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Magic System Mayhem. Advice welcome.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Moonalight, Jun 2, 2020.

  1. Moonalight

    Moonalight Acolyte

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    So in my book, I have a subrace of humans that can use magic. The idea is that there are many 'strings', if you will, of power and each magic user is connected to one of those strings. Say the string of elements, or psychics, or life. And each person's power generally differs because they're all connected to different parts of their respective strings. However, on top of still having no name for these magic users (that's literally what I've been calling them for a year) I don't know where the limits lie exactly. I wanted it to be open ended, to leave room for lots of expansion in future books, but people keep telling me it's to confusing to understand. Anyone have any ideas? Please and thank you.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    If all of that subrace can do magic, wouldn't they just be called their race name?
     
  3. Moonalight

    Moonalight Acolyte

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    It's a bit complicated. You see there's another race in my world called beast-bloods, humans that can turn into animals. They aren't considered humans. But the magic users are a race that came around by watering down beast-blood lines. When they paired with humans and their offspring began connecting to a different form of magic. Which is where the problem arises since technically they're not human in a true sense but they're also not beast-bloods seeing as their blood's watered down to much to turn into animals. I was thinking they became a whole other race entirely in the eyes of the humans? Does that make sense?
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  4. Lynea

    Lynea Troubadour

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    This is my two cents: I think that not placing hard limits on your magic abilities behooves you as a writer. I've seen a few magic systems that do have hard rules, and eventually break those rules to where it confuses readers. On the other hand, having some sort of power limit is good for your creative process. Writing your story within the confines of your system will protect you and your readers. So, have a system, but don't make it impossible to be innovative with.
     
    Za'dok Khoal likes this.
  5. Moonalight

    Moonalight Acolyte

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    So set enough rules that it's not broken, but not so much that it chains me later?
     
    Za'dok Khoal likes this.
  6. Lynea

    Lynea Troubadour

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    Yes. That's right.
     
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    You might consider making up an arbitrary name, or even a couple of names. Consider all the terms we have for magician. So one name could be an invented one, while another might be akin to your beast-blood name -- a term that uses familiar words in a new way. When I'm searching for a word like that, which happens regularly, I'll just start making up words and using them, either in notes or even in the manuscript. I think of it as a form of auditioning. Eventually, one starts to stick, and that's the one that gets the job. If you mark the word as provisional--e.g., *mageword*-- then you can search on the special character later and clear out all the words that didn't get the job.

    As for magic itself, I too vote for keeping things flexible. I let the story shape the magic. For example, in my worldbuilding I posited that dragons are unnatural creatures, made by magicians in a particular era. The dragons procreated and for a couple of centuries were the terror of the world. In my current story, I invented a cool dragon for my main villain. OK, now I had to come up with how that happened, what sort of things this dragon could do, and how to end it, if at all. I have almost no rules about dragons, save that they are beasts and can't speak, so I'm free to make this dragon serve the needs of the story. If I had made up a whole set of characteristics about dragons in my worldbuidling, I'm not sure I would have invented this one at all.

    As for limits, a standard approach is to make magic unreliable or unpredictable. When the magic only works 70% of the time (or 20%!), that changes all sorts of dynamics. You can also make it so that certain factors increase reliability and predictability. This gives you plenty of room to fudge for specific scenes.
     
    Moonalight likes this.
  8. Moonalight

    Moonalight Acolyte

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    I see what you mean and there are a few guidelines I suppose. Such as some might never even discover their magic, some can't control it, and there are even magic tools that are imbued with power but come at a price to use. Other than that it's as open ended as possible for future ideas and stories. I'll have to think more on the name but you're right, so thanks!
     
  9. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    For a name I would go with something that ties in to the strings. Like (spell) weaver.

    As for the magic system, I think you should go a bit deeper into it. At the moment what you have is X-men with just a different name/setting. Nothing really wrong with that of course, but I think you can make it more interesting if you go a bit deeper. What do the strings actually do? How do they tie in with the rest of the story? Does the reader even have to know about them or are there just a bunch of magic users who each have different powers? (most watchers of X-men have no idea about X-genes or whatever).

    As for limits and longer series, you can go two routes. Either you can have an all-encompassing system that doesn't fundamentally change between books. Or you can go the "Harry Potter" route, where in each book you have a set of powers with reasonably clear rules in that book and sort of forget most of it between books.
     
    Moonalight likes this.
  10. S J Lee

    S J Lee Sage

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    The name will be EITHER what they call themselves OR what others call them. In the real world, people make a new word and sometimes it catches on and sometimes it doesn't. Shakespeare's "unlock" caught on, but "it unhappies me" did not. Eg, "I'll google it" is popular, and so is "I'll vacuum it" but we don't say "I'll facebook the photo"
    So don't approach it from the point of view of a moustache-twirling boss of SPECTRE. What would they or the natives call them, and which name would catch on? "Gifteds"? "Blesseds"? "Empowereds"? "Chosen"? String-wielders?
    Natives might call them witches, devils, angels, or "cursed / curseds", "magicowards" (they don't fight fair), noose-men (string = a noose)
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    I'd agree that you'll bore readers with too much exposition about how it works. Readers don't really care how it works. By all means, YOU should know how it works.
    Don't give a full explanation, but you DO need to explain a bit about what magic CANNOT do BEFORE people start chucking it about coming up to any epic confrontation... this doesn't have to be a full page, but lmaybe ittle snippets woven in by a teacher in a talk with his students....
    Once you set limits on what magic can do - be VERY careful about expanding those limits. It can be done - "magic has been dead for 1000 years. But the moons are now realigned..." but watch it.
    EG - Wonder Woman movie - it's "foreshadowed" all along that Diana is a child of Zeus, specifically sired for the purpose of destroying Ares... so there is no limit to her power when it comes down to doing it. It doesn't really need to be explained more than that. Does it work? You decide.

    If it can do ANYTHING, you must ask yourself, why hasn't it already done so? EG, the wizards have taken over the world etc, already travelled back in time and exterminated their enemies in the cradle? MAybe they have - see Van Damme's Timecop movie....
    If readers think magic is weak, then if it suddenly saves the day it may look fake, a deus ex....
    UNLESS it is used in a limited clever way (eg, it can only push people pack 1 metre. Lure people to a cliff-side etc before the fight starts. It only works on animals for a few seconds, making them crazy. Get the enemy to charge you on horseback. etc) The reader will guess what they are up to... then surprise the reader. This takes a little bit of effort by the writer.
     
    Moonalight likes this.
  11. Za'dok Khoal

    Za'dok Khoal Scribe

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    Prince of spires may have already said it, with they and their "strings" they have become the "Weaver's"? And I do believe you should have a pretty solid concept of the magic and it's abilities. Most can agree when someone leaves it open ended and all the sudden the super walks in and can do basically anything he wants and none of the last 20 mages were able to, your kind of like "What? Why couldn't they do that? When did this step in stage left?" I go back to power rangers, every time a bigger badder monster came up, there would magically appear a bigger badder zord or set or zords, that could do x,y,z. As ga afterkid ettingit awas littleto a degree entertaining ,but as I got older I lost interest because it just seemed lazy. "The only way to win is powering up! Arrrrg!" It just sorta looses something. If your story is going to revolve around something, make it something worth revolving around.
     
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