating narratives that resonate with readers longing for a touch of the extraordinary in their daily lives.
Given the fact that witch lit often intersects with other popular genres, the crossover appeal is strong. Writers everywhere, eager not to experience FOMO, are asking themselves how they, too, can write witches.
How can we weave witchcraft into our stories without overpowering the narrative? What techniques can make the magic feel as real as the world around us? As with all craft approaches, the aim is to find a balance that permits magic to exist within the realms of believability, crafting stories that resonate with readers and offering them a glimpse of the fantastic within their everyday lives.
A Rich Legacy
But it’s not like we’re doing anything new. Witchcraft and the art of magic have long captured the imagination, permeating literature with a mystical allure that transcends time and culture. In fact, we don’t have to go far to find historical examples of witch lit.
Think of Witching Hour by Anne Rice. Part of her “The Lives of the Mayfair Witches” series, this narrative blends historical fiction with the supernatural. As a prominent novel in the genre, “Witching Hour” has contributed to the modern perception of witchcraft in literature. It has helped shape the genre, balancing the fantastical elements with historical details, psychological intrigue, and sophisticated storytelling.
Or even The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike. This novel is often cited within the witch lit genre and centers around three women. Set in the fictional Rhode Island town of Eastwick, the story follows the lives of three divorced women who discover their magical abilities and form a coven.
Obviously, we can’t forget about Practical Magic, either. Alice Hoffman’s work has become a beloved part of the witch lit genre, with its blend of romance, familial bonds, and magical realism. Its success has contributed to the genre’s popularity and helped pave the way for many contemporary witch lit authors.
All to say, the idea of witches being in our daily world has long captivated our imagination, and our bookshelves still reflect that interest these days. Just look at the last five years and the explosion of witches in nearly every corner of our culture. From these seminal works to the newcomers to the genre, one thing is certain – the witches are here, and we’re here to stay.
The Nuances of Craft
The art of writing witch lit requires a nuanced approach that balances the allure of magic with real-world settings, not to mention the whole writing a good story component. These techniques, steeped in tradition yet alive with contemporary flair, allow writers to create worlds where witchcraft is tangible yet subtle, enhancing the story without overshadowing it. Think about “Payback’s a Witch” by Lana Harper, a witch lit narrative wherein Emmy Harlow navigates a magical town with a complicated family history, a spellcasting tournament, and intriguing personal relationships.
Emmy’s struggles with her magical identity, her tension with tradition, and her complicated relationship with Gareth Blackmoore and Talia Avramov are seamlessly woven into the narrative. Harper manages to create a world where witchcraft is a part of daily life, with emotions and desires resonating with the readers, making the magic feel as real as the world around them. This tale, rich with humor, romance, and a touch of revenge, exemplifies the essence of witch lit, where the extraordinary hides within the ordinary.
And that brings us to character-driven magic.
Witches in literature must be more than caricatures; they must be flesh and blood, with desires, fears, and complexities. By creating characters who embody magical elements without overt or exaggerated portrayals, we allow the readers to connect with them on a human level. Consider A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, where the protagonist, Diana Bishop, a historian and reluctant witch, comes to terms with her magical heritage through action, academic exploration, and emotional connection rather than mere exposition. Harkness weaves Diana’s magical abilities into her character’s personal growth and relationships, crafting a multifaceted and believable character.
It’s a big shift from more dated sources like the witches portrayed in Macbeth by William Shakespeare. In this classic play, the witches are often viewed as one-dimensional characters, mainly as mystical, ominous figures driving the plot. Their portrayal reflects the societal fear and misconceptions about witchcraft during Shakespeare’s time.
From Rituals to Rules
So how does a writer find the right rituals and practices to add to narratives? The easiest reach, by far, is to talk to the witches in your life. (And if you think there aren’t witches in your life, well, just check out this article. It’s a few years old, but it still rings true.)
Another great option is leveraging your online communities. All the platforms you already visit have witchy communities, and witches are generally more than happy to share their practices and rituals.
Of course, there’s self-study. Researching and integrating real witchcraft practices adds authenticity and depth to the narrative. Whether it’s the study of herbalism, divination, or ancient rituals, drawing from real-world practices creates a bridge between fiction and reality. This grounding in authentic traditions allows readers to feel the magic as something tangible, accessible, and part of our shared human experience.
That said, this can feel like the most daunting component to explore – especially if the writer doesn’t identify as a witch. The most resounding bit of advice here is to approach researching a witchy character in the same way research would be conducted for any other character. Use diligence, use scholarship, and incorporate what feels authentic to the narrative.
Building Enchanted Worlds
Even magic must have its limitations. By establishing rules and boundaries for magical practices within the story, writers create a framework that maintains consistency and believability. This includes considering the source of magical power, its limitations, and its consequences. Rules make the magic feel real, providing a structure that allows it to coexist seamlessly with the mundane world. This isn’t to say you need an entire magical world sketched out before you begin your draft. It might be helpful to know the ins and outs of your magical system ahead of time. That way, when your characters write themselves into a jam, you’ll have more tools to get them out.
Magic is not confined to remote castles or hidden forests; it can be found in the bustling streets of a city or the quiet corners of a small-town library. You can infuse real-world locations with magical properties by drawing from your deep connection to various places. Consider the enchanting alleys in Tbilisi, Georgia, where ordinary shops conceal mystical wares, or the dusty libraries in Bishkek, where every book whispers its secrets. Techniques such as detailed description, historical integration, and emotional resonance can turn ordinary locations into extraordinary magical landscapes.
Utilizing language to create a magical ambiance is a nuanced craft that may reflect your experience as a polyglot. The choice of words, the rhythm of sentences, and the incorporation of various linguistic traditions can build a world that feels inherently magical. Think of the spellbinding prose of authors like Erin Morgenstern in The Night Circus, where words dance and play, creating an immersive magical experience. Language becomes the wand, the potion, the spell that enchants the reader.
Symbolism and Storytelling
Understanding the use of symbols and themes that resonate with witchcraft is vital. Of course, what symbols find their way into your work is going to be entirely subjecting. So there is no “right” or “wrong” here, and all witch lit DOES NOT need to conform to any one specific tradition. Themes of empowerment, transformation, and connection to nature often recur in witch lit, resonating with both historical and contemporary practices. The skillful integration of these symbols and themes enriches the story and connects it to a rich tapestry of magical tradition.
Witch lit is a dance between character, place, language, and symbol. It’s a genre that invites us to see the magical in the mundane and to explore our world with fresh eyes and open hearts. Through careful crafting of place as a character and the thoughtful use of language and symbolism, writers can create stories that resonate with readers on a profound level, inviting them to join in a dance that is as complex as it is beautiful. Join us on this magical journey as we delve into the world of witch-lit in our ongoing series. Whether you’re an aspiring writer or a reader enchanted by magic, we invite you to explore with us the spellbinding realms of everyday witchcraft.