1. Oak7ree
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    Oak7ree Member

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    Magical or not?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Oak7ree, Sep 5, 2013.

    I started to create a fantasy world as a "small" project to fill some empty time, and I started to think magic. Should I use it as an element in the world? It can be quite a hard thing to use freshly nowadays, as magic is used pretty much in every fantasy story from Harry Potter to the Lord of The Rings. Anyway, I just wanted to ask, how do you treat magic if you're using it in a story? Do you think it as a dangerous and mysterious force inhabiting the world or just as a common phenomenon like a wind?
     
  2. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    I use it rarely, but when I do, certainly as dangerous and mysterious, with few who are initiated and fewer still who master it.
     
  3. Sandfire
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    Sandfire Member

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    One of my favorite parts of writing is creating and using the magic systems. I'm not a huge fan of the more traditional tropes in fantasy magic, but I've read some stories with amazing magic systems. Brandon Sanderson is phenomenal when it comes to unique, compelling, engaging magic systems and he has been a huge inspiration for me. Each world he creates is new and amazing. I also I like the magic in Brent Weeks' Lightbringer series a lot.

    For me, one of the most important things in developing a magic system is for there to be clear limitations and boundaries. Harry Potter didn't work well for me because there were too many times I thought, "Why didn't they just use x spell?"

    For the fantasy trilogy I'm working on, the 'magic' system is not at all dark and mysterious. It's based on genetic reactions to certain substances, and can only affect the user of said substance directly, and has no mental component at all. (No mental activation of the magic powers. It's entirely physical.)
     
  4. Ray West
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    Ray West Member

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    You can treat magic however you like! But how you choose to use or treat it will very strongly influence the world you're creating. There's going to be a large difference between a world where it's dangerous and mysterious, and available to only a few, versus a world where it's as common as the wind, because it would in that case presumably affect everyone in the world. Also, in most stories in general, the structure of society is based on who holds power, whether it be magical or otherwise.
    Magic tends to be used in most fantasy novels I've read, and I agree with Sandfire that a more unique magic system (if you choose to add one) would probably make for a more compelling read than just adding magic for the sake of adding magic.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have a strong dislike for magic because it makes it too easy for writers to cheat. You can get your characters into an impossible predicament, and they can escape with the wave of a wand - ugh. I hate that.

    Also, a world that contains powerful magic probably couldn't exist in any stable form. You'd think the first ignorant creature to evolve would destroy the world by accidentally using too much magic. At the very least, the world would be constantly changing drastically - characters would wake up in a totally different world every morning, because during the night some punk kid would have turned the oceans to whiskey and the air to mustard gas just for fun.

    The only way I can see magic working is if it's very, very difficult to use. Only a tiny number of beings would be able to use it, and even they would have to work for months to cast even a simple spell. If rules like that aren't in place, the world doesn't work very well.

    Fantasy worlds without magic are very cool, though!
     
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  6. TessaT
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    TessaT Contributing Member

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    I'm tired of seeing the same old magic systems. I like it when they're new and innovative. I'm in the middle of reading the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, and I'm completely in love with his world AND his magic system.
     
  7. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Be careful with those, they get really preachy really fast. The first book you think, "Man this Goodkind guy doesn't like communists," but around the fifth book you skip every 10th page, because it's just a monologue about the terrors of...well in that case it's Buddhists. Horrible awful Buddhists.
     
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  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    One of the things I think makes Harry Potter's magic work is how fantastically creative it is. First there are the connections to everyday myths. Then there are the incredible magical creatures. And there is the evil like the Death Eaters. It's not the magic by itself in Harry Potter, it's the complexity and the connections to things the reader can imagine.
     
  9. TessaT
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    TessaT Contributing Member

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    Horrible, awful... buddhists? Oh man, and I'm just about to start the 5th book as well. Have you tried his new series on just the Confessors? Is that just as preachy?
     
  10. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    He never comes out and says they're Buddhists, but if you know anything about Buddhism it's quite clear. He shows his opinion of the whole "passive resistance" concept by having Richard kill a bunch of them.

    I have not. I burned through the Sword of Truth series in about two weeks, and after that I couldn't muster anymore interest. Don't get me wrong, they're quite good books, just very...opinionated.
     
  11. Morgan Willows
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    Morgan Willows Member

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    I tend to treat magic like a kind of physics. I, personally, don't care for fantasy series that treat magic as miracles on command with little to no effort. I'm very much into science so when I see that kind of 'handwave' magic, the first thing I think is "where did the energy to do that even come from?" or something similar and it's distracting to me. I like magic that has rules at least moderately in touch with reality (even if it is only brushing the theoretical edges of it, haha) and keeps to them.
    But it's your story, you can write it however you like.
     
  12. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    Have you ever read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss? His system of "magic" is something anyone can learn, and there are several different types. He goes into great detail about the laws and sciences behind it, and he also ties it into the politics of the land. In some areas, it is widely used and seen as resourceful, whereas other areas fear it in a superstitious sense.

    My point in saying all this is that magic is essential to the story, and it provides the plot with depth and interest. Would magic be a big part of your story? Would you have to change your world to fit it in? How is your magic going to differ from other stories' magic? Just some things to consider.
     
  13. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Magic should not be a deus ex machina. It should be given limited or specific functionality and honed as a type of science. I have a strict system for magic which is another "science" in my works. Teleportation is a classic "bad guy escape", but when all parties use it frequently and coupled with a few countermeasures even the most "cheap" magical stunts suddenly become an elaborate game of cat and mouse. Most magic in my setting is equated to the "blood on one's hands" which thanks to its research and study has come to represent a pretty twisted set of pseudo-deities who can decimate regular armies without breaking a sweat or in extreme cases... without moving from their decadent pleasure palaces and gambling halls. A world in which prospective heroes can be zapped with lightning at any time for even thinking of rebellion or dissent produces some scary balance if the world is not ruled by a single individual; suggesting that even unrestrained magic has its limitations.
     
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  14. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I personally dislike books that have no real defined way magic works or magic is just this godly force of reckoning.
    It works well in anime and games because it's flashy and fun to play with but in stories it just makes us wonder how the hell is anyone still alive? World shoulda been blown up by now.

    I loved the magic system in The Black Prism. Sun, colors, magic related to eye colors. It was dangerous and deadly yet limited and special.
    Also, the magic was made for that world specifically. I cannot stress the importance of something so fundamental in a world as magic to actually have affected how the world developed over time. Unless the magic is a hidden thing that no one knows about.

    Unlike his earlier work, Brent Week's Way of the Shadow books were... silly. A fully developed world with interesting magic quickly becomes with the MC becoming a veritable unstoppable god. He literally activated god mode on his character. I liked the story but how it resolved due to the characters powers was unsatisfying. I just kept thinking he became way overpowered.

    Offtopic but I enjoyed Terry Goodkind's novels. Amateurish writing (Or so I found. It was very different from what I usually expect from a novel) but I found him rather redundant at times and his magic system rather... wild. It seemed everything and nothing was impossible all at once. There was no real understanding to be found.
    However, his morals and philosophical beliefs came out rather clear. His inspirations were Ayn Rand (So he mentioned in an interview) and I can easily see how.
     
  15. LegendsTheFour
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    LegendsTheFour Member

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    Magic is cool, it's a really fantasy thing and it kind of "completes" the fantasy gender. But as said above, it needs some kind of defination. If you've ever read the Inheritance Cycle it explains how magic works whereas in e.g. Harry Potter it doesn't, if you get me?
     
  16. Kramitdfrog
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    Kramitdfrog Member

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    I am just finishing the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb and find the magic system used very unique to other magic systems.

    http://www.graspingforthewind.com/2011/04/07/magic-systems-the-skill/

    This link should explain this system. It was a most unusual system I might add and a very good read.
     
  17. TessaT
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    TessaT Contributing Member

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    I thought Harry Potter explained things pretty well on the magical end. It may not have gone into extreme details, but there are two classifications of humans: wizards and muggles, or those with magical abilities and those without. Magic is like a talent in Harry Potter, in which it needs to be taught and used, however the innate ability is always there. You may be good at playing the piano, but without practice and learning, you'll never get better. Some wizards are better at other types of magic than others, and that's just how it is. I know that they don't explain what EXACTLY magic is and how it came into being... but you get such a fantastic sense of the world, that I don't think you need it. I think it would just end up being a giant information drop. :)
     
  18. LegendsTheFour
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    Yeah I know, but it still annoyed how they never explained how you could create a spell. That was especially relevant in Book 6. xD
     
  19. Bhrodhnos
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    Although it is common in modern fantasy storytelling to have a "system" of magic, it must be pointed out that this is a fairly recent phenomenon. If you go back and look into magic the stories where it originated, that is in folktales and myths from pre-scientific societies, what you find is an asystematic treatment of the supernatural; frankly, a supernatural treatment of the supernatural. I feel that many folks nowadays embrace the idea of systematic magic because we have grown up always knowing that the universe is governed by laws, and that if something strange happens, there might need to be a complex explanation for it, but there will be one. Nothing is ever without cause or explanation. This is what hundreds of years of scientific inquiry has taught us. But this doesn't necessarily have to be so for magic.

    If you're dealing with force which is fundamentally supernatural, then it is almost strange to assert that it must be rule governed and thoroughly understandable.
    In fact, if it is, you could almost argue that you haven't really interjected magic into your story at all, you've just altered the physical laws of your constructed universe, and have an otherwise completely normal and non-magical setting. It seems magical to us to shoot fire, or freeze water, but if this is something that can be described in physical terms and most importantly, repeatably tested, then it is subject to scientific inquiry and is not magic in any sense of the word unless by magic you just mean "deviates from the physical reality of our world"

    I've had enough discussions to know that this idea probably isn't gonna go over to well with most folks, and I'm ok with that. To each his own. But I figured I'd just throw in my 2 cents and say that if you're thinking about magic in your setting, it's not an entirely crazy idea to have a formulation of magic which is fundamentally supernatural (unpredictable and outside the bounds of understanding from physical laws). In fact, until quite recently that would be about the only way that people thought magic should be described. Moreover, in a strange kind of way, if you're interested in doing magic "freshly" as you describe, since the rule governed magical system is so popular, a truly supernatural magic, though wildly archaic, probably would strike a lot of readers as being pretty far out there since it's something very few modern writers do anymore.

    Hope this helps some, and best of luck to you sir
     
  20. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    I thoroughly adore and revere the Harry Potter books, even though I don't really care for how they handled the workings of magic. Nothing was really explained, and all the spells seemed to ignore things like conservation of mass and energy. And, in a series aimed at younger readers (at least in the beginning) that's totally understandable. But when it seemed like wizards could conjure live birds from their wands and turn their purses into portable dimensions, why not just use magic to stop the bad guy from the start?
    *~"Violets are blue, Roses are red, Hocus Pocus, Voldemort's dead."~*
    I think magic is one of the best things about fantasy, and very nearly a defining factor of the genre. But, like anything else, you have to handle it well. If you don't like the sort of "something from nothing" magic of HP, then look at books like Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic books, or even Avatar: The Legend of Korra.
     
  21. Malo Beto
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    Malo Beto Member

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    Look up Sanderson's laws. Brandon Sanderson is really good about making interesting magic systems and I feel these are great guidelines for working a magic system into your story.
     

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