Monday, May 12, 2014

How to Establish a Great Magic System, Part Five

Oh my heck, you guys, I am so far behind on my list of things to do! I feel like I've abandoned you a little bit here on the blog. Because I have.

But the end of April found me planning an Eagle court of honor for my son, and then finishing up all the prep to teach at a major Utah writer's conference, at which I was also the Faculty Coordinator. It was busy to say the least. And then May hit, and for teachers, this is a very busy month.

So I'm sorry! But I am back today with Part Five of how to establish a great magic system.

Today's question is: How Are Magic Acts Performed?

  • chants, spells, songs = SPOKEN
  • wands, hand movements = PHYSICALLY
  • combination of the above

We see examples of all of these in Harry Potter. Harry and his friends first learn the words they need to cast spells. These have to be spoken clearly or you could end up in the wrong alley.

Some spells have specific wand movements – a physical skill that must be performed correctly. But later on, we see that spells can be cast without words, suggesting that as a magic user progresses, they can simply use a wand and their mental capability to cast spells and perform magic. Some of these are done all together, some separately, but they can all achieve magic.

So what do the characters in your book need to do in order to perform their magic? Does it require another person, a specific tool, a list of memorized lyrics, etc. to get the spell accomplished?

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.)


Stephanie Faris said...

I wave wands and say things and nothing happens! It does seem like making up spells would be a little complicated.

Angela Brown said...

For the one high fantasy WiP I have, I'm working on the use of spells and chants and the fact that magic is not without consequence, much like Eragon.

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