1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    incantations

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Jul 12, 2012.

    What are pros/cons of using a system of magic where a spell does/doesn't have to be recited?

    I've been planning on my characters just using the spells without any accompanying words, but I am rethinking this for the audience's sake.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    that's something you have to figure out. It's your own magic system. only you can know what will fit your story.
     
  3. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Vocal components?
    Pros: Looks cool if done right, serves as visible magic, general knowledge passes easier through 'words of power'
    Cons: Overused, language issues, highly visible, just about everything else about magic gets dumbed down.

    Just come thoughts.
     
  4. nomadpenguin
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    nomadpenguin Member

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    If you have a non-vocal system, you'll end up having to say things like "and then Johnny cast a spell for fire, and the wood burst into flame" as opposed to "Johnny said '[insert spell here]' and the wood burst into flame."
     
  5. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    This. Decide, with reference perhaps to other stories that you like, which you like best and which would fit best into your story.

    I don't agree that non-vocal magic would have to be so bland and limited as that. You wouldn't be kept to just narrating that he "cast a spell", you could link it to gestures, thoughts, even the direction a character is looking.
     
  6. Jimm79
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    Jimm79 New Member

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    Could they use hand gestures/wands? might make it a bit easier to describe what they're doing.
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have always been terrible at making up titles and names etc - so coming up with spells as well is almost out of the question for me. However, it was just as troublesome without, because then I'm left with "and he waved his hands" or "made a gesture" or "conjured a ball of energy" etc, which sounds kinda... meh, you know?
     
  8. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    If you want to use your magic as a plot device, for solving conflicts within your story then words can be a very useful tool. To use magic as a plot device and have it be satisfying to the readers they need to know the rules of the magic. Lord of the Rings very often doesn't use magic as a plot device because Tolkein's magic system is very vague, it's just more there to convey a sense of wonder.

    Star Wars uses the force however to resolve conflicts and battles because we know the rules of the force. It never directly explains to us but it's foreshadowed throughout the movies and we slowly learn what it can and can't do. So when the force is used as a plot device it's satisfying.

    Harry Potter also uses magic as a plot device, again because we know the rules of the magic system. This is where words come in handy, because we know the name of a spell we know the rules to that spell and it feels satisfying when it's used to solve a problem. Rowling uses words for this rather than explain it through story (as opposed to Star Wars) because she is writing for a younger audience and the words make the magic system easier to grasp.


    Pros
    Easier to grasp
    Helpful in a Y/A fantasy book


    Cons
    Doesn't give your reader the chance to interpret the magic system for themselves
    Older readers will enjoy the challenge of figuring out a magic system
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I once read an author's advice on writing magic systems - he teaches that there're 2 approaches to magic systems. One where it's open and the other where it's closed. The closed system is where there're set rules - for example, even Superman is within this closed system because we know what he can and can't do, Harry Potter too for example.

    Then there's the open system where there're no rules and your characters don't understand how it works, and this is good for creating mystery and fear. However it'd mean it'd be bad for using as a plot device for solving conflicts.

    And another major piece of advice I remember was - always put limitations to your system so your characters can't just get out of things. I'll run off now and try and actually find the article.
     
  10. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    I've heard something similar to this. That readers actually find the limitations and things magic can't do more interesting than what the magic actually can achieve. Harry Potter has another good example of this with the Horcrux. Voldermort needs to murder someone before he can use it which made Voldermorts character that more sympathetic because it explained a lot of his motives and bridged the gap between an arrogant scared (but powerful) young wizard into the evil murderer he became.
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    One problem with spoken spells is that it's hard to not have them sound ridiculous. It's very easy to write laughable stuff like "Flyus broomum!" or "Flamius ignitify!" or even "Cease your activities - have no fun! Stop right in your tracks, Evil One!"

    I think I'd avoid spoken incantations if I were writing a magic story.
     
  12. DeepBlue10055
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    DeepBlue10055 Member

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    Whatever you choose, It will completely alter the feel of every confrontation in the story. Do magicians have highly personal duels with wands and incantations like in harry potter? Or do they shoot deadly spells at each other from behind cover, as one might in a firefight? Another popular example is in the Eragon series. I think Paolini had a cool yet simple system that added another level to already-frantic battles.

    EDIT: spelling... haha
     
  13. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Using a spoken spell system also changes the dynamics of things like magic battles. If wizards have to speak then they can't strike from stealth, and they may be vulnerable to being say shot with arrows while they're busy reciting. (Depending of course on how long the spell is).

    But for me the thing that bugs me most about spoken spells, aside from the usual pig Latin used, is that I keep thinking when I read it, that if all you need to cast a spell is a few words, then anyone can be a wizard. So why isn't everyone a wizard?

    To me magic should be a more inate, instinctual thing. Like playing catch. You don't recite anything to throw or catch a ball. You just do it. And it feels morereal to me to imagine magic as being similar.

    Cheers, Greg.
     

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