Posts Tagged ‘magic’

Magic Doesn’t Solve Everything

Despite being one of my very favorite sayings (“Why does blah blah blah?” “Magic.”), magic must, unfortunately, make sense.

This means if you are creating a world where magic exists, there has to be rules, and the rules must be consistent and make sense (in the context of your world).

This, Squiders, is called a Magic System.

The good news is aside from the making sense and being consistent thing, your magic system can be pretty much anything.

And you don’t have to explain to your audience how the magic system works and what its rules are. Like a lot of backstory, as long as you know, it’s all good.

So, if you’re working on putting together a magic system for your story/webcomic/video game, what have you, here are some questions you might ask yourself:

  • Who can use magic? Why?
  • Can magic be taught? Is it hereditary?
  • How does magic manifest (for example, is it elemental)?
  • Are there magical beings, and how does their magic differ, if at all?
  • How has technology compensated for the level of magic (for example, a world with high magic probably has low technology, since there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel)?
  • How has magic affected society, culture, politics?
  • What are magic’s limits (what can’t magic do)?
  • What is the source of magical power (tap into mana, etc.)?
  • What are magic’s costs?

This last question is something that’s come up in more recent fantasy. If you look at older fantasy, a lot of times there’s no consequences of using magic, no limits, etc., but in the gritty story era of today, magic has costs. In some cases, the bigger the spell, the more energy it drains, or you may draw life out of nearby creatures, or something along those lines. Magic becomes more interesting when there’s the risk of something going wrong.

Any additional questions you would include in generating a magic system, Squiders? Anything you feel I’ve left out? Any magic systems (yours or ones in the media you consume) that you really like?

In Defense of Fantasy: Magic vs. Technology

To go in a slightly different direction, this week we’ll be looking at aspects of fantasy that tend to get flak from readers. Unlike science fiction, of course, fantasy doesn’t need to conform to modern-day scientific knowledge, but that can be both an asset and a liability.

Fantasy still has to make sense, after all.

One of the biggest issues you run into with fantasy and making sense is in the magic vs. technology debate. This manifests in a couple of ways:

1) The levels of magic and technology on a single world don’t make logical sense together.
2) People think fantasy can’t have advanced technology because it’s fantasy.
3) People think magic doesn’t have to make sense and so their magic rules make no sense.


Let’s address these one at a time.

1) It’s perfectly fine to have magic and technology co-exist on a world. What is unlikely to happen is that you have widespread, powerful magic combined with rocket-science level technology. If magic can control the weather, why would you create a machine to do the same thing? That need is already filled. But just having both magic and technology is not a deal breaker as long as there’s a reason for both to be at the level they are.

2) Fantasy is an overarcing term that includes most things that are in the least bit fantastical. There does not need to be magic, necessary, so technology is fine. (And I would argue that science fiction falls under the general “fantasy” umbrella, but I know I am a minority in that opinion.) Just because something has technology doesn’t make it science fiction. Thrillers thrive on technology.

3) It was a trend among early fantasy novels to have magic but not explain how it works. This leads to some people thinking that your magic can just do whatever, but in general, you have to do this really really well or you just come out looking like you don’t understand cause and effect. Magic needs to be consistent. (And realistically, there needs to be limits on what it can do, or else you face having your planet destroyed by magical battles on a daily basis.)

So, long story short – you can have both in a single story, as long as they both make sense.