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Realistic Magic System Tips?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by RoseScript, Oct 13, 2019.

  1. RoseScript

    RoseScript Acolyte

    Hey! In my current novel, it does have a magic system, although I'm having some trouble making it seem real. Any tips or basic guidelines to make it seem as if it's part of the world?

    I've seen a few posts on magic rules, and things to follow. Although, any advice is helpful! :happy:

    Basic info on my story: The powers are based on the elements (Water, fire ,earth, air/storm...), and each person is "given" a power/assigned an element at around age 15-16. No wands or anything, just kind of "in you". Other magical abilities include simple combat, and other household magic.

    - RoseScript <3
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    your description is pretty sparse. my question would be 'why?'

    Do these elemental powers come via a pact of some sort with Gods or supernatural entities? Are they simply a property of living in a certain place, or belonging to a specific race?
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    If you want it to feel realistic, the first thing is to step away from the magic=wizard=combat=balance thinking that a lot of people pick up from fantasy in other media, especially gaming. You can of course have some of that, if it's right for your story. But if you want a well-developed world, you should take some time to think about how magic is used in day to day life, heating furnaces, filling up water barrels, filling ship sails, in building, in transportation, in making life livable.
    WooHooMan and C. R. Rowenson like this.
  4. I think this is the main point for me as well. It's nice to know the rules of your magic system (and needed if it plays a big role in your story). But that doesn't help make it feel realistic.

    Look at Harry Potter as an example. It's a world with a very loose magical system. The rules don't seem to go much beyond "wave wand correctly, mutter some words and you can do pretty much whatever". And yet, the magic seems real enough. It's because for the people inhabiting the world it's as natural as breathing. They don't notice it's there and they use it pretty much everywhere where they can.
  5. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    How the magic affects the society, and how the magic affects individuals: Two important questions.

    If only a very rare handful of people had magic, this might be less important—or not, depending—but if everyone has it, this will have a much more dramatic effect on society.

    So playing the "what if" game is important. What are the repercussions, developments, consequences that flow from this fact of magic being in the world and used by everyone over a certain age?

    Also, I'd say look at how different proficiency levels affect the culture and social realities, even psychologies of individuals. ("He has magic envy.") You might even consider how those who are assigned to one branch may have advantages or disadvantages compared to those assigned to a different branch.
  6. Since you mention the ability is in you, I'd be interested in exploring it as a genetic magic along with the level of medical knowledge in your world. A system where the gift is more like an effect of puberty, or hormonal, would make it seem very much a given and normal. It couldn't be "exploited" easily in a low knowledge society if it's biological and not a bestowed gift. Think of early medicine and the faulty ideas many held about the human body, blood, nervous systems and organs. Think of Galvanism a la Frankenstein as a faulty/wayward "scientific" method with a greater aim. If you made the base function/power only nominal, it opens the story up to perhaps a few who's body chemistry is all out of whack, enhancing or negating the ability. What causes that? Who discovers it? What are its limits? What is it's greatest potential? Lots of potential for horrific treatments for those who wish to remove the ability or those who wish to limit it others. (Think electroshock therapy or lobotomy or blood letting etc.)

    Best of luck!! :)
  7. RoseScript

    RoseScript Acolyte

    I completely agree. That's something I'll definitely keep in mind. Having it be a normal aspect of life, makes it seem more real. :)
  8. RoseScript

    RoseScript Acolyte

    That is such a great idea to implement! Making it seem as if you "grow in to it", would definitely fit with the story line, and give it a more natural feel.
    It also allows room for some medical aspects, which are much needed. :)
  9. R.H. Smith

    R.H. Smith Minstrel

    I guess treating magic as you would treat another character, for me, could make it seem more real, alive. Off the bat, your description made me think of Avatar the Last Airbender. They had elemental magic much like you do in your story. In my MS, magic is something you're born with (kinda boring right?). But dropping opinions on how to make your magic feel real, i would suggest giving more of a platform to what the limitations of your magic are. Yes, magic is freaking awesome right? But what can't you do with your magic, i think, enhances the level of realism and believability. Flaws always bring you back down from the clouds, and, in my honest opinion, making a big deal (it's your MS, you do it however makes you happy) of your magic's limitations will help make it feel more realistic.(y)
  10. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Make it consistent. Write it well. And even ridiculous wand waving will be bought into by a certain percentage of people, heh heh. Not me, but enough people to make millions of dollars.

    Much of it boils down to this: when the characters believe, the reader believes, which is how much reader manipulation occurs.
  11. MrNybble

    MrNybble Sage

    Magic is as real as the world it's in. How does the world it's in handle such an element? If there is fire magic, there probally wouldn't be much development in certain technologies that are fire based. It seems real if teleportation magic is common and no transportation tech is available. Why would there be cars or planes if a wave of a wand gets you anywhere instantly?
  12. Hexasi

    Hexasi Scribe

    I think it always helps to jam some lore behind this kind of stuff. If your magic system is just kind of there, it won't fit into the world and therefore won't feel real. You have to think about the history of the magic system, who used, who uses it, myths, legends. Then we'll buy it; it feels part of the world you couldn't take out without losing the whole thing.

    I second MrNybbleMrNybble.
    Yora likes this.

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