Worldbuilding With Magic

on Tuesday, June 23, 2015
    For those of you who have been reading along, my friend Elise (Magic Writer) has been doing a series on Worldbuilding, and I've been promoting for her and sharing some of my own tidbits. I really like the series she's done because I've never been able to actually put into words how I build worlds, I just do it. It's nice to have guidelines to follow to see how well I did for my writing. Sometimes I discover things I missed, and I've found myself being more assertive about making decisions because they have to be made at some point.
    For example, as I was reading through some of Elise's advice, I discovered that I hadn't yet thought about the capitol cities of each kingdom. As I was going through chapter 7, it talks about how the people know Luzi so well, but no one knows Kyla. One of my readers asked how the people knew Luzi. Well, I decided that Varn and Laeto are very similar because their capitol cities (and castles) are major areas where many people go to visit. The royal families are well known and visit the general public often. Their castles are tourist attractions, and parts are open to the general public. In my last post I talked about the Varnan castle and how the center is a giant temple where many people go to pray. One of Aya's brothers is a priest there. Laeto's capital city is a market, very similar to Central City. The castle is in the center of a giant town and many people go inside the castle to meet with the royal family, give them gifts, and ask for help. Tykra and Zetalon, however, are different. Their castles are not parts of major cities, and are very isolated. The royal families rarely affiliate with their subjects. It's something that Kyla appreciated as a child, but grows to dislike. It makes sense for the story. 
    That's what all decisions for world building should be like. They should make sense, and many of them will affect the storyline. For example, Kyla appreciated that she's always been separated from the Tykran people, but after seeing the way Luzi interacts with his people, she starts to change her mind. But not all decisions will have something to do with the storyline, sometimes they just have to make sense. Like the fact that Zetalon is filled with mountains and they have earth powers. Would it really make sense for the people with water powers to be live in the mountains and mine ore while the people with earth powers live on the ocean and fish? No, that doesn't make sense. It doesn't really affect the storyline at all, but if people question the general set up of your story, they will start to question everything about your story. 

    Anyway, Magic Writer's most recent worldbuilding post is about magic systems. I was planning on doing a post similar to this one months ago after going to LTUE because I attended a panel talking about this, but after Elise told me she was including this, I figured I'd hold off. 
    There are 4 main things when creating a magical system-

1) Keep it simple
2) Keep it consistent
3) Link it to the society
and most importantly
4) Give it limitations

    She listed off many different types of magical systems that you could use. The most important thing to consider when choosing a type of magical system is how it fits into the society. For Powerful, I chose to go with an elemental system because of the setup of the Four Kingdoms. Each kingdom has its own powers, which emphasizes the distinction between the kingdoms. Again, it relates very importantly to the plot of the story. And remember that this all has to be explained very briefly to people who have to read and understand the concept of your magical system very quickly. It has to be simple and consistent or no one will understand.
    The next things to consider are-

  • Who can do magic?
  • What does your magic do?
  • What is the source of magic?
  • How is magic performed?

    For Powerful, everyone can perform magic. The different kingdoms control different elements, but Kyla doesn't realize until after spending a lot of time at Floures that everyone is severely limited as to what they can do. Most people can only manipulate some aspects of their element and it takes a lot of brain power to use their magic. Kyla is the exception because she can manipulate all elements, and seems to have no real limitations except when she gets sick to her stomach (she is the only one with that limitation). The source of magic is a little bit trickier to nail down for Powerful because it's more of a religious idea and the different kingdoms have different religions. For the most part, everyone believes that the magic was given from the gods, but Tykrans have no religion. They believe that their powers were learned from nature by hard work, rather than a gift from some all powerful being. Their magic is performed by hand movements and brain power. No incantations or magical objects are required. 
    Now onto the most important aspect of creating a magical system. I say this is the most important because at LTUE, this was what we talked about. Magic has to have limitations. People can't just control everything. That was my biggest problem with writing Misunderstood. Moxi was my magical character. She was a sorceress with undefined powers. She could do anything and for long periods of time too. There was no cost to performing magic. There need to be consequences. There needs to be a limit. 
    In Harry Potter, the limitations to magical powers were based on what incantations they knew. 
    In Percy Jackson, he was limited by when he had water he could manipulate and when he used his powers, it fed off his energy. He had to recover some energy before using his powers again. It also took him a long time to build up his abilities. 
    Another one that comes to mind is the Candy Shop Wars by Brandon Mull. The kids eat candy that gives them temporary abilities. They had to learn what each candy did, and once they ate it, they had a limited period of time to use the magic. They were limited by what pieces of candy they had as well. 
    One book I didn't like was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The book was very interesting, but the magic system is completely undefