Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Creating a Flawless Magic Scheme

Like I promised, this post is dedicated to helping you plot out a magic scheme. Let's start with the obvious question: Why do you need one?

Honestly, you might be able to get away with making it up as you go along...but that's a big MIGHT. There's a lot to be said for having internal consistency. Not to mention that once your readers become fanatical about your work, if they spot a mistake, they will tell the world about it—and that's a smutch you definitely don't want on your record. You will be much better off to spend half an hour creating a believable scheme for your magic. Not to mention that the scheme is half the fun of the book!

If you're thinking of including witches in your novel, you probably have a good idea of how you want them to be able to cast spells. If so, all you need to do is make sure you write down those rules somewhere and follow them! For those of you who are a little bit lost, here are some ideas:

-Spellbooks. Witches can only cast spells if they read the spell out of the spellbook (or memorize it). The book may or may not list the ingredients needed for the spell. The book may or may not be written in some ancient language. The spells may or may not rhyme. And the witch may or may not need a wand in order to cast them. But in this scheme, some sort of incantation is used. 

If you choose this one, be sure to write down all the spells you use in the book, and make them of varying complexity. It would make sense for the more complicated spells to produce the most drastic results, right?

-Ancient language. Or incantations that don't need spellbooks. If the character has a good grasp of the ancient language and all he or she needs to do is speak the right words to make the spell come to life, this is the scheme you want to use. But if using an ancient language, you need to make sure you know said language better than your reader—write down those words! Decide if the ancient language needs grammar or if the witch only needs to speak words associated with the outcome he or she desires.

-Runes. Whether your character needs to draw these runes in the air with a wand or on a hard surface with chalk, in order for a spell to be cast, certain runes need to be created by a witch. Often, the shape of the runes does not need to be mentioned in the novel. If you do, make sure to keep a log of which runes work for which spell. 

-Inner power. Many times, this is the magic scheme for the character. Witches have varying degrees of power, which means that the powerful ones are able to cast more powerful spells. However, if you decide to use this scheme, make sure that the magic your characters use takes a toll on them appropriate to the magnitude of the spell. 

-Sacrifice. As with blood mages or evil witches, sometimes they need to sacrifice something living in order to steal its life force for use in the spell. Often, this has no toll on the witch himself, but the price for the magic is taken out instead on a third party, the sacrifice. Sacrifices can be made of animals or of humans.

-Harnessing faeries or demons. Sometimes, the power of the witch is not to cast spells, but to call forth creatures such as faeries or demons and force them to perform spells on the witch's behalf. If so, make sure you know which faeries can do which spells, etc. and how long the witch is able to keep them in the mortal realm.

Of course, there are many ways other than these on which you can base your magic scheme. This is just a guideline, to prompt ideas of your own. The main thing is that magic takes a toll somehow. It must have a cost or your characters would be akin to gods (and trust me, there's a problem there). Lay down rules of what can and cannot be done through magic—for instance, reviving the dead. And most of all, have fun with it! 

Next week, I'll be welcoming L. K. Below back to the blog as she talks to you about her upcoming story, His Familiar Touch, and the witches she uses in it!



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