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Magic Spells

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Miseo, Feb 2, 2017.

  1. Miseo

    Miseo Minstrel

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    So, I've already developed a magic system in my story. Certain types of creatures can use magic naturally and don't need spells. And humans can also use spells naturally with enough mastery. But sometimes spells or rituals are needed.

    How do you go about writing spells? I really, really don't want to have to actually make spells... They're so lame. The whole speaking some arbitrary phrase to get magic makes no sense in the first place and just hearing characters say those cliche lines makes embarrassed to be a human being...
     
  2. ^In my stories, the characters don't use spells or wands at all. they harmonize with the magic/life energy/spirit light itself, and draw that power into themselves.

    In Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle, there are magic words, but it is never specified what they are and when the magic-using characters say them aloud, it is just described as something like 'Sparrowhawk spoke a few words quietly...'
     
    TheCatholicCrow likes this.
  3. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    If you don't want verbal spells or incantations, I'd say consider the ritual aspects then... There were some interesting ones in the middle ages like women (hopping backwards a certain number of times during a full moon then) rubbing themselves in honey and oats, scraping it off & baking it into a cake ... in the hopes of killing their husband. Others might include drawing diagrams or writing initials on a ceramic tile/pot /piece , & burying it.

    Other magical rituals might involve burying or leaving things at the crossroads, doing stuff in the woods (sacrifices, or darker acts of a sexual, violent, and or cannibalistic nature). You might also consider looking into ritualistic religions like VooDoo / HooDoo, Santeria, etc. Latin American is rife with this sort of thing - healers, mystics, and magicians everywhere.
     
  4. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    OOH! I like that ... might have to adopt that technique at some point :)
     
  5. Exceptionally powerful mages don't even speak the words, possibly just thinking them.
     
  6. Miseo

    Miseo Minstrel

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    Thanks for the responses everyone. I'll look up ritual based spells and see how that works too.
     
  7. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    You could use gestures, manipulation of certain items, environmental or situational conditions (triggered magic), temporal conditions (scheduled magic), other types of verbal cues (singing, humming, tongue clicks, etc.), for starters. For inspiration, read Mistborn: The Final Empire; it has a complete magic system that doesn't require verbal components, with terminology (e.g., push, pull) that lets the reader know what spells are being cast.
     
  8. Miseo

    Miseo Minstrel

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    Thanks. But I guess another concern would be... by what mechanism does it work? Like, why do certain spells or rituals work and not others? What is the underlying substrates? And with spells I just can't see it. I can't see how a set of words would have some effect when another wouldn't...

    But I guess the mechanism is something we each have to create for ourselves, in the end.
     
  9. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Mistborn is a reagent system of magic with the simple (and conventient) twist of consuming various metals and burning them for powers. It uses these to create fight scenes that mimic a sort of Matrix meets Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon imagery. Reagent systems can be good fun. Mistborn is interesting because the magic (at points, IMO) seemed to carry the book too much, while the story flagged a bit. To this day, I'm not sure why so many folks are enamored with it, but I can see where as a teen or tween, it would've been fun. And honestly, I don't think I could be enamored with a magic system, so I might not be the best judge there, LOL.

    For my main WIP reagents aren't necessary, but they do exist to bolster powers. Words may be spoken, but they hold no power in themselves... they would be methods to focus the mind, sort of like "visualizing" that some folks believe in today. The word abracadabra doesn't hold power, but if you train your body and mind to focus properly around it, the ritual of saying it will help you. Verbal prayers work that way in my world.
     
  10. Miseo

    Miseo Minstrel

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    Well, magic systems can be really fun so I'd understand why people would be enamored by them. Mine is closely tied with the history and religions and politics of my world.

    I actually tried asking wiccans and other witches irl about magic and why they use spells... But I never got an answer that satisfied me entirely...
     
  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I've played way too many rpgs for decades to get enamored by magic systems anymore, LOL. I won't say it's impossible, but very unlikely in this stage of my fantasy life. Sanderson really pushes the magic system notion with his writing, but it can prove a turn off as well as a turn on. I'm neutral. In general I am neutral on his writing... he's entertaining which is most important, but of what I have read of his, he doesn't make me rush out to read more. Now Sanderson personally, I really like the guy from what I know, but I'd still have to give him grief about some of his prose if we ever met, heh heh.
     
  12. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    I have it so magic responds to thought, and powerful sorcerers don't even need to make any gestures to work spells. I just think the mental image of a person casually standing still while powerful destructive energies swirl around them is awesome and intimidating, especially for villains.

    However, I also added a thing whereby some less experienced sorcerers do use words and gestures to 'amplify' their thoughts, as it were. Magic only responds to thought, but words act as a good catalyst for thought, allowing a person to focus their mind entirely on the spell. Same for gestures. One of my characters notes that 'if a person genuinely believed that reading last week's shopping list would invoke the Occult, then, for them, it would'.

    It might be good to go with a similar route if you want your magic system to have words and gestures be arbitrary, but you still want to keep the aesthetic effect of characters shouting spells and waving their hands.
     
    Michael K. Eidson likes this.
  13. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

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    In my stories, they don't need to speak. Sure, sometimes they do, just to make it sound fancy, but when they do they don't say some incredibly outlandish phrase. Instead, if the intent of the magic user is to ignite an object, say a tree, they just say fire very forcibly. Just plain old words for me.

    Now to actually use the magic in a ritual, the magic users would most likely acquire a magic staff or stones to "Help" them channel the magic. Kind of stereotypical but I like it.

    Hope this helps.
     
  14. ^In my stories magic tends to be natural and in-born, so doing magic is as natural as walking or speaking. My magic users just...do it. They sometimes enhance or channel their magic using gestures or movements, though.
     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Words have power. That's really the starting point for spells. Some words are intrinsically powerful, such as using the true name of God. Other words are magical because they are a palindrome, or comprise a sequence of letters that is significant. Rhyming is another form. Some words invoke a demon or demonic force by using its name. In still other cases, it's not the word itself but its numerological significance (numbers have power, too). Then there are incantations, a word that comes from cantare which means to sing. Singing also has power! So does dance, but that gets to a different topic.

    You of course can play things as you please, but perhaps this gives you at least some idea of why spoken spells are used in magic.

    One other thing worth stating. Everything, absolutely everything, we know about medieval witchcraft comes from people who were not witches. It comes from observers of witchcraft, usually via reports to Inquisitors, but also from testimony before law courts (this, only starting around 1500). Most of what we associate with witchcraft dates to the 17thc and later, and much of that is actually 19thc and 20thc. Just ftr.
     
  16. Alyssa

    Alyssa Troubadour

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    My magic system is based on thought/emotion/mental state alone. However, the language used is a complex and evocative series of sounds that "prime" the mind for a certain mental state, thus producing magic - so saying the words won't actually do much without intent or magical ability as it is not their native language; however, magical effects can be induced by a particular pattern of thought/emotion/mental state. It's basically a magical version of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (where the language you speak affects the ways in which you think).
     
  17. Miseo

    Miseo Minstrel

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    Lots of intresting ideas here. I thought of something too... oaths. Let's say someone swears by something more powerful than itself, then it is oath bound... this also counts as magic I suppose.
     
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