In keeping with the New Years theme, we’re going to be spending a bit of time talking about something that can help in the planning stages of a novel or to help refine ideas that may already be kicking around in our heads.
Let me ask you guys something, what’s one of the first things that come to mind when I say Star Wars?
Was it Darth Vaders troubled past? Was it the lovable rogue, Han Solo? Perhaps it was Luke Skywalkers journey from whiny twit to hero.
…Or, far more likely, a lightsaber popped into your head with its customary fwoom, breeooom sounds and how badly you wished you had one when you were younger.
What about Harry Potter? Did you think about the plucky young orphan Harry? Or the tragic story of Severus Snape?
…Or, far more likely, you thought about what life would be like if you had a wand, or went to Hogwarts, or had a flying broomstick.
As much as I adore the characters, do you know what the first things that come to my mind when you bring up Tami’s Choose?
It’s taking a ride on Hank’s Miraj. It’s having a ticker companion like Bones. It’s having a glowing hammer of smashy doom like Gerard does.
When starting a new project in the realm of speculative fiction, one of the biggest challenges when it comes to the planning phase if figuring out just how this work will be different and set apart from the real world.
Your magic system, whether it be comprised of spells, technology and gadgets or fanciful creatures, is going to be one of the biggest draws to your world. There’s a fair chance that your magic system is going to be the thing that your reader takes away from your story so it’s important to make it vivid and as ‘hooky’ as you can get it.
I’ve found that the biggest draw to any magic system I’ve encountered are things that I wish I could have in my day to day life. As I read through a story, a part at the back of my mind is always wondering how cool it would be to be able to cogsmith in real life. I wonder how interesting it would be to be able to clap my hands together and perform an alchemical transmutation. I think about how convenient it would be to be able to perform sympathy in real life and turn off that light across the room so that I don’t have to get out of my warm bed.
I think it’s important to understand that interaction and to play off of it, coming up with something that will leave an indelible mark in the mind of your reader.
Now, granted, this isn’t always the case. I can think of a handful of books in the realm of fantasy and science fiction that had magic systems that I most definitely did NOT want to be a part of my daily life (Stephen King’s IT for example *shudder) but largely speaking, this is something that will hold true.
In the coming weeks, we’ll explore this topic together with a little more depth to help iron out some of the wrinkles when it comes to creating and refining a magic system that works for your story.
For now, I’ll share with you guys that some of my favorite magic systems include:
- Sympathy from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
- Allomancy from Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
- Alchemy from Fullmetal Alchemist
What’re some of your favorite magic systems and why?