There are a lot of how-to and tips on how to write a magic system for a story. It may be fantasy, it might not. In Part 1, I will focus on the questions I tend to ask myself when creating first. The questions about what magic can do, consequences, etc. will be addressed later.
To begin with, the first question you must ask yourself before anything else is:
Do you have magic in your world?
Assuming you are here because you do have magic in the world, then the next question you need to answer is:
Where does the magic come from?
Does it come from the earth? Mystical beings? Through study? What is the origin of magic?
Next, how do the people in your world access magic? Do they have to have special devices? Tombs? Spellbooks? Focus?
Once you’ve established this all of this. The next step is to think about who can use this magic. Can magic be used by anyone? Peasants? Nobility? How does this impact society? Are those with magic elevated in status or not?
Do people practice in the open, in school, or in hiding? These questions will impact how magic interacts with your world.
Some other questions that I like to ask myself when I create a magic system are: how widespread is magic? Are there specific regions that only have magic or the entire continent/ kingdom? Does every citizen in these regions accept magic or do they mistrust it?
How are magic users treated? This also has to deal with their social status and whether or not they have to hide their magic. If people do have to hide their magic, what caused this? Was there a specific event?
Do the magic users have their own government? Most importantly, who governs them? Is there a special task force that steps in when magic goes wrong? Does this government have their own power? Or are they overseen by a ‘non-magic’ user group?
What is allowed? Meaning, what can magic users do? Is there a specific rule that says, you cannot reanimate dead bodies? Or bring back the dead? Is this even possible at all?
These are a lot of questions and perhaps you might not have all the information and it can feel overwhelming. While these might not be all the questions available, I believe these are some questions just to get you started on exploring your magic system.
Lastly, I would like to add that these questions also help with world building. Society, trade, class systems, etc. are all affected by just one element. Every society, world, the regions of your story are different. There are endless possibilities but it’s up to you to make yours unique.
Thanks for reading. Part 2 will be up next Monday.