Magic and fantasy. That’s a couple whose relationship is as common as love and romance, science and sci-fi, murder and mystery…
For me, magic is another element that enriches the fantasy world. It possesses different looks, its place in the forefront or background varying with each writer. As a reader, if it’s placed front and center at the story’s expense I respond with rolled eyes and a sarcastic remark mourning lost plot and wincing at the textbook approach. If it’s too far in the background my suspended belief withers.
Magic is another element like maps, histories, and cultural facts that I work hard to create for my fantasy world, but utilize sparingly. A tool created to enhance the story, not rule it.
A tool that also requires consistency.
We’ve all encountered our own horror stories:
- The character who shows virtually no ability for the entire book and then demonstrates near god-like talents that render all other powers in the universe useless.
- The character who utilizes magic with no side effects, but then has side effects, but then doesn’t have them again.
- The character who gains powers and loses them as needed to move the plot along.
- The author who can’t resist naming one magical element after another until I suspect they possess no substance.
I’m sure I could summon other examples that are my personal irritations. Too, how much I allow such offenses to slide depends on the book’s overall quality.
This is how I slip it in when my protagonist has an encounter with the one wizard she holds dear…
The door above opened and closed. Footfalls upon the stairs. Palladon sat beside her and rolled his shoulders. “I assured the parents you were correct in your diagnosis.” Ergain’s small hand disappeared into the tall wizard’s grasp and additional strength flooded her system. “You’ve overextended your gift again and allowed a saturation imbalance to drain lifeforce.”
A laughed sputtered, but its brief life died on her lips and she shook her head instead. “Dear Genessa, only a wizard would explain exhaustion in such a way.”
Palladon nodded through his smile. “A terrible tragedy has befallen this home and, more specifically, the girl, but it should not have drained you so utterly since no cure exists.”
Ergain straightened her back, but refused to meet his gaze. “I simply returned the girl to her parents for a short time to allow for the proper parting words.”
He mulled her explanation and nodded again, though both bushy brows arched in skepticism. “I see. Of course, this simple act, as you’ve referred to it, was in reality you setting a healing ward about the mysquanmic concentration to temporarily contain it.” Ergain remained mute through an awkward silence. “Few possess the skill to perform such an act, an act that was a compassionate one.”
She reached for her bag. “It was the least I could do in the face of such unfairness.”
It’s their already-established relationship, his concern, her denial, and her anger that move the passage, but…
Hey, wait a minute, there’s some big words in there!
There sure are, but they’re all explained amidst the story’s progression and most of these are known before this passage. Though wizards tend towards haughty language, scenes such as this one are rare. Still, I’ll play fair…
- Gift, as it’s used here is simply possessing magic. The degree is irrelevant.
- Saturation imbalance is a big one with a simple explanation: it’s when the gifted overextends their gift and must pull from their lifeforce to make up the difference.
- Lifeforce is a that which powers sentient beings. I have it. You have it. George Washington, Gandhi, and Napoleon Bonaparte did have it, but no longer.
- A Healing ward sets a barrier between a concentrated ill and the host.
- Mysquanmic is the term wizards prefer to magic. They’re magic scholars, after all. It’s derived from the word mysquan, which is a blue mineral that holds spells exceptionally well while retaining their full power for an extended period.
The bottom line is that because these terms are defined I don’t become confused when utilizing them. At the same time, it’s more entertaining to learn them via passages like the above rather than my mini glossary. Better to spend time with your romantic interest to learn more about them then to read a dry dissertation.
Developing all this took considerable time and even more trial-and-error, for I had to debug the magic in my world time and again when inconsistencies surfaced. It’s a lot of work and often frustrating, but it’s worth it if a writer decides to delve deep into magic’s operation. Many don’t—perhaps most—but that’s okay if they don’t flaunt a faulty system.