How to Write Magic

Tuesday, October 19

Magic will make or break your book. There is no in-between. How you handle magic can mean the difference between an epic and just-another-fantasy-book.

Know Your Limits
Magic must have limits. Your characters can’t snap their fingers and have everything they want appear from thin air.
The other day I was critiquing a friend’s rough draft. A battle occurs between the magical bad guys and the relatively unarmed good guys. The bad guys were hurling everything they had; sending shockwaves through people, shaking the ground, uprooting slabs of cobblestone street and flinging it through the air, ect. Then, out of the blue, one of them turns a good guy into dust.
If the antagonists had that power all along, why didn’t they use it? Turning your enemy into a pile of dust sounds a tad more effective than a shockwave.
Decide where your book’s magic is limited. J. K. Rowling created several rules for her own writing, such as “magic cannot bring dead people back to life” and “whatever you conjure out of thin air won’t last”.

“But for heaven’s sake − you’re wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out − well − anything!”
“…The trouble is, the other side can do magic too...”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Where there is light, there is darkness. Your protag can’t be wandering around with invincible magical powers.
Either the villain has magic too, or the protag’s magic comes at a price. Or both.

Supernatural Villain
If you’ve got a magical antagonist on your hands, you’ll probably end up writing an epic final battle. The battle should never be won because of magic. It’s not about who’s got the stronger firepower, it’s about good triumphing over evil. The main character should win because of a clever plan or an oversight on the villain’s part.

Supernatural Problems
Nothing gets handed to your character with no strings attached, least of all magic. Your character should make mistakes and possibly get hurt because of it.
Take the classic example of Frodo and the ring of power. It’s not just a cool ring that can make you invisible, it’s an evil artifact that slowly poisons and manipulates you.
If your character has a power, it doesn’t have to kill them. But it should weaken them or occasionally backfire.

Believable Magic
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but your magic must be believable. If a modern day kid starts seeing fairies, he’s gonna think that he’s gone crazy. Normal people wouldn’t think, “I can see fairies! Magic is so cool!”
In Alice in Wonderland, Alice thinks the whole thing’s a dream from start to finish, which is exactly what a sane person would think.

2 comment(s):

Liz Tuesday, October 19, 2010  

This was a fascinating post! Thanks, Story Weaver!

james Tuesday, January 31, 2017  

Magic can also be said as action, gesture or symbols that may point to some supernatural force. In many religion or cultures there is a concept of magic from early times and in many dissertation writing service this is written in true and straight forward words. We can also do magic in good and bad sense through which people may sometime harm people in wrong actions.

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