Posted in Methods, Writing

The Magic System – Part 2

Creating the magic system for you world can be a lot of work. It also takes a lot of time. Personally, I have never created a full magic system for any of my stories that require one. However, I have understood the rules of magic.

What can magic do?

This is an important question I like to answer. Can magic raise the dead? If so, why aren’t zombies roaming around? Is this type of necromancy magic forbidden? What is the penalty of being caught performing such magic? Have a lot of magic users tried?

These question bring to mind a certain character where his family or someone close to him/her has died. if such magic existed, would they go out and find a way to raise the dead or find someone to do it for them? That simple fact – whether or not magic can raise the dead – cane create an entire story for that character. I also think about the popular manga, Fullmetal Alchemist, by Hiromu Arakawa. After failed attempt to resurrect their mother by using alchemy, the boys lose body parts and go on a journey to find a way to restore their bodies.

Can magic turn copper into gold? Or can magic users turn anything in general into gold?

It’s the transmutation question. This questions brings to mind a thief/peddler who is not really good at magic but he does have a small gift to transmute certain things to appear like gold. With the system I created, this is possible. However, I put in place limitations.

The transmuted object will always return to its original form. The effect is not permanent otherwise the economy wouldn’t exactly work.

What does magic require?

For example, if someone tries casting a spell, do they need certain ingredients? Can those ingredients be replaced? Do they need candles? Or perhaps a magic circle? Does it need the person’s willpower? What fuels magic? Does it burn away people’s life-force? Does it need “mana” or other forms of energy?

With this, remaining consistent is key. Otherwise readers might feel like there’s nothing concrete. There’s only so far suspense of disbelief will stretch.

Any limitations on magic?

This questions goes back to the beginning. It’s important to know what magic can’t do. There are times when I need to start backwards. I need to place limitations on what magic can do because otherwise there might be plot holes. Why couldn’t a character do this spell at the end when he could do it at the beginning without any problem?

The rules are up to you to decide. Personally, I like to keep things consistent. It also helps to keep a notebook with all the rules for magic. If I ever need to go back and double check something, I have a place to go for easy access.

Finally, beta readers are a good resource to use. Those who read your story will, hopefully, point out things that don’t make sense.

Posted in Methods, Resources, Writing

Developing The Magic System – Part 1

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.