Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Building Realistic Magic Systems (lol)

I'm starting to think trying to tackle a fantasy book as my first book was probably a poor choice... lol.  There's so much world building, which is my favorite part and probably why I wanted to do fantasy in the first place, but that on top of writing a plot line that doesn't fall apart and characters that come alive, it's a lot.  I don't mind; I'm really enjoying it.  But I am getting stuck with the magic and it's limitations.  Magic can't be endless, otherwise everything can just be solved by magic, and I'm having trouble setting realistic boundaries.  (haha, ironic right?  Realistic magical boundaries...)  There has to be a reason for why certain people can do specific magic and why others can't and how magic runs out or what happens with too much magic.

Let's take Harry Potter.  First, wizards have to be schooled in magic otherwise they can't really do much.  A untrained wizard could potentially be dangerous, or they just don't have defined/focused powers.  If HP loses his wand, he can't do magic, so losing his wand is a real potential problem.  Plus his magic isn't endless and something has to facilitate it.

Now let's take The Seven Realms novels by Cinda Williams Chima.  Her wizards are highly dangerous and destructive if untrained; they basically have to go to wizard school or they're a danger even to themselves.  They don't have wands, but they have flashpieces, where they store up their "flash", basically the energy that let's them do magic.  If they have no flash saved, they can't do magic, making another real potential problem if they find themselves in need of magic and they already used up their flash.  And the more flash they save, the more powerful/greater magic they can do.

Both magic systems have a way of creating problems (losing wand or using up flash) and a defined way of increasing power (going to school to train to be a wizard).  I haven't defined my magic to that degree but in order for the story to work, I have to make sure I know all the rules.  Which I don't.  Which I have to create.  More stuff to edit, hooray!


  1. You know, you may find beta readers comments really helpful there. In prior MS, my crit partner would ask the "how can that be" and "how does that work" and "why" type of questions which lead me to think about the answers. Sometimes it makes more sense to do that from a prompt. Even if you're not at the beta stage, try just brainstorming about it. It's really helpful!

  2. @Gilly - I am almost at that point to give it off to the CPs and you're right; hopefully they'll be able to pick apart the magical holes in the magic system and help me focus it a little more. Thanks for stopping by!