Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Establish a Great Magic System, Part Six

Okay, so up today is part six in establishing your magic system. I hope you've been keeping up, but if you haven't, the links to all the past questions are at the bottom of the page.

Question 6: What is the cost of using magic?
  • Magic use should have a price
This can be a physical cost, like getting a headache or being weak. It can be something that has to be made up in nature later. Perhaps magic acts cannot be performed close together, or simultaneously. This is where you can make your fantasy and your magic system DIFFERENT. You should always be looking for a new slant to put on your magic, and the cost of using or being associated with the magic is a great place to do it.

  • The cost can establish character weaknesses
This is where you can establish weaknesses in the magic and provide something the enemy can exploit later. This will force them to grow and change BEYOND the magic (the magic can’t save them, they have to save themselves), and give you good conflict when you’re building your world and characters.

  • Simply associating with magic can have a consequence
This is not to simply be more complex. It’s to force you to create better stories. You can do so here, with the cost of the magic. You set a limitation, and you stick to it. Don’t let yourself give your MC (magic user) a new power every time they need one. Resist using magic to solve every little problem in the book – unless you’ve already explained and shown that aspect of how the magic works. Be careful about writing laws into your system simply so you can use them once in a specific situation. Be more creative than that!

So what is the price of using magic in your world?

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). My magic series is here: Question 1, Question 2, Question 3, Question 4, and Question 5.

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've never thought about many of these things, but it does seem to be true. Especially the part about magic having a cost.

Genissa said...

Great post! The cost of magic is one of the most interesting aspects to me! On the surface, magic makes things easier, but there's always a price. Once Upon a Time always emphasizes "the price of magic."

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