M is for Magic

M is for MagicToday the A to Z Challenge continues! I’ll be posting about one letter/word on every weekday in April. Don’t want the barrage of posts? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I start doing new stuff next month!

M is for Magic.

No discussion of fantasy novels is complete without talking about magic. Magic and the creatures that often come with it–dragons, elves, fairies–are what drew many of us to the fantasy genre in the first place, and what keep many people coming back. It can do anything we can imagine, with as much or as little explanation as we want.

Magic can get pretty ridiculous in movies and on TV, especially when you’re talking about animation, but I like my magic best when it has rules that make sense, are clearly explained and are followed throughout the series. Off the top of my head the best example I can think of is the Death Note manga, which literally has pages of rules about how the Death Note actually works.

In most of the fantasy worlds I’ve had the pleasure to wander through the rules are a little less specific, but they exist. Magic is drawn either from the energy of the world around the mage or from within the mage themselves and in most worlds something must be traded for it. In some worlds a single, moderately strong spell can take years off your life. In others you’ll simply be knocked over, or you have to trade some type of object or life in order to perform magic at all.

Whatever the rules of magic are in your world, the important thing is that you actually take the time to create them and follow them. Doing it before you start your first draft is great, but at the very least you want to have it done before you start editing. You want to be able to explain the rules to curious editors and readers. If magic does anything extreme in your world like burn down a village or bring people back to life you’re going to have to be able to explain how it does that. We don’t need all the details of your magical system but a handful of ground rules will go a long way towards keeping your story believable.

Have you encountered any really interesting magical systems? Do you create magic systems for your own worlds? Let me know in the comments section below!

2 thoughts on “M is for Magic

    • dlgunn

      Sounds like fun! You never know when the magic system you’re working on might end up being used–it might even inspire some stories of its own–and someday when you’re extremely famous you can share all the notes about it on your equivalent to Pottermore 😉

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