See, I've written a futuristic fantasy that I'm going to self-publish this summer, and I've got a contemporary fantasy I'm hoping my agent can sell in the traditional market. I love fantasy. I read a lot of fantasy. But I always think there's room for improvement in my own craft, and as I've been revising the futuristic fantasy for publication, I realized that I needed to really cement my magic system.
So for myself and for the class, I came up with 10 questions authors can ask themselves as they establish their magic systems. Oh, and this works for technology systems in science fiction novels as well.
I did use Google to aid me in my research. I found three places that provided me with the most insight and useful information: Brandon Sanderson's Laws of Magic (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), WikiHow (don't laugh, it had good stuff!), and The Four Part Land (he has six parts, but they're all linked at the top of this one).
So I read (ahem, maybe I skimmed a little. Some of the posts are long!) up on magic systems. I thought about what *I* liked in a magic system. I thought about the fantasy novels I'd read (because I don't read high-high fantasy like Sanderson or many of the authors/titles they talk about in these posts). I thought about Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the TV show Merlin, movies like The Prestige, and other -- in my opinion -- accessible references. (Basically I'm saying I was too lazy to take the time to read those high fantasy novels. I reflected on what I was familiar with. And that's a tip I always give when I'm teaching: Use what you know to draw conclusions and create learning for what you don't.)
After I'd done a little light Internet reading, I formed my 10 questions. Today, we'll just explore the first.
Question 1: Who Can Use the Magic?
- the main character?
- special characters?
- the wealthy?
- a specific gender?
- only those trained?
You must decide who in your world can use the magic (or who has access to the technology in the world). Only a few people, designated to do so? Is the main character included in this group, or not? Can everyone use it? Only the wealthy? Or the poor? Only men, or women, or children? Only those who are trained? Those who are genetically capable? (Which leads us to another question we’ll get to later.)
But you have to know who can and who can’t use the magic, or who does and who doesn’t have access to the technology, in your world. This will help you establish weaknesses and limitations on the magic--also something we'll discuss in a later question.
So when creating a magic system, the first step is determining who will be able to access that power -- and why. Why them, and not everyone? Why only a select few? The why is important too.
So there's Question 1. I'll be back over the course of the next several weeks exploring all 10 questions, and I hope you'll join me!