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How to make magic training help my plot

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Amanita, Jul 23, 2012.

  1. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    Hello everyone,

    I’d like to get your help on a more specific question about my story. Somehow, I’ve hit a wall with this and I hope someone can give me a useful impulse.
    As mentioned in my last thread it suffers from a few severe problems and I’m working to sort them out at the moment.
    Given that magical training will be an important part of the story, I’m wondering what’s the best way to do this. In my first draft, I have a system combining mentor-student-relationship with group training sessions at the weekends and a few weeks together. I’ve chosen this approach because the differences in age of knowledge between the novices make a school system rather difficult. (Besides the fact that magic schools aren’t the most original concept out there. ;))
    Given the fact that I have elemental magic based on chemical elements a training system where they don’t learn to interact with others doesn’t make much sense either though, therefore the combined version.

    Rethinking the problems that my first draft had, an amount of redundancy was the result of this however. Besides that, there weren’t many things happening during the group training besides a bullying plotline which I’ve already decided to cut. I also had some scenes in ordinary school and her adept’s city which I don’t really know if should keep either. Too many characters and places that don’t really matter to the plot enough. In the last thread I did get the idea to introduce a more severe thread there however.
    The novice Lenima and her adept Corin are both main characters, that was my reason to choose him as her mentor, I wanted to avoid unnecessary characters again. There’s a problem as well however. They have different elements, chlorine and oxygen and he doesn’t really understand the troubles she’s facing and therefore can’t help her much. This way, the plot doesn’t move on either of course. One reason why I’ve kept the common training sessions so far. The teacher in charge of her there is quite nasty and doesn’t really encourage her either though. (People from the Mythic Cantina thread will know. ;))
    Lenima is supposed to move from not wanting anything to do with it all and wanting to home to acceptance and curiosity. At the moment, she’s feeling sorry for herself for way too long and I know that this will annoy potential readers rather than grab their interest. She's seventeen by the way.

    Now I’m asking myself what I have to change about the training to improve this. Does someone see the flaw in the stuff I’ve described above? I seem to be blind to it for some reason. Do you think a pure magic school setting with more interaction between various novices would help?
  2. Addison

    Addison Auror

    ....let me see if I can break down the problems you're sharing in each paragraph.

    Your mentor-student-relationship bit sounds good and your system of classes on weekends and some during the week is great.
    "Given the fact that I have elemental magic based on chemical elements a training system where they don’t learn to interact with others doesn’t make much sense either though, therefore the combined version." So instead of just fire, water, earth and air, or none of them at all, it's really broken down into oxygen, water, zinc, helium and what not. Okay. So you're not making classes where it's just the student and his or her mentor. He/she is in class with other students.

    "I also had some scenes in ordinary school and her adept’s city" So is this like a public school? Corin wakes up at his home, brushes his teeth, gets his homework and takes the bus to school?

    So it's a problem of character chemistry. Lenima can't grasp the teaching of mastering her element because Corin's element is different and can't find a way to incorporate how he learned to master his element to help Lenima master hers. Lenima is frusturated because she's not mastering her abilities because she possibly feels that Corin isn't teaching her right or not even trying. Corin is frusturated because Lenima is learning slowly, or not at all, possibly not even paying attention to his teachings. It's basically a problem of zero-communication.

    I think if it's class based, and Lenima goes to Corin for sessions on a regular basis, then she can vent to her friends, Corin can vent to fellow teachers. Eventually, as schools work, word will travel fast and one or both sides will realize the problem. So yes, I think a pure magic scool setting with more interaction between various novices would help.
  3. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

    First of all I think you need to ask yourself why you feel to include the magic training. Is it purely a way to show the demonstrate to your readers the way the system of magic works or will Lenima's training with Corin advance the plot?

    I'm guessing from what you've said you're going with the scientific table of elements rather than the traditional 4. That sounds interesting. I'm guessing there's science involved, mixing the elements? What can a chlorine magician do? What can you do with pure oxygen? Are the magicians limited to using their own elements or can they use others? (Sorry that's me asking questions now).

    I was faced by a similar choice about a year ago. I felt I needed to show my readers the system of magic by demonstrating it at a training school. I had my MC, who is a fire magician being asked to take a class of inept magicians at the Fire School and bringing in a sub plot surrounding their progress. It helped me work out the magic system but didn't advance the plot. So I took it out and decided to allow the magic to speak for itself during battles, healing etc.

    I think if you're going to give Lemina's education substance you will need more than her moving from now wanting to using magic to accepting and being curious about it. That doesn't create drama. On the other hand if Lenima hates magic, perhaps due to trauma in the past, and struggles just to be in a class with magicians, in spite of her powers that might work. What if she's accidentally mis-used chlorine to harm someone, or it's painful to use and she's got to build up to augmenting her power. That would set her a challenge. What if chlorine magicians are looked down on by those who use the airy elements like oxygen and helium. I don't know the context but there's some ideas to jazz things up.

    A teacher who's 'quite nasty.' Wouldn't work unless the teacher had a reason to be nasty. Have they got a chip on their shoulder because they're teaching instead of working as a proper magician. Perhaps they've got an element considered inferior to others or can't mix them properly.

    I may be barking up the wrong tree entirely here, but there's some ideas.
  4. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    Thank you both of you. You already got me thinking which is a good thing. ;)

    So is this like a public school? Corin wakes up at his home, brushes his teeth, gets his homework and takes the bus to school?
    Yes. Only that Lenima’s the one going to school.

    They are limited to using their own elements. They can control their elements where they’re present, call elementals and the power has a mental side as well which allows them bonds with other magic users.

    You’ve already guessed what major parts of her problem are. ;) Corin isn’t too happy about teaching someone with chlorine magic but accepts because he wants to help her. (And because he’s worried about the things that might happen if she’s not introduced into the established magic user system.)
    She comes from another country where elemental magic is banned and has grown up believing it was wrong for all her life and she’s also suffered trauma which makes it even more difficult.

    Oh he does. The teachers all have other professions besides teaching and he isn’t really keen on it. He’s also expecting ambition and hard work from his students and doesn’t understand that Lenima doesn’t choose to do badly. Most students have problems reaching his standards though. Patience isn’t his greatest strength either.
  5. Rullenzar

    Rullenzar Troubadour

    I'm just going to toss out some random ideas.
    The training sessions are a nice idea but what about private tutoring? for 1 on 1's if your not looking for the interaction.

    Corrin may not have the techniques but could help her train to reach a certain emotional state in which she can further what she already knows.

    What happens if your MC tries to practice on her own from frustration over corrin and meets someone who shares her element and may be willing to help?

    What about element specific classes weekly? Where all element training takes place in the same day just different timeslots and maybe overlapping with other classes causing friction and or interaction between characters.

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