A to Z Blogging Challenge 2014

A To Z Blogging Challenge: M – Magic

His hand pours the liquid steel around, creating the symbol on the floor before the altar. Six candles lit with the sacrifice in the middle. The hooded figures watch on wondering if this will work. Once the symbol is finished he uses a small spike to prick his finger. A drop of blood in four points of the symbol. Then his form steps back holding out his hand.

“I hereby propose my will…” he begins to say as the symbol begins to glimmer with an ominous light that rapidly gets brighter, blinding those around. Yet he continues the chant. “…let chaos cloud thine eyes. Who art trapped in a cage of madness…”

Magic is a common trait that can be found in many fictional stories. Just like in many tales, it is powerful and if used incorrectly can be very dangerous. From the perspective of story creation it can either enrich the reader’s experience by giving them something amazing, thought provoking, and tickling their brains with joy. It can dampen their experience due to it creating convenient situations in a story where a problem is easily solved. Or it can create a plot hole if the elements of magic shown in a previous situation do not match up with a current one. Sometimes readers will see certain magic elements used in a previous scene and expect it to be used again if it would make a situation easier.

Therefore as writers we need to make certain constraints when applying magic to our worlds. My two tips of using magic: Consistency and Free Expansion. However you choose to start a story with magical elements is up to the author. Whatever rules to magic are in place should be in place at the end of a story. This is consistency. The rules can be broken or adjusted as the story progresses but the reader will need to see the progression of it. Also if certain rules are clearly defined with your magic system then you can find loopholes within them that might shock and surprise the reader. Even better to the reader is if they reread certain parts and see the possibilities were there for them, they just did not see it. A tiny hint, a cryptic message, a scene that seems to have no importance but shows off the magical elements. These things can go a long way by the time your story nears to completion and new things pop up.

At times with magic (and also world building) I used to find myself trying to build and construct the laws of it before my story begins. I would have most of the rules fleshed out and then try to write my story within the laws and restrictions. This would frustrate me to no end. I would always come to a part where I could not write my ideal scene because of my own self-imposed chains. While restraints can be a good thing, I think they should be done afterwards. These days I do the reverse and that is my next tip. Freely expand your story how you want it. In your rough draft phases I believe one should focus on the tale they want to tell and get to the end of it. Let whatever inconsistencies, Mary Sue moments, Deus ex Machinas etc. come into play first. Then try to connect your magical elements in a way that makes sense to the scenes and plot. This way you can keep most of your best scenes and have less restraints for the story you are telling, but still make rules that give the appearance of much restriction.

The laws of magic can be harsh. The greater the restrictions the more curious the reader gets when the protagonists are faced with adversity. But it’s not in breaking the rules we have made that makes it interesting (although this can be awesome too). It is finding the loopholes within the laws created that makes the story’s magic vibrant.

~ Nu Tael

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