Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Writing Wednesdays: Building Magic...

So here is the first in my world building posts. I'm going to start with magic. Not for any reason in particular, it's just a place to start.

Magic in my world is not unique by any means of the imagination. But it is different, simply because how I view magic. My opinions on magic in fantasy differ, I'm sure, from other fantasy writers out there.

There is a lot of debate in the fantasy world that I'm sure most of you are unaware of, if fantasy is not your genre. The debate? Should magic have rules? Lots of fantasy buffs think it should. Where is the fun in fantasy if you've got a magic user that can just conjure up whatever he or she wants with the snap of their fingers?

And what of the magical 'cost'? By cost, I mean what does it cost the magic user to conjure? Does it take away from his energy? His life in either seconds, hours or years? Maybe it takes from his soul.

I'm currently reading a book where magic affects the users mind. Every time they use magic, they go a little more insane. ("The Way of the Black Beast" by Stuart Jaffe) (Note: Guest post on Thursday August 9th by Stuart, drop by!)

But what about those pesky rules? I'm of the mind that magic should not have rules, per se, but limitations are an absolute must! Again with the whole snapping of fingers and poof! you have stuff. Magic should cost the user something, right?

In Melanie Rawn's series of books, The Dragon Prince trilogy and The Dragon Star trilogy, she has magic users called Sunrunners. The basis of these Sunrunners is this: They can use sunlight to communicate with other Sunrunners over long distances. Can they conjure up items or anything? Nope. They just speak to each other. So what are the consequences of something like this? They can't use starlight. It is forbidden, but if the Sunrunner is powerful enough, they can accomplish it. They also don't travel well on water. You put a Sunrunner on a raft over a river and they're incapacitated for hours. Imagine what sailing would do to them? The other drawback to being a Sunrunner? There is a drug that they can use to increase their power to reach longer distances. It is super addictive and they're easily controlled when addicted. Sometimes, though, a Sunrunner will get lost in the light and can't find their way back to their body. If this happens, they basically end up an empty shell and die.

In David Eddings' series of The Belgariad and The Mallorean, Belgarath the sorcerer and his daughter, Polgara the sorceress, are a couple of pretty powerful magic users. They use the 'Will and the Word' method. You picture what you want in your mind then you will it into being with a spoken word. One of the drawbacks is that when you use magic, it makes a sound other magic users can hear. Sends out a beacon, and if you are hiding, that's not good! There are very few magic users in Eddings' world. A handful, in fact and they are not easily swayed. They try to stay out of things unless Prophecy dictates otherwise. So they can use magic all they want and their lifespan is limitless. They can be killed, but you better be able to get close, first.

My magic users have limits as well. I call them Mahjii. They're born into magic. They know by the age of fourteen if they have magical energies within. They have one year to seek out training and if they ignore it, they pay the price. My Mahjii must seek out training or their magical energies will consume them. They literally burn with fever and end up in ashes. Sometimes, they're only powerful enough to maintain that energy within. It prolongs their death and they're pretty sick their entire life, but they're alive. That's their only restriction, really. And rules? Well, they're meant to be broken, aren't they? They try to stay out of political issues. They have chosen to withdraw from the world after their city is destroyed, so people in my world think they're dead and gone. Myths and legends. But they still exist!

Mahjii in my world use the energy that surrounds them. They draw off the energy of the earth at their feet, the air, water, anything. They don't exactly conjure up just anything. They have specific things they create and lots of tools to enhance their abilities. My Elves that use magic are the same way, but their magical energies won't kill them if they can't control it. My water Elves live near running water to power their magic. Lakes don't do it, rivers are workable but oceans are optimal. They can use the energies to shape-shift and conjure to a point. The way my magic users see it is if they need it and can't find it anywhere or make it, they create it using their power.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Tune in next time when I discuss kingdoms. Tomorrow I will have a guest post by Stuart Jaffe, author of 'The Way of the Black Beast' regarding magic in his world. So drop on by and say hello to Stuart!


Michael Di Gesu said...

I loved learning about your magic, Mel. You have an interesting spin on it.

I really enjoyed your post!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

As fantasy is one of my favorite genres, I certainly believe rules are necessary. Where are the stakes if anything can happen?

Mel Chesley said...

Thanks Michael!

And I agree, Alex, there should be some rules, mostly limitations, but their magic should have a cost!

Unknown said...

Interesting takes on magic!!! In the world we live in there are rules to magic and it may be just somethings as simple as harm ye none and as above, so below.

Another thing that I was thinking about was the idea about wild craft magic. In my mind wild craft magic is just that wild. It is uncontrolled and puts in to mind the sorcerers apprentice, things getting out of hand and flooding the whole "sacred" space. Kind of a be careful of what you wish for type of magic.

Angela Brown said...

I suppose the draw of having magic IS the limitation or limitations. What could you really write...where's the conflict if you have someone who can just snap their fingers and Poof! Problem be gone. Limitations on magic add intrigue in the ability, can raise the stakes when those limits appear close at hand yet the character needs to pull out even more to make something happen. Makes for great reading :-)

Unknown said...

A well established magic system can make or break a fantasy novel for me, and I like the sound of yours :)

Celia Friedman has a great system in Feast of Souls. Mages are bound to a particular person (completely random, the mage doesn't know who it is) and whenever the mage uses magic, a piece of the other person's soul is lost. Too much magic and the other person dies, and the bonding transfers to another host.