M is for Magic

Category: Writing, Reading

Both of my WIPs have an element of magic in them, The Gifted more so than the other (will it ever have a title?). In The Gifted, the magic is limited only by the individual weilding it and not a lot of people can. The thing about magic – the thing that really makes it pop – is its side effects. To create a truly believable magic system there need to be a set standard of limitations as well as consequences to using it.

Lets take a look at a well known fantasy series where the magic system is well thought out: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. There will be spoilers so if you haven’t read it, be warned.

Book 1 in the series.

In the beginning of the series, only women are allowed to use magic. There is a “taint” on the male side of the magic that causes them to go mad if they use it. For this reason any man with the ability to use the magic is cut off from the source of their magic or killed because they have powers. For the women of the world, they go through years of training in the use of their magic before they are allowed to use it without supervision… That is, if they survive the ability to access the source of their magic for the first time.  Usually, they don’t unless with older women who have. (Men suffer from this as well.)

The use of magic can be dangerous. If one of them try to hold too much of the source of their powers, they can be burned out and never able to use magic again or killed from it. Every person is different in how much magical power they hold.
Something happens in the plot of this series though where we get to see first hand just how unstable men become when they use magic… We also get to see the taint on the male side of the magic source cured by magic. (Although, any madness that started before the cure is still there.)

As you can see, Robert Jordan created a magical system with limitation and consequences, and what I’ve explained doesn’t even do it justice.
If you create a world with magic, don’t allow this magic to save the day. If it can create tension within the story without being used as a fix-all then you are on your way to a believable magic system. 

About Katie Doyle

Katie Doyle is an avid reader, writer of NA and Adult fiction, a mom to two tornadoes that resemble an eight and six year old, and pet to a tuxedo cat named Oz and a German Shepherd/Boxer rescue named Charlie. If she's not reading, writing, or getting Oz out of a tree, she's screaming at characters on TV and trying not to curse around her kids.
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6 Responses to M is for Magic

  1. We did the same M word for today, and I know we're not the only ones.Magic only works in a story when there are limitations and consequences. Otherwise everything comes far to easy to our heroes, and that never makes for a good story, does it? Great post.

  2. Marta Szemik says:

    I love using magic in my novels. When I'm stuck, that's usually when the magical aspect comes into play. And agreed, there must be consequences for using magic, but the good guys usually know that:)

  3. Nicole says:

    It's no fair that men are not allowed to use magic in that fantasy series. I guess those are not equal-opportunity novels! It's funny reading this post….I just had a conversation about the subject of magic earlier today, with someone who was telling me about a trip to Honolulu. I rarely read fiction, so I think the only magic I will be introduced to will be on television and via Harry Potter.Cheers!~NicoleBlog: The Madlab Post*My recent A to Z Challenge posts – K is for Karma; L is for Love*@MadlabPost on Twitter

  4. J.C. Martin says:

    I don't write fantasy, but can definitely appreciate how difficult it is to make magic realistic. If magic can solve everything, it wouldn't be very interesting to read about, would it?J.C. MartinA to Z Blogger

  5. Mike Manz says:

    Good stories are about people, about characters, faced with conflict and either resolving or failing to resolve that conflict.Magic is part of the setting, nothing more. It can be a contributing factor in the creation of and resolution of conflict, but should never play a central role. Unless you personify it and make it a character.Fiction is complicated…

  6. Fairview says:

    great post. I never really thought of it before, although I did know enough not to have magic come in and save the day/solve the problem.

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