Writing Magic in FictionWrite magic in fiction
About the Definite Rule For Writing Magic (Or, Some Hit My Writers' Group Made Up One Night)
At the beginning of the year I started a debate with the Creative Fiction Novel Writing Group about the properties of a good system of magic in fiction. We' ve been discussing a number of good magic system samples or good-quality ones, from Harry Potter to Star Wars, and Dune (yes, magic).
However, our policy is: There must be limits to magic, both to be credible and to keep your story from becoming shit. Unbounded magic is like Superman. Batman is objective better than Superman (mainly because Batman is insane, but also), because Batman has limits. There are a number of ways to restrict magic, and most good magic system will use a mixture of them:
Stage Magic - In Harry Potter's universe, you need either a magic staff or a spoken magic potion, and usually both. Much of the magic in Tolkien's Middle Earth is spent on magic objects; the all-metal alchemist Hiromu Arakawa Manga's all-metal alchemist needs to use magic icons for their magic to work.
Effect spectrum that magic can have - Many authors are quite relaxed about it, but some are quite stern. At Fullmetal Alchemist magic is restricted to the transformation of material, it can do nothing else. In the dune world, too, magic (yes, magic; yes, sci-fi ) is restricted to the narrative and navigational aspects of orbit.
In Dave Duncan's A Man of His Word collection, magic is learned through the knowledge of magic words. When they' re learning a fifth, they become a god, which doesn't mean much in Duncan's world. In the Warhammer world, too much magic transforms you into some kind of insane, monomeric combination of creations, so there is a certain amount of magic that it is wise not to cross (which is also a beautiful drama device).
In Dune, magic is fueled by dried out worms' sap. Also in the Glen Cook's Garrett P.I. novel universe, magic is fueled by its use. That' s as important as following a rule like'Oh, I don't know how to decapitate'. Laws of beheading are known and widespread.
Not only would you be shaking off and running your businesses from beheading in your history - unless you have set your own global regulations that make exemptions from this policy. When you have set precepts about what magic can and shouldn't do in your life (and you should), you can't just break them.
That doesn't mean your regulations have to be extremely stringent. Indeed, with really stringent, exhaustive regulations - or, more to the point, tell your reader what they are - can end up making more effort than it is worth. At the end of the day, it is important to know what they are. Richard Garfinkle's novel Celestial Matter is a story of a fictitious conflict between old Greeks and China.
Anything in the Greek Cosmology is real to them, anything the Chinese believe about how the cosmos works is real to them. You have to think about the effects even if your own regulations are easy. The magic in Le Guins Earthsea stories comes from the mysterious tongue of nature. When they are not real, when they are said, the whole earth will reorganize itself to make them come true. What do you mean?
You don't want your reader to see the implications of your own policies that you don't have. Sometimes you will find that you have to sneak out of the set of regulations you have made. At TWOT, Jordan creates a universe where the masculine half of magic has been corrupt and invariably makes masculine mages crazy and malign.
It is a nice narrator until you have written six novels in your history and you still need your masculine wizard character to avoid being crazy and malign. I had a similar issue in A Man of His Word. Duncan's hero, Rap, has to get rid of his magic at some point in the storyline, but magic words are almost unforgettable, so he yells the four words he knows at the gathered people of an whole town and dilutes the magic to such an extreme degree that it becomes useless.
Later in the day, rap needs its magic back. The Duncan needs to do a semi-mantic gym so that the thinning of the magic words of rap makes them easy to remember, and as more folks who hear the words they start forgetting the strength to go back to rap. It is the alternative way to have and adhere to them.
If your wizard doesn't confuse your history, just do what you think of best. So in the Black Company books, an wicked wizard can get his mind chopped off, and without any sign that the following is possible, she can throw it off and carry most of the next volume around with her mind in a crate until she can get the man who beheaded her to stitch it back on.
There' s a price to pay for doing everything in the canyon. Simple equation of expenses are the actors' immediate costs: The runaway of a zombie consumes power, as does the growth of a magic beanpole or the change of material from evil wretch to mud. As a rule, the magical system that offers the most to their histories works in the same way.
With Fullmetal Alchemist you have to give something while doing magic to get something. Warhammer' s cosmos is naturally devastating and the use of magic leads to insanity and mutations. A Man of His Word's magic words are the real name of the fairy and it takes the fairy her life to tell them.
The addition of magic and magic beauties to the birth is the same. This would lead to a radically different underworld. The same applies to business and faith regimes. Do you think they would drive any jobs out of the physical reality? What would the influence of magic on the faith in a god be? TWOT distorts the continental society by mages' magician guardians and mages' wandering shell.
The Dune and Garret P.I. books are characterized by the availability and prices of magic fuels (spices and silver). A Man of His Word contains deities like the developed Pokemon spellcasters. Authors sometimes circumvent these problems by building a "parallel" magic universe - a fairyland or an underground one.
But here too, the most famous narrator is a magic academy that mirrors true experience of the school's infancy, but incorporates magic into what the child actually learns. The Potter Verse disguises the scarcity of explanations about how magic works by focusing children's classes on the right spell pronunciations, potioning materials, and the right angling actions for their wrists.
Harry, grown up as Muggle, doesn't realize how much of the things around him work, and has the feeling that a kid is surprised when magic things work. Alternatively to the child's point of views it is to inform his or her character so objectively about the magic that it would be like an explanation to take a garbage heap.
The hard-boiled, furry alpine men from Joe Abercrombie's books also have a tendency to scrape their hanging testes, snort "fucking weirdos" and cut each other into pieces. We were not the ones who awakened one of these days and thought: "Holy shit, this is meant to be sci-fi and the power is like magic, I better give it a genetical rationale or maybe make it a bloody sickness or something " and forget that we tell fairytales in orbit.
To declare it is killing magic. That' one of the best writing tips I've ever had. However, if you need your characters to become unseen, to give them a magic ring or an unseen mantle, don't make up anything new to interrupt your storyline to tell the readers - unless it's fantastic.
When you want your characters to get a wish from a magic being, make them a faerie or a ghost or a kite and imprint their own mark on them to improve your game. Raymond E. Feist's mage shows the title figure Pug how to fill and refill a trough in a senselessly repeating game.
The other authors have used red teaching as a skeleton for their method of education and disciplines in magic in the fields of fighting skills, dancing, music, chemicals, ceramics, calligraphy and high schools. Thieve everything that' s cookie-cutter from the true worlds of sorcery and allchemy. It' a very easy one to ask: Is magic a means to help me tell my own tale?
Magic can be an integrated part of the action, and it's not a terrible thing if it is. However, sometimes the story is just an easy to see skeletal structure from which you can suspend your astonishing imagination (girl meeting guy, girls getting a bangs, lonely gunfighter riding into the city, prince saving herself from the wicked magician, thanks a lot, etc.).
When you aim to tell your magic storyline and your readership is happy that you' ve accomplished what you've done with it, magic is a means that has help you tell your storyline. Or, sometimes a narrative simply works better when it comes to communicating its subject to the editor when it is a small move away from the physical reality.
A dash of magic sometimes enhances the emotive voyage. So is magic a means to help you tell your tale?