The Word “Miracle”
Miracle. It’s a word used to describe the indescribable, the amazing, the strange, the beautiful. We throw it around casually, saying things like “It’s a miracle I didn’t kill anyone today” or “It’s a miracle I passed that test.” We don’t attribute our coping skills or knowledge to those tasks. We simply say it was divine intervention.
The wiki definition for miracle is “an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws.” Yet we don’t confine it to the simply inexplicable. A play of the light happens to create the image of an angel in your photo? A miracle. A piece of toast with an unexpected Elvis pattern on its surface? A miracle. Winning the lottery against all odds? You guessed it, a miracle.
Recently, I’m subjected to yet another version of the word, one I’m quick to silence. This phenomenon is neither inexplicable nor does it defy scientific laws. Childbearing. I’ll be the first to admit to being a reluctant pregnant woman, since this state of being wasn’t really part of the plan. But when part A and part B go together they sometimes create part C. Nothing unusual about this, that’s for sure.
Now, I’m not here to debate whether or not giving birth is a miracle, to each their own. Just don’t throw the term at me, please, because biology is far from one of the great mysteries of life.
The real miracle here? Derek surviving the full nine months with his sanity intact!
Now, I’m not here to only talk about the whims of pregnant people. After all, I am one and I wouldn’t mess with my opinions, so why would I mess with anyone else’s?
So let’s talk about our wonderful fantasy worlds.
The great part about writing fantasy is that it doesn’t have to have a basis in scientific truth. Does that mean you just plop in whatever elements you desire, be it magic, godly gifts, or dwarves birthed from holes in the ground, and call it a miracle? Does your hero go for a stroll in the woods one day to find a sword bathed in orc blood just lying around, which by the way, happens to be the only weapon capable of smiting the enemy? Or does he have to go on an epic quest to find the last orc hidden deep within the mountains and sheathe his weapon in this hulk’s flesh to accomplish this feat?
Magic can’t be construed as a miracle either. It needs rules, limitations. Are you born into it? Are you chosen by a secret cult who then conducts a ritual to waken the latent magic present in all beings? Do you stumble upon an item which grants you an ability of some sort?
Even in my first up and coming novel, The Paths of Greythorn, I needed an explanation as to why Sylvie became half fairy, half insect. One loosely based on scientific findings. Of course, humans in their natural forms can’t survive the atmosphere of Caliah. Combine this fact with the wild magic used to create the portal between worlds and you have a spell which transform travelers. That the Gods had a hand in the portal’s opening helped matters as well. All reasons why she wouldn’t emerge from the other side unchanged. As for her sudden abilities? Well, she is a champion of the Gods, hand-picked to slap some sense into their fairy children. It makes sense that they’d properly equip her for the job.
But never, not once, do any of my characters suggest this transfiguration is a miracle.
As for dwarves popping out of the ground… well I got nothing. I’ve yet to explore the dwarven elements of my world. Perhaps they lay eggs and place them in the earth for an incubation period. Are you a dwarf? Do you know any personally? Then you can’t prove me wrong!
So while it might be easier to simply say “and when all hope seemed lost, all avenues of escape exhausted, a hole tears into the fabric of time and space and whisks our heroes to safety.” You have to have a plausible explanation for that sudden time/space distortion. The Gods rarely play a hand in mortal affairs, unless they’re desperate, and even then you might only get one boon. So leave them out of the game. Maybe our heroes are friends with a bungling mage who finally gets a spell to work? Or maybe the bungling mage was trying to make toast with magical flames, for lack of better tools, and accidentally saves the day by creating a wormhole leading to our heroes? (on a side note, he burnt the toast.)
All this to say you need an explanation for whatever you decide to spring on your readers. Unless maybe you’re writing about an angel favoured by the God. And even then, that’s stretching it a little. Your audience must truly believe what they’re reading. This is especially important for fantasy/sci-fi, but is good advice for any genre.
So go ahead, write about a wizard with a penchant for magically fired toast, write about fairies with no visible reproductive parts, write about dwarf babies springing from the earth each spring. Whatever you decide, you better be ready to back up those decisions with some sort of explanation. (The fairies are explained in my novels, don’t worry, I have it covered.)
As always, write it out!