Give Your Magic that Realistic Touch

wizard lego figure
flickr credit: Dunechaser

So you had a brilliant idea today! A few in fact. But one of them kinda scares you. Not in the No I’m not really evil, I’m just a writer kind of way. We have to ignore those feelings, cuz, really, look at some of the things we write.

Is it the idea of all that research it’ll involve? I’ll admit I’ve shied away from writing a true fantasy for this very reason. Creating an entire world from scratch? Sheesh. A bit research intensive. For now, I keep my stories (mostly) in this world.

Some Questions

If you’re writing a fantasy, or if you’d just like to flavor your story with a bit of the supernatural, then magic plays a role in the story in some form. Save yourself some headaches later, and answer some questions before you get too far into things:

  • How does magic work in my world? I need to know:
    • The source of magic or the supernatural (is it genetic, generated by an element?)
    • What is needed for magic to work (is a natural resource, a talent, a tool necessary?)
    • The rules by which magic works (how far, how strong, when, where, etc.?)
  • What kind of beings inhabit my world, and which can perform/use magic and why?
    • Among those beings, which do use magic? (If only one family has the ability to use magic, are only the rulers of the family permitted use it?)
    • How is the ability acquired and/or honed? (is there practice involved, talent, etc.?)

The list goes on, depending on how much fantasy and magic play a part in your story. The more of these questions you answer, the stronger the foundation for the magic. If you know how magic works in your story, it will become a natural part of the story and won’t feel like you just stuck it in when you needed it.

If you skip this part and write the story without thinking about these questions first, holes will probably pop up later when you contradict yourself or break one of the rules you unknowingly set earlier.

Some Helpful Resources

You don’t have to recreate the wheel when you build your world. There are many websites out there to help you out. Two links I want to give you deal directly with world building in a magical context:

The Magical World Builder’s Guide, by Stephanie Cottrell Bryant. Find electronic versions of her tutorial 30 Days of World Building here too. But this page deals specifically with what’s bugging us today: magic worlds, with sections on Magic Levels, Magical Creatures, and the nifty-sounding Magical Cataclysms. She also covers systems, wizard types, and names.

The Fantasy Art Resource Project (FARP) has many resources, including writing tutorials. The best part is the section Creating Fantasy and Science Fiction Worlds, where you’ll learn how to “Build a world in seven days.”  It thoroughly covers different magic systems (as well as different types of theologies—polytheism, monotheism, etc.), and starts at Day zero of the seven days (Yes, that’s cheating, but whatever). Continue with the next seven days to dig deeper into your magical world. You can get to the nitty-gritty basics: physics, weather, etc. Neat stuff! And if you want some books (remember those paper things?) to read, there are some recommendations on the Intro page.

On the bottom of this page you’ll find a phenomenal link I must mention: World Builder Projects. It calls itself a portal to world-building information. It’s like a huge encyclopedia, except no encyclopedia ever had stuff like this. You’ll find a collection of links to world-building forums and sites, articles, tools, and resources; links for names and languages; and a sort of miscellaneous collection of links: military, weapons, history, geography, gemstones and metals (yes, my precious…), symbols, religions… I have to stop. I’m drooling on my keyboard.

I’ve got more links coming! Next will be some encyclopedic sites and others generally helpful in world building.

What sites do you use as a resource for all things magical? I’d love to add them to my collection!

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