Creating enjoyable magical structures

Obviously, I love the fantasy genre, both reading and writing it. If you’ve been in this site for more than a few seconds that should be painfully clear to all of you. I’ve written four fantasy novels, working on a fifth one now. And I’ve read, well, countless fantasy novels. I have to assume that if you’re here, you also love fantasy books.

There are countless reasons why the fantasy genre is great. Mythical creatures are awesome, especially dragons. Fantasy settings are great, and so are stories about swords and knights.

By far, though, my favorite thing about the fantasy genre is the magic.

Magic is just so cool! When done right, that is. Because there are sure as hell a lot of bad magical structures. But what makes a magical structure great? I have some opinions, of course.

A good fantasy structure is rooted in reality. I know, that sounds counterproductive, but let me explain. Reality is based on some rules that we all agree in. We all understand, even if we don’t know the specifics, that thread is made my spinning fiber into long strands. Magic that’s not structured in a similar way tends to flutter off the rails without any real bounds. This is a sort of lazy writing. What tension can there be if magic has no bounds and a mage can just snap her fingers and fix everything?

It’s also based in science, sort of. As I learn more and more about science, I understand how these two genres are blended together. Science can seem like magic or at least a step away.

Of course, a magic structure needs to be big enough to save the world. Especially if it’s in the hands of your main character. It needs to be big and bold enough to defeat the bad girl, save the prince, create the happy ending that we need.

But magic is also great when it’s capable of improving everyday lives. When reading a fantasy book, I want to be charmed by the mage who cooks with their magic. Who catches the pickpocket, uses a potion in a mason jar to keep rats out of his kitchen, who has a talisman to keep out prowlers.

Finally, the best thing to do with magic is to base it in steadfast rules, that are broken at the right time. Think of Avatar, the last Airbender, when Katara starts blood bending. Or when Toph starts metal bending. These were understandable barriers that made sense to break.

So what do you think about magical structures? What’s your favorite example? Let us know in the comments below.


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