Behind the Scenes of “Alan and the Magic Lamp”

Woohoo! My newest flash fiction story, “Alan and the Magic Lamp,” is available to read for 24 hours on Havok today. It’s a fantasy-comedy about a guy who finds a magic lamp, then gets into a debate with the genie about the best use of his wishes. Wondering how the story came to be? Look no further.

Like my other recent flash fiction stories, this one was written specifically for Havok’s monthly theme. In this case, it was “redo.” I naturally looked to time travel as a theme to explore, but wanted to avoid a sci-fi time machine setup. As I was thinking about what fantasy time travel might look like, I thought it could be interesting if someone tried to use a genie’s wish to return to the past and try to redo a time in their life.

When I did, I started wondering what the genie would think about that plan. Unlike a time machine, a genie can talk back to the person who wants to travel to the past, and maybe try to talk them out of situations that could destroy the space-time continuum. Since I had a blast working on my previous humorous story (When Magic Died), I figured it would be fun to write this for their Wacky Wednesday genre.

With that concept in mind, I knew this would be a conversation-driven story. The crux was the genie resisting Alan’s wish to go back in time, but I still needed to figure out the plot surrounding the conversation. This required knowing the characters’ motivations.

The genie’s motivation was obvious: protect the space-time continuum … and just be lazy. Alan’s took a little more time. I wanted it to be something really minor, to amp up the humor of him using a precious wish to go back in time to fix it, yet still be believable (or at least as believable as a story with a genie). I think the crush works as a good mid-point, and am a big fan of the “How dare you suggest I’d be willing to destroy the fabric of reality for a crush … but let’s pretend I was” line.

With those motivations in place, the story started to take form. Drawing them both out gave the story some substance as well as room to spread bits of humor. For that, I leaned heavily on the genie’s characterization. Now that the live action Aladdin has been out for a few weeks, I can’t help wondering whether subverting the classic genie persona with a hip personality is overdone now. But it felt fresh when I wrote it in April. And I think the G nickname remains brilliant.

That said, I’m still working on humor writing. I think the style I strive for tends toward using unexpected words in certain places (like “Just because I have near-incomprehensible otherworldly powers does not mean I enjoy responsibility” or “you make another series of questionable decisions that eventually bring you here”). But I still try to keep things interesting with a little variety (physical humor in sitting on the “Do not sit” sign or random humor by suggesting a tiger as a pet). I’m sure not everything will work for everyone, but I hope every reader gets a least a smile out of it.

And as G says, “Why waste time wanting to go back to fix things if it distracts us from living in the present?” (Sidenote: I’m very satisfied that, even though this is a humor piece, it still carries that message of truth. In my head, that earns extra points.) I had a really fun time developing this story, and really appreciated editors Lauren Hildebrand’s and Gen Gavel’s notes that made it stronger and funnier.

And I hope that you had a fun time reading both the story and this post about writing it. If so, feel free to comment here or on the post on Havok’s website. If you’re reading this after the story’s 24 hours have passed, you can always become a member and get full access to every flash fiction story they’ve published, plus the ability to vote on which stories are selected for their anthologies! Thanks for reading!

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