Magic is one of my favorite things to read. Who wouldn’t want super powers, right?
The thing is that magical systems can vary. Some are very simple and others extremely complex. It is definitely a vast subject. So I won’t be getting super specific here. If you have a question, feel free to let me know!
While beta reading these are the main things that I have noticed:
The Magic Just Happens.
There are no feelings. No fireworks. No struggle to understand the power. No background story of developing mutant powers from a toxic spill. It just happens. For me, unless you’re God, this is hard for me to swallow. I just kind of shrug and roll my eyes whenever I see magic happen in a world like this.
A big rule of magic is there are always drawbacks. I know it’s cliché but it’s true. Especially if you want to make it believable.
To make a magical system more believable have it activate one of your senses. Or drain your character. Or perhaps make it hard to control. Or something that the character has to come to terms with out of shame.
Make sure that your magic serves a purpose.
When magic is a limitless power it’s also hard to believe. If you introduce mechanics to the magic make sure you remember the limitations. Sometimes in the middle of a book, the character can do something that shouldn’t be within the limitations.
The Mechanics Change Mid Story
I’ve noticed that sometimes authors rely on magic more than their characters. If a scene isn’t working or you don’t know where to go with it… don’t patch it up with magic. It’s obvious.
There are times when magic is completely appropriate to further the story. The knight gets a magical sword. The wizard blasts a dragon with lightning bolts. Sometimes it makes sense. Just remember that not everything can be fixed with magic. It is a limited tap.
If you set mechanics and limitations, stick to it. Trying to deviate creates loopholes and it makes the reader stop trusting the magic. Or believing in it.
Another thing (the reverse really) is when magic has really loose limitations and it leaves the reader thinking, “Why doesn’t John Doe do that? He has the power to fix this with his magic.”
Magic is no small thing to mess with in creative writing. It gets messy quickly. If there is something that could be resolved with magic, a good fix would be introducing a problem that effects the magic.
The thing is that when I write magic, I treat it just like technology. What does it do? What can’t it do? How does it work? When does it work? How does it feel? How does it look?
In conclusion, magic is awesome. And I love it. Just don’t dig yourself a hole. Think about it before using it in your story.