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Help with magic system?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Darkfantasy, Jan 26, 2021.

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  1. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    I do write Fantasy but it's filled with more paranormal elements and low magic systems like potions and magical objects. My idea for my latest WIP requires the main character to be able to see the future and I’ve realized this has caused massive plot holes in my plot. Example: Eve can see the future and this gift leads her to assist a struggling king who is trying to make a success of his country and secure the throne. He has three courtiers who are secretly working to put his rival on the throne. Most of those who say they can see the future are frauds so these men are not too concerned until Eve repeatedly proves herself. She is telling the KIng what to do and what not to do and this is pushing him towards success that will make it harder for them to dethrone him. Eve needs to be removed from the equation and this needs to happen. The problem is how could Eve not see this coming? How could Eve not see they intended to betray the King and have her killed before they even knew it themselves? These sort of problems show up throughout my plot. Others must get this problem too, so how do you deal with that? Thanks for your time.
     
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  2. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    The easiest, and most common workaround is to add limitations to what you can see in the future. Several I can think of:
    • You can't see anything about your own future.
    • You can't see everything and you don't get clear pictures. You only see glimpses and hints
    • You only see probabilities. As in: there's a chance this will happen. If I do X then the chance of something good happening increases.
    • There is a bigger threat which she focusses on
    • You only see the short term future (or long term future). So you don't know what people will do in two weeks, but you have a decent idea of the next two hours
    • You only know what will happen, not who causes it to happen
    These are just some fairly common options and examples of what you could do. If you sit down you should be able to think of a couple more. Add in some wonderful limitations and you force your characters to be more creative and you increase the tension. If the character knows everything that will happen in the future, there is no tension to the story. However, if she only sees probabilities and only knows what might happen to other people in the next half an hour then you've got a great tension creation device built into your story. Something like that would give you the option to go from nothing is happening to panic-mode in a page as your character gets a vision that someone will stab the king to death in the next half hour and she has to achieve X, Y and Z to prevent it.
     
  3. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Troubadour

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    That's So Raven was a sitcom about a teen psychic; at the start of the episode she'll randomly get a vision that's only a few seconds long, she can only see/hear the "video clip" and has no context for it. "Oh no," she says, "me and my best friend will get into a huge fight and be mad at each other!" So she does everything she can to prevent it, but these extreme efforts annoy her friend, and they fight anyways. She then realizes that their friendship is stronger than that and blah blah you get the idea. Yes this happens a bunch of times, but it's a tv show. But the rules/limitations are 1: she cannot control when she gets them or what they're about 2: they will happen, the future cannot be changed 3: they're very short, and therefore limited in what they can tell her

    My current manuscript revolves around a prophetic vision, which is only described to characters in very vague details, which is very frustrating for the person in question this revolves around. The thing is...that's as good as the vision can be, and the words to describe it are difficult. How can a seer describe the "shape" or qualities of a power that they see in a form that is inherently difficult to describe? If I showed you the visualizer for Windows Media Player for a song, how would you write that down in detail? Could you? When the plot is resolved, everyone thinks the vision is fulfilled, hooray! But it's not, the actual thing is going to be much later, and turns out its Not A Good Thing, oops. But the things seen will happen...you just don't know how to interpret what you see, or any of the middle steps, even in hindishgt you might not even know what it's about. It has caused A Lot Of Problems in the kingdom's history.

    In Dune some characters can see the future. You can take certain drugs to do so; since computers are illegal/don't exist, humans need to be able to "see the future" to safely drive spaceships around to avoid problems. That's why spice and spice mining is such a big deal (and why people know "the spice must flow" even when they know nothing else about Dune). Seeing into the future is critical for an intergalactic society to exist. But there are specially designed rooms/ships that are immune to it, too. There's also the paradox that by "seeing" the future you're setting it into stone: there are many possible branching pathways, and you're "choosing" one to be so when you see it.

    How well known is seeing into the future? Do you have a vague idea how it works? If so, you (or a character) could find a way to block it. My seers get hit by a big blast of magic from....somewhere, which is what gives them the vision, so if you stuck them into a magic faraday cage then they wouldn't be able to get any "incoming signals." If Eve needs to be awake/conscious for it, then she can be drugged. If she gets them as dreams, she can be drugged to not sleep (or not able to fall deeply enough to dream). If she needs to be connected to a leyline, then do whatever it is to break that connection in your world. If a god blesses her with those powers, then force her to do something to make that god upset with her.

    You could also do good ol' slander. Warp what she says, make up visions that will obviously fail, make people think that she is doing things to make them come true, so people have reason to restrain/kill her. Whoever is trying to dethrone the king has every reason (and skill) to control the flow of information to ruin someone politically. What's Eve's background? Can it be argued that she is working for an enemy state or group of Bad People who would want to see the king gone?
     
