science fiction and fantasy writer

The Definitive Rules for Writing Magic

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2012 at 10:05 pm

(Or, some shit my writers’ group made up one night)

I led a discussion earlier this year with the CSFG Novel Writing Group on what are the characteristics of a good system of magic in fiction. We discussed a range of examples of what we thought were good magic systems, or systems that had good characteristics, ranging from Harry Potter to Warhammer to Star Wars and Dune (yes, magic) and encompassing a bunch of other stuff that makes us sound waaaay higher-brow than that.

We also realised that if you do LOTR to The Wheel Of Time you get TWOT, which probably tells you everything you need to know about the difference between Tolkien and Jordan.

Anyway, our rules are:

1. Limit Magic
2. Keep To The Rules

(These first two rules really come from Fiona McIntosh, so we thought we’d best make up some more of our own so that we’d seem clever too. Thus:)

3. Or, Do Whateverthefuck Is Cool
4. Give Magic a Cost
5. Magic Must Be Integrated Into Ecology and Society
6. Use Clever Handwaving To Disguise How Little You’re Really Explaining
7. Maintain Some Air Of Mystery (Or, For Crying Out Loud, George, He’s Strong With The Force, Who Gives A Shit About His Mango-Chlorine Count?!)
8. File Off The Serial Numbers
9. Steal From Life
10. Treat Magic As A Storytelling Tool

[more]

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