Magical Theory and Practice: Part 1

This being the first part of a discussion on the creation of magical systems in fantasy. 

I usually answer these first three questions when I start creating a magic system:  who can use magic, where the magic comes from, and the world’s views on magic.  These can help define your setting and at least some of the major conflicts your characters may encounter.  Please note that you are not limited to the questions listed here.  You are welcome and highly encouraged to come up with more questions to answer, to continue to expand the scope of your inquiries.  The more questions to ask and subsequently answer, the more complete and well-knit your world will be.


Is magic something that can be learned through study, like music or mathematics?

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Magical Theory and Practice: Introduction

Magic is the guiding principle upon which fantasy is based.  It is the defining literary facet that differentiates fantasy from other genres.  Now, I’m sure there are several of you who will come up with examples of books that are labeled fantasy, but have little or no magic (such as Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels.  Rest in peace, Ms. McCaffrey.  You will be sorely missed.)  I acknowledge that there are exceptions to every rule.  However, when most people think of fantasy, they are picturing wizards, elves, dragons, and, most importantly, magic.

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FCs vs. OCs

In the world of writing on the internet, there are two terms that are often used interchangeably but are actually quite different.  Those two terms are “FCs” and “OCs.”

“FC” stands for “fan character.”  A fan character is a character that is created for fan fiction.  The character itself may be a completely new creation on the part of the fan fic writer, but the universe that this character is being placed in was NOT created by that writer.  For example, in my Fruits Basket fan fic “Crane Dancer,” I have an FC named Tsuru Odoriko.  She is not part of the Fruits Basket canon, or even a side character.  She is entirely my own creation, but the universe and other characters she interacts with were made by Natsuki Takaya, the author of Fruits Basket, not me.  Thus, Tsuru is an FC.  An FC can be well-developed and able to stand proudly or it could be a blatant self-insert or overly-perfect Mary Sue.  A Mary Sue is a specific kind of FC, a character that is so overly perfect or powerful that they do not feel like a real, flawed human being.  I know that some of my own FCs like Lyra Whitefall Palgrave started out as Mary Sues, but I’ve been working to correct that, to make FCs like her less powerful and perfect and more like real people.  Self-inserts can be over-idealized versions of the author dropped into the story.  Many amateur fan fic writers do this because they lack practice creating characters.   (“Mary Sue, Mary Schmue” by Birde Williams is an excellent article about the proliferation of Mary Sue characters in fan fiction.)

“OC” stands for “original character.”  A lot of times FCs are incorrectly referred to as OCs since the FCs themselves are “original” within the context of the fan fic.  However, there is a distinction.  OCs are characters created for a world that the authors has also had a hand in creating.  For example, Irene and Matthias are OCs because they were created by me for my own story Astral Rain.  Any character that you create for your own worlds are your OCs.  Obviously OCs can run the gambit of cardboard to three dimensional with their own mix of Mary Sues and author-self-inserts.  A writer has a lot more work to do with OCs since they have to create the world as well as the characters and be sure that everything makes sense.  Sometimes FCs can even become OCs.  In my Harry Potter fan fic “Sundered Blood,” I have an FC named Samantha Halfward.  Right now she is an FC because I created her for the Harry Potter universe.  However, since I like Samantha, her background, and other creations that I made for her story so much that I’m planning on eventually giving Samantha her own universe to play in.  If I do it right, Samantha will transition from a fan character to an original character.

Regardless if your character is an FC or an OC, equal care should be taken in their creation and execution throughout your story.  One is not inherently better or worse than the other, although keep in mind that the tales of OCs can be published for money but the tales of FCs cannot.


"There Will Never Be Another…"

I think everyone has a special show.

I say “show” as in a TV show, but really, it can be a single book or a trilogy or an entire series, a movie, a comic, anything that tells a story.  Everyone has a story that is very precious to them, characters that are near and dear to their heart, a tale that takes their breath away.  Over the years, I’ve had several stories that affected me deeply, stories that I come back to every year that remain fresh and new and alive, no matter how many times I’ve read or watched them.

For my Dad, that would be the old cartoon series Rocky and Bullwinkle.  For me…well, I’ve had a few, most notably the original Star Wars trilogy, Joss Whedon’s sci-fi TV show Firefly, the wonderful blend of the best of American and Japanese animation that is Avatar: The Last Airbender, every Toy Story movie, the anime series Yu Yu HakushoThe Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman, The Bard’s Tale: Castle of Deception by Mercedes Lackey and Josepha Sherman, and, oddly enough, Elvenborn, the third book in The Halfblood Chronicles by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey.

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Just a Quick Update

I apologize, but I’m afraid there will not be a large entry this week due to the fact that I am very ill.  I got to battle the unseasonal winter weather this past Saturday.  My car died when I stopped to get gas on the way home, I had no coat, no gloves, and had to help my younger brother push my car out of the way for the duration of the storm.

When I returned home, my house was without electricity.  No electricity means no heat, since I have been relying on electric heaters to warm my house until such time that my furnace could be fixed.  I stayed the night at my parents’ house, and returned home the next day when the electricity returned.  (Thank you, Storm Elf, for your lovely quilt.  It is soooo warm!)   And, yesterday morning, Shipley appeared to make my furnace all better.  She’s purring like a kitten now.

However, my little escapades in the snow gave me a sore throat and fever, so I’ve been tucked in bed most of the day with an IV of Sunny D in my arm.  Just my luck that National Novel Writing Month began today while my brain was all fizzled.  So I’ve been struggling to make my word count between watching episodes of Babylon 5 and napping with a wet washcloth on my forehead and kittens covering my lap.  And I did it!  I wrote 1794 words today, and the daily goal is 1667!  So, despite the fever, I’m off to a good start.  Let’s hope I can keep it up.

So, I apologize for the mostly-non-writing-related entry this week, and crave your indulgence until next week when hopefully my brains will be a little less scrambled.  Until then, write on, my fellow Wrimos!  Write on!