A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘magic’

Reclaiming Fantasy – Part 5, Magic

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.

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Magic of the World

Magic is integral to my World. Everyone except for those of the Trader bloodline can use magic.

All magic in the World comes from the Current – the life-force of the World and everything in it. The Current flows around and through everything (Traders being a sort of exception – but that is a major plot-point for my novel and so I won’t go into detail here about it). Some magics require the user to draw magic from sources – such as the Current in one’s body or in objects – while other types of magics focus the user on the threads of the Current that weave all things together. Some of the users of drawn magic can use the Current in things to manipulate the physical world. Most magics are not purely drawn or “woven,” but rather a mix.

Drawn Magics

The Touch is healing magic. When using the Touch, one draws on their own Current and the Current of the patient. This limits how much healing can take place at a time, as if one’s Current becomes too depleted they will die. Some healers that are more skilled can draw Current from plants or other living things (even healthy people) and channel it through themselves to accomplish a healing. There are very few things that cannot be healed by the Touch – poisons and fast-acting diseases make up the bulk of these ailments. There are several other limitations to the Touch as well. Blood cannot be restored, thus if a person’s wound is healed but they have already lost too much blood, they will still die. Blindness and deafness can only be reversed if they were caused in an accident, and the victim is taken to a healer within a matter of days. Old scars cannot be healed. Healers cannot restore lost limbs. Bone-healing is a limited and depends on the skill of the healer. Because of these limitations, other medical practices are sometimes used, such as emergency surgery, especially if there is not ready access to a healer. The Touch can also be used to kill.

Woven Magics

The Sight gathers up handfuls of threads and traces them between people and places and across time. It is not foreseeing, because Seers do not always have visions of the future, but also visions of the past. Many Seers have no control over when or what they See and go mad. Those who gain control over their magic by inducing visions or giving themselves a trigger tend to go mad more quickly than those who do not, though some never go mad. Seers are not entirely reliable, as there are many possible futures and small actions can drastically change events. By the same token, those small actions can be the catalyst that cause visions to become real. In-story, there is a myth of a race of Seers that bred into human lines. This mixing of bloodlines is thought to be the reason that Human Seers go mad.

The Trace is a technique of following threads of the Current to pull thoughts or feelings from minds. One must be strong in the Current to do this, even if one has a predisposition for it. Those with exceptional skill in Tracing can even influence the thoughts and deeds of others. The Trace is a rare magic that is often coupled with the Bond. Tracers are often distrusted and feared by other people. If Tracers are not careful, they can lose their way in the Current and be unable to return to their bodies.

The Bond is a connection of life-Currents. It is a life-long commitment in all but the rarest cases and most frequently between a person and animal, though rarely the connection is between people. The Bonded group themselves into Bond Families of those who are bonded to similar animals. The Bond is known by those who do not have it as the Affliction, and is believed by many outsiders to cause a loss of humanity. In rare cases this is true, but it is often the deep connection through the Current that people mistake for a loss of humanity. If one of the pair dies, the bondmate dies except in the very rarest of circumstances. Throughout the history of the World, the Bonded have been hunted down and killed until none who live dare to speak of it.

Mixed Magic

The Skill is often used in the crafting of trinkets and in woodworking. When found in combination with other magics, the Skill becomes infinitely useful. For example, when coupled with Metal Magic, the Skilled can create exceptional weapons or amplifying devices for other magics. Most builders are Skilled, and their work shows in their creations.

The Strength is a combination of Body Magic and the Touch. It heightens the senses, sharpening eyesight, hearing, and smell. Even touch and taste can be sharpened. Many people associate the Strength with the Bond, though there is no link. It is called the Strength because when this magic first manifests, physical strength is usually the first aspect to increase. If users are not cautious, they may lose themselves in their heightened senses and go mad.

The Talent is the magic of manipulating the Current itself. It demands both patience and the ability to see how the Current flows. With this magic, nearly anything is possible,  from creating light to pumping water to transporting loads and people across the nation in the blink of an eye. The Talented use Crystals to focus their magic and accomplish these feats. The strength of Talent varies from user to user, leaving some barely able to skim the surface of the Current while others plunge, abruptly and often unintentionally, into it. Those who are so strongly Talented that they go into the Current without intending it seldom return to their minds. Unlike other magics that can be learned so long as one has a predisposition to it, Talent is inherent and instinctual. One either has Talent or does not, and is either strong with it or not.

Other Magics

Understanding is a magic that is intertwined with the Current, flowing through everything. It lets people communicate with each other when they do not speak the same language. It does not allow for a person to speak, read, or write other languages without instruction, only to hear there own when others are speaking. Some people can hear both their own language and the other persons. Nearly every person who lives has this magic.

Fire magic consumes the Current of other things and then releases it again into the flow. Because of this, it is particularly difficult to control. One always runs the risk of being devoured by the flame, or destroying those around oneself. People who use fire magic are especially susceptible to corruption because they use their own spirits to channel the fire, which after time burns the Current out of them, starting with empathy and compassion – the two emotions that are most strongly linked to the Current. Fire Wielders cannot produce fire themselves, but some can carry a flame with them at all times and call on it as they need, making it appear that they can produce fire.

Water magic is the purest of magics and tends to be found among the Bonded, Walkers of the Path (a religion that I will discuss in a later post) and those who feel the connections in the Current – such as those who practice woven magics. Water magic has the power to cleanse the Current.

Air magic is not commonly found, if only because it has very few practical uses. Some who have air magic use it in plays or to keep pests out of gardens.

Metal magic is almost always coupled with the Skill. Metal Workers tend to be smiths and specialize in weaponry, armor, or sometimes in the creation of trinkets that have special properties (such as protection for the owner). When metal magic is not paired with the Skill, it often goes unrealized.

Earth magic is the magic of growing things. Users of this magic tend to be farmers or hot-house owners. They work by feeling the Current in the ground and in the seeds or plants and strengthen it with their own or with objects made by the Skilled or Talented.

Body magic is connected to the Trace. It is, simply put, the power of seduction. The use of this magic has been forbidden in the Ibvailyn Empire and, like the Bond, has had a bloody history.

Take care, fellow travelers.

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