Story Building Part 2: Magic Systems

One of the things that attracted me to writing and the fantasy genre as a whole was being able to build a unique and highly integrated magic system.

Not something that is just tacked on, only for use by a handful of characters. But something that is as deep as the world, as involved as my main character and something that shapes the daily lives of those that live in my world. Its fun and exciting to think about and let my mind wander.

I do ask myself a few questions early on: How would this work in the real world? What would the world look like if this magic was real? How would it affect my life and the lives of those around me?

These questions help me ground the magic system early on, establish rules that keep it believable and most importantly give me a starting point in detailing and rounding out the magic system.

Does this mean I prefer hard magic systems versus soft? Yes. I like that there are strict rules to a magic system and a cost to get to use power. I find stories without this aspect of cost or hard rules relatively boring with no real stakes. Hard magic systems make writing a bit more challenging but, having to adhere to your own rules while writing helps find the flaws of the magic system and identify potential power scaling issues, something magic systems struggle with.

I ran into nearly every problem a writer could when writing Ascendance. A power scale that was out of control, constant rule-breaking because I had created a soft magic system that allowed me easy outs and no cost to use. Basically, the system was abused by every character that had the aptitude to use it.

Like everything else, this is just the style that I came across when writing and working through these problems. Could a soft magic system work for another writer? Sure, there are plenty of examples of good stories that use soft magic systems. They are usually more effective in stories where the magic is more of a background aesthetic than something that is highly impactful and in the story’s foreground.

It all comes down to style and personal preference. As always, I encourage writers to try everything and use what works for them. Ascendance needed strong rules and a solid cost to use the magic system. It also causes social problems within the story so it wasn’t an element I could keep in the background.

What do you guys think? What types of magic systems do you prefer to read or write? Let me know down below or on Facebook at…thanks again!

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