Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Kind of Magic

Music for tonight's blog entry, for obvious reasons.

One of the main things happening in the book I'm working on is the sudden influx of magic into the real world.  The results are largely unfortunate and the world is forever changed, but really, that's what happens when you introduce magic into a place where there isn't any.  Dealing with this change is one of the main challenges for the main characters, especially considering what happens to them.

But all this got me thinking.  There's a ridiculous number of ways to deal with magic in a story.  What I'm working with is blatant, showy, powerful, and hard to miss.  It's the kind of magic I enjoy writing about, as it lends itself to all kinds of interesting stories, especially when you have people who are just learning how to use it.  I've fully planned to have random effects occurring, thanks to the group's inexperience and the world's condition.  Yet some of the best uses of magic in fiction I've seen are a great deal more subtle, and a lot less wild.

In George R. R. Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire, magic is rare and subtle, and just slowly coming back into the world.  I've seen people ask him about his world's magic system, and if I remember right, he said there wasn't one.  He wanted the magic to feel like magic, not something with a set of rules.  (Apologies to all parties if I'm misremembering any of this, I read it quite a while ago.)  I like this approach for some types of stories; it keeps magic surprising and interesting, and also makes it something the characters can't rely on.

On the distinctly other hand, you have the works of Brandon Sanderson, who's a prime example of the trope Magic A is Magic A.  Basically, magic works in a consistent and predictable manner, with its own set of rules.  He's written a long essay on the subject, which I'm still trying to fully wrap my head around.  I like this approach as well, because it's creative and limiting at the same time.  If you come up with your own set of rules for this sort of thing, your readers will - and should! - call you on it if you break them to serve the plot.

In my book-in-progress, one of the characters is set on learning how the change that's affected the world works.  Everyone is currently ignorant of what's happening, but over time, they will learn.  And while people learning how to use magic is a theme I find myself working with quite often - it comes up in Skyborne as well, for very different reasons - it never gets old to me, because everyone has such a different reaction to suddenly having magic in their lives.

And I have to admit, I'm really looking forward to seeing what they do when they realize the ways their enemies use magic are also available to them, consumptive and repulsive as they are.  I've only been writing this book for nine days and it's already surprised me more than once.  So despite my best-laid plans, I can't help but wonder what kind of magic they'll eventually pursue.


  1. Characters always have their own plans, and I'm always a little taken aback by mine.

    1. Yeah, mine are already messing about with my intended plans. As are the antagonists. @_@