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.
Magic is not arbitrary. At least, it isn’t that way in a good fantasy novel. Plenty modern-day penny-dreadful fantasy novels lack a solid structure, rhyme, or reason to their magical systems. But a good, solid magical system will be created with certain laws, rules, and causal relationships between the magic and magic-users. Magic is like math or science: it has and obeys certain natural laws. What those laws are is up to you, but you must be consistent. If you do violate the laws you created, your readers will lose faith in you and your world. Your characters need to have a structure they have to work with or around to get what they want and where they need to be. No deus ex machina allowed.
The next few entries will revolve around the questions you need to ask and answer when creating a magical system for a fantasy realm. Answering these questions should help you decide what kind of magic your world needs, uses, and will hopefully enrich your creation. Some of the questions that will be addressed are as follows:
– Who can use magic?
– What are the world’s views on magic?
– How is magic learned?
– What kind of magic is it?
– Where does magic come from?
– How is the magic invoked?
– What are the tools of magic?
– What is the price of magic?
…. and any other questions that occur to me as I am writing up those entries.