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  4. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    I actually dislike the idea of the future being shown in a jumble; it's cliche (I've seen it done quite a bit) and it feels a little bit like a "cop out" because the writer couldn't think of any of way to add tension. It's not much fun reading or watching a character who's only ever going to win. I do like the idea of adding limitations. Maybe she needs to hold a personal object of the person or requires a few drops of blood. Something to link her to that person. So thanks to both of you.

    The idea was the King's rival is another more wealthy and successful King. My idea was that these courtiers do something to make her predicts wrong and so the KIng does not trust her and she falls from favour with him. They then plant evidence she has switched side in return for her freedom.
     
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  5. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    One possibility could perhaps be hostile magic? Maybe someone is using magic to twist Eve's divinations and prevent her from seeing a certain danger coming against the king?

    The benefit with hostile magice acting is also that it becomes a matter of character conflict, relation and interaction as opposed to an impersonal mechanic or limit to the magic which make up this plot point.
     
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  6. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    I've never heard of hostile magic before. Thanks another good idea I can look into. thanks
     
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  7. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    I think I might have to go back to basics and do some reading on how to build a magic system.
     
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  8. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    I don't think that's necessary. "Hostile magic" is just something I made up on the go as a term that might as well be termed "counter magic" as in countering Eve's magic in order to prevent her divination from seeing a specific thing. That could work to explain why divination isn't the end-of-all-intelligence-gathering method. It can be countered just like pretty much every other method and as such you wouldn't have a magical effect that can always solve everything that comes up.
     
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  9. Demiurgess

    Demiurgess Dreamer

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    I would suggest, if the enemies realized Eve's gift is true, they plan two different scenarios how to dethrone the king, and she either sees just one, or has to choose one to follow. In the first case, you still need to build in some limitations - for example, she sees only the most urgent or the clearest of paths. But then the reader would get more of the twist. In the second, she will have to make a tough decision, and you will need to give her some arguments to favour one over the other.
     
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  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    One thing to watch out for with this sort of thing. In far too many books I find that it comes down to the character gets to see what is convenient to the plot and cannot see (or is misled about) whatever would be inconvenient. In modern story-telling, computers play this role. There's a picture of the scene. Enhance! We can see the figure. Alas, we can't see the face. Thousands of variations on that. (computers are the modern version of the magic wand)
     
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  11. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    Enhance! We can see the figure. Alas, we can't see the face. - That's the type of thing I'm trying to avoid. That I saw it all but nothing that actually helped kind of gift.
     
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  12. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    But that's the way with many plots and plot elements though. As a writer our job is to put obstacles in the way of the protagonist so we create a plot to begin with. Some just feel more convenient than others. And that's mainly to do with setting it up right.

    If you get to the climax of this book, and suddenly the bad guys spring a surprise that the protagonist didn't see coming then readers will wonder why she didn't see it. It will be a plot-convenience (even if you then offer some explanation) and readers will feel cheated.

    However, if in chapter 1 the protagonist is bitten by a fox while hunting, and a companion remarks "why didn't you avoid it? I thought you could see the future." And the protagonist explains that she can't see her own future. Then, with this setup the readers will follow along with anything bad that happens to the protagonist. Do it once or twice more in the story before the climax to cement the idea in the mind of the reader and you're good to go.

    In the end, if the story is about her power, then the power needs a limitation, otherwise there will be very little tension in the story. And, the reader needs to understand those limitations for the plot to be interesting and make sense to them. If the reader knows that she can't see her own future, but she is blinded to the risk and thus overconfident because she normally sees the future, then you can have a lot of tension leading up to the climax. Your reader will be shouting at the protagonist to just open her eyes to the risk they see coming but your protagonist is missing.

    The other option I see is to not make the character able to see the future a viewpoint character. She shows up every now and then and only gives out information if she thinks it's important. Then you can have her vision be perfect. And the tension will come from the king being unsure about her and not seeing the whole picture. Or make the story not about her powers, but about something else she can't fix with her power. Like a superman story, which is about his relationship with Lois instead of him beating up bad guys.
     
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  13. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    I will use limitations, just not the cliche ones that have been used with this ability before if i can avoid it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2021
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  14. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    There was one thing I thought of last night that I wanted to ask your options on if you get time? I thought, what if she doesn't have the power, she's just a fraud. Maybe her father taught her the art because it was his livelihood. And she's just carried it on. She's very convincing, simple people are easy to convince and so people are talking about her as though she's real. She's then forced to work for the King and to keep her head she has to give accurate readings.
     
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  15. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    I like the sound of this. With a good execution this could be really cool. :)
     
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  16. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    I just like the idea of focusing on the power of a belief rather than the belief itself being real. Maybe when the king realises she's a fraud she still keeps her around because people believe in her power and his enemies are too afraid to do anything while he has someone on his side seen as being powerful.
     
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  17. Toby Johnson

    Toby Johnson Minstrel

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    use it so that every affect has an effect, i see too many wizards casting spells without reprocussions. make it so that if a wizard casts a spell they will get tired so that the ycan only make so many spells in a battle before fainting, this can add a lot of suspence to your story.
     
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