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Would you ever break the rules of your magic system to create a sense of wonder?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Annoyingkid, Aug 28, 2017.

  1. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I'm not sure I understand everything you are describing, and I don't have the context of the whole story, so I'm not sure if this will work...but maybe the hits are worse while the target has power, and the fact that she's already used up her power means that they didn't hit quite as hard as they normally would?

    I'm getting that lightning is opposite earth here. Getting hit by your opposite (or weakness) "will greatly depower," but what if you are already out of power? I can see where a sudden total loss of power, from such a hit, might be a great enough shock (pun, heh) that it can kill. But perhaps already being out of power limits the effect.

    Maybe this would be something that neither the characters nor the readers understand at the moment this scene is happening, but this facet of "the rules" of that world can be made clear later when the group of characters are talking. One says, "God saved you sis!" and someone pipes in to say, "Naw, dude, God had nothing to do with it. She had already used up her power. This is the only thing that saved her." And then of course, they can brawl over the theological implications/dispute, heh.
     
  2. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Sometimes the antagonist's breaking of the rules will leave the reader gasping wtf too. But it's less likely, unless the reader has been looking over the antagonist's shoulder as much as the protagonist's.

    The protagonist (and thus the reader) might learn of some magical effect specifically because it's used against her by the antagonist.
     
  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    ^This gets back to that thing I mentioned those podcasters saying.

    Being "rules based" only means that there are rules the readers understand. It's like saying you can watch a football match on television but you can't watch it on a watermelon. People don't need to know how televisions work and why watermelons don't display televised sporting events on their skin, heh.

    I think there's the example of the X-Men. There are certain "rules" to Wolverine's powers, and it'd be irritating if he could suddenly launch lightning bolts when trying to kill an opponent flying 50 feet above him. But we don't need more than "There's a special mutant gene" and "mad scientists laced his bones with adamantium" to explain how he has his own particular set of powers.

    Edit: Had used apple instead of watermelon for my example, but suddenly realized the loophole in that hah.
     
  4. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Yeah, when magical conflict escalates, people are realistically going to end up dead. One way to avoid this particular death is to have some object that will help absorb part of the attack. You can go back in your story and introduce a magical device of some sort that is said to have a one-time use, and then destroy it at this point instead of the MC. You can even have fun with the device up until this point, having the MC consider using it before this, but not. There are other takes on this that will work just as well too.
     
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    To add to this, I like to follow Sanderson's first law.

    Sanderson?s First Law

    With one of my stories I tried to have it both ways. I did it by having two levels of magic. One was very rules bases and had specific limitations. The other was vaguely defined and used that to try and create wonder. But i made sure that the latter was never used to solve problems.

    IMHO the heart of creativity lies within being able to work within limitations and coming up with creative solutions without breaking the rules.

    As others have said you can break the rule if that breaking of the rules has been foreshadowed and set up as an integral part of the story. Otherwise it's just cheating and dishonest and that's IMHO the worst type of infraction a writer can do to the reader.
     
    FifthView and psychotick like this.
  6. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Liked Sanderson's post I have to admit. I especially liked the way he linked the idea of the firmness / hardness of the rules of your magic system to the way in which your MC can resolve the crisis. I don't agree with it completely. If you write soft magic as he calls it where the magic is ill-defined, I don't see that there's any reason why your MC can't resolve things with his magic. Yes it makes it more difficult to avoid having the book either fall flat as the suspense dies or else looks contrived, but you can write your way around that. On the other hand I agree completely with the other side of his dimension of hard and soft magic, in that if you have rigidly defined rules of magic, you can't let your MC break them in order to solve the crisis.

    All of which ties in neatly to the OP. Would you ever break the rules of your magic system? It sort of depends on the rules themselves. Are they, as was said in the Pirates, rules? Or more sort of guidelines?

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  7. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    The impact forces involved in the hit is whats lethal. All being out of power would mean is that she's too tired to evade it now. I can't use the one shot item trick again, as I already used it on a different opponent. Would be cheap to do it again.

    The weakness of the attacker here is toxic waste and polluted environments, much like Captain Planet, but the nearest environment like that is at least 30 miles away. So that's not an option. I'm turning the cliches on its head, here the spirit of the earth is angry that elves and fairies have harmed the environment.

    The deity in question who provides the miracle isn't a vague abstract only defined through scripture but is a prominent character who's one of the main characters the title of the work describes and is a friend of the MC who turned evil but who the MC redeemed and who "died" saving the world. The divine intervention would foreshadow the fact that the character comes back at the end. The theme is to show that the bonds of friendship between the three characters described in the title is unbreakable.

    I'm hoping the reader gives my MC a pass as its accepting the challenge/attention of the earth magic based attacker that allowed the brother and the princess and a baby to get out of there safetly. Its all meant to be very heroic and all that. :showoff:
     
  8. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Can your MC instead die - but somehow still survive as static electricity in the air?

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I think that talk of giving it a pass signals a potential weakness in the delivery.

    But the fact that the deity plays such a significant role in the world, among the characters, and in the story is good. It would seem that all you need is adequate foreshadowing, and you'll be fine.
     
  10. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Like FifthView said, with some adequate foreshadowing, you might be okay. Is there any indication earlier in the story that divine intervention is something that occasionally happens? An example of another deity exercising divine intervention, say, in favor of the MC's enemies, might be enough foreshadowing.

    You have to be careful not to let this escalate into a war of intervening deities -- unless that's what you want. :)
     
  11. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    It is a story of deity(co creator of the universe) who wants to cause less damage to reality and save lives in the long run by resolving divine disputes using grand armies that consists of each universe's inhabitants, instead of direct fights between two gods. The people he's trying to conquer understandably don't want to be forced into a giant meat grinder and have their planet strip mined.

