Create a Magic System: Introduction

Mage hat
Mage hat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love fantasy books and poems. One of my favorite elements of the genre is the presence of magic. Typically magic is a manifestation of will or desire that makes possible the impossible. Authors can use magic in so many ways. Magic can simply be a backdrop – a piece of the fantasy world – but it can also be so much more. Many editors and agents (I’m told) look for magic to be integral to the story. How you interpret this demand is up to you.

The ability to use magic may be integral to your main character – the main character in my current WIP is judged by society by her lack of magic. Or your main character may be innately magical – such as a shape-shifter. Magic may be integral to your character or world’s back story – mage wars shaped the current land and society of my world and behind the scenes the main antagonist is trying to free an evil god from his ocean prison (an effort that triggered the actions of my current WIP’s villain). And magic could be integral to your plot – my magic-less girl must rescue her father’s dragon from a powerful enemy mage.

Writers can use magic to deal with a theme or issue close to their hearts. Magic can be used to explore power, social issues, environmental issues, good and evil, corruption, justice and injustice, personal differences, elitism, identity, or even the price of gifts. To incorporate magic in your theme, consider the source of your magic, the structure of your magic, the types of magic and types of magic users, the people and creatures who can and cannot use magic, and the social implications of the ability to use magic.

For the next several days we will look at the last four elements because they are crucial components to the creation of a complete magic system. Source, structure, types of magic and magic users, the magic user, and social implications – every creator of a magic system needs to thoroughly know these four components even if most of the information never appears in the book. The writer needs to know this information to ensure their world is consistent, logical, and comprehensive. Consistency becomes more important when multiple books are planned for the world. Logic is an important ingredient in reader belief. And comprehensiveness is an aid for both, as well as a way to a more complete world.

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