When it comes to magic, fantasy writers usually go one of two ways: learn the spells from the book or magic is in your blood and you don’t have to learn any spells. Both of these have problems.
Learning spells or “words of power” is, in my opinion, a massive cop-out (unless, of course, you are writing Harry Potter and that is integral to the way the world works – but usually it is not). If your characters can just go learn a new spell every time the need to, it ruins the tension. We all know that they are going to get out of this mess too (that was my one big qualm with Buffy the Vampire Slayer – they had a spell for everything). The only way this can actually work is if you have some sort of school or family tradition or something, and then the spells go wrong, or sometimes there isn’t one, or the cost is too much and the magician refuses to use the spell or something. But when all the problems can be solved with a new spell, there is no point in reading more.
Now, the bulk of this post is going to be about the magic that is inherent in a character – they’re either born with it or they’re not. There are usually categories of magic in fantasy: healers, summoners, elementalists, seers, and others. The problem with magic (and I am honestly not sure how we as fantasy writers avoid it) is that it’s all been done. I think some of the only room for creativity in magic is in how each person can use it, the cost, or even how many people have access to it.
That being said, it is difficult to come up with new and creative ideas for magic. In my WIP the creative part is magic’s source, and how it came into the world. The magic itself is, I’m sorry to say, fairly average (and probably more so than I would like to admit). My suggestion is to experiment in your writing. Read a lot of fantasy where magic is at least part of the story so that you can see what has been overdone and what is still hiding in the shadows. Learn to write magic well, even if you stick to the norm. Create a system that, if not entirely original is at least consistent and interesting.
And for the love of everything good, don’t make magic this scary thing that has been banned for centuries and people are killed for using it. So overdone.
Take care, fellow travelers.
Another post about this subject by a friend of mine over at Write-Minded Razo can be found here.
- World Building: Caster Magic (avcortez.wordpress.com)