    By book 3 almost all the elf and fairy territories have fallen to him. They're desperately trying to keep the arch enemy away from the counter offensive against his world, to contain him long enough for the MC to arrive and save the day.

    Now she has to take down:

    Both creators of the universe.
    1000 transcended elves (super elves)
    The enemy's 3 greatest servants, one of who beat her last time.
    And finally a second generation deity who is the spirit of the earth.

    The path to victory is elusive, narrow and very easy to stray from. :running:
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
  12. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Personally, I don't think your "miracle" is the deus ex machina that it first sounded like, in that it's not entirely contrived. You can always write the story the way you want, and give it to beta readers. If they all like it, then great. If some of them don't, then maybe you could figure out a not-too-painful fix.
     
  13. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    As long as the Miracle doesn't also serve as a Deus Ex Machina for the story then yes, it's fine. My only...flinch, perse, is if the characters are just running and all of sudden, Boom!, Miracle. Unless there's somekind of precursor then it seems to cross the line from Wonderful Miracle to Unbelievable "Huh?!". It doesn't have to be someone roaring at the sky, spewing a mixed prayer, ground shaking or anything so physical. It could be a sense or some other reaction. Like humidity in the air foreshadows rain, fish disappearing from the lagoon tells you "Shark!" etc. Let there be some kind of foreshadowing that something is coming so the miracle doesn't come out of thin air. Magic comes from somewhere, so miracles aren't an exception if your story has a magical miracle.
     
  14. That's not exactly what I mean by consistent laws.

    By consistent laws I mean, "People with heat/fire related powers can create heat by accelerating the motion of molecules. They can use this power to do anything from create warmth to start fires. Focusing their powers into a smaller area will enable them to create more intense heat, while heat spread out over a wider area will have to be less great in intensity." People can only have one power or related set of powers if you like. The strength of their powers grows with age and practice; it works this way with all powers.

    Or, say with emotional manipulation powers; there are several different ones, including fear, anger, happiness, etc. i would define things like this power can be used on others, but not on oneself; inflicting or draining away emotions is possible, but draining is more difficult and causes the following symptoms (migraines, etc.) As for the explanation of how they work like you described, powers are thought to be connected to the soul, and to come from some sort of force variously interpreted as a projection of a person's inner self, a prediction of one's destiny, or a divine being. That part is not understood, though it is studied.

    What I DON'T like is answering questions like "how does the flying city float?" with "Oh it's magic," If this magic was shown to have some kind of rules and limitations (like, it takes a team of hundreds of wizards to cast the spells powerful enough to make the city float!) I don't like magic used to do things without a strict explanation of what it can and can't do, or else it just becomes "whatever."

    As for Harry Potter, there's just too many questions. The spells are Dog Latin; what would a wizard that literally spoke Latin do? Why are some words/sounds spells and others not?

    Honestly, what I'm referring to is the book on hiatus and I can't recall having many fight scenes using powers.

    As for my current WIP, well...I'm stuck on my magic system being overpowered, so there's that.
     
  15. This brings up an interesting question, though...how much do your characters know about your magic system and how it works?

    like, natural phenomena here on Earth used to be thought of as the work of gods or magic. Eclipses, for instance, were seen as a terrifying omen.

    So if said "breaking of the rules" is just something that breaks your MCs' UNDERSTANDING of the rules, I'd be cool with it. It would be like the eclipse...it's not breaking the rules of science, its just something the MC's don't know about.

    I do like my rules fairly well-established and known by the MC's though, or at least have them learn the rules, so maybe I'm contradicting myself...
     
  16. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    So you're one of the few people who preferred that the force was explained, with midichlorians communicating with the Jedi's cells?

    It's not. By the rules my MC would be dead instantly 100% of the time. :showoff: Instead shes badly mutilated but clings to life just about through divine intervention. Which can't be called part of the rules as even the deity providing it is vulnerable to elemental weakness. But its something I'm willing to accept to unlock some incredible drama. Because thats what magic and powers ultimately are imo, tools to facilitate thrills, conflict and drama. So even if its not watertight, it ultimately isnt about the magic.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2017
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Is that what Dragon said?

    There's a difference between setting up some ground rules - some limits on how and why your magic works - and BSing a sciency explanation that has absolutely nothing to do with limits or rules, like whether the force can make lightning or destroy a planet.

    In one of my settings the gods left magical artifacts strewn across the world, and have since vowed not to make any more. So characters know there are artifacts, each connected to one of the gods, but not how many there are or what they do. There are spirits that appear in areas where enough magic comes together, but it's not clear to every character why the magic gathers or what the spirits will be like or will come to do. There are serving traditions that raise people their entire lives to utilize different magics that exist in the world, and while each magic can be described in general terms, and in theory used by all, the ways of each tradition are broad and mysterious.*

    ^ These are the rules of the magic system. There's one or two things I didn't mention, but there's nothing outside of the system.


    *In my desire to keep the details under wraps, I made it sound like something it's not. The traditions each have a specific role in society, like, say, teaching, performing, or being a travelling judge. They aren't wizards; the magic they use is extremely subtle. For instance, a judge might give you advice on how to manipulate your karma (this is the watered down version).
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2017
  18. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Midichlorians is comparable to what he said : "By consistent laws I mean, "People with heat/fire related powers can create heat by accelerating the motion of molecules."

    Midichlorians is taking magic down to a science. So I'm asking if he preferred that. It has everything to do with limits. Someone with lower midichlorians = hard limits in force potential. Makes the force about numbers.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2017
  19. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    But that's wrong, because midichlorians do not exist. It's pseudoscience BS.
     
  20. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Fictional science. Because one can't explain magic with real, existing science.
     
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