AllCreative WritingWriting Tips

The Basics of Building a Magic System

By May 22, 2019 June 22nd, 2019 No Comments

Hello Writers and Readers and welcome to this weeks article on the magic of making magic, which isn’t all that magic (and that is an example of being overly repetitive). We have gathered amongst ourselves here at the All The Writing HQ, to bring unto you what we believe to be the absolute necessities of creating a magic system that works for your world, whether that be a hard-fantasy, or a light-hearted spoof. And if you think that we, the all powerful wizards and witches, have missed something then off to Azkaban with you, but not really. If you do have any additions or questions you can ask us via our Instagram, @allthewritinghq, where we post whenever we post here. But that is enough about us, we shall now teleport magically to the first part of this article with a simple spell. Abra-Ka-Flibbin-Dabra *poof*

*poof* The first thing you want to find out in your magic system, is what role will it be playing. Will it just be an occasional blurb to help characters accomplish smaller tasks through your story, or is it a pivotal part of your plot. Also keep in mind that those are the extremes of your options, there are varying degrees where magic can play both roles. After finding it’s use throughout your story then you can find out what kind of magic system you should make.

If you are leaning more to the side of magical being more of a helpful element in the story than you should consider creating more of a soft magic system. Soft magic systems are where the magic is often more mysterious and vague, with little to no explanation of how it works. Using this system puts more focus on the characters and plot of your story rather than the complexities of your world. Also if you are using a soft magic system it would not be advisable to use it as the object that defeats the main antagonist, because this will make the reader feel as if the ending was unearned. You could also use magical creatures, or enchanted objects as a form of soft magic, as the creature/object can’t tell you how it works, and thus creates a more mysterious environment.

On the other side of the coin, where magic plays a pivotal roll in your writing, then you should consider the hard magic system approach. These systems are where magic is explained thoroughly to your reader, making almost every aspect understandable to the reader in some way. This creates more of a focus on the vast world you have created, drawing in the small, but interesting, complexities of your story. This, unlike the soft magic system, can be used to defeat the final villain, but that will only be the case if you add sufficient limitations to your magic system. Creating a very difficult environment for your character to master this complex art you have created makes the use of it feel earned and satisfying.

When creating your magic system there are a few basics you do have to follow no matter which system you use. We can also suggest having a place to write down and store your magic system, like a journal or a google doc. You have to determine who can use this magic and who can’t, also find out why this is the case. Does everyone have magic? Or only a select few? No matter the case you have to find out how this will effect the current state of the world. This is why most of the stories you read create a system based on only a select group having magic, because if the whole world had magic it would be a long process of creating a world that involved all of these aspects of witchcraft and wizardry. If you are planning on doing the select group of people, then you have to come up with why these people have these magical capabilities. Is it genetic? Is it a dramatic event? Perhaps an initiation or touching of a powerful object? No matter the case it can’t just be random. Find the limitations of your magic system, in Brandon Sanderson’s second law of magic, he stated that limitations are always greater than powers. This is because without some kind of force preventing people from just magicking everything everywhere into oblivion, then your story is going to sound like you forced the trials leading up to the grand finale. Causing the questions that start with “couldn’t they have just…” which you probably don’t want, or if they do ask that you want to be prepared with an answer. What medium of magic are you using, because there are multiple, some mediums to select from are potions, spells, rituals, objects, and any other kind of thing you think could work. You can also use multiple ones in the same system.

And that about sums up the basics of what you need to start with. If you need help continuing on or have some questions to ask us you can find us on Instagram @allthewritinghq. We hope you found this article useful and we’ll see you all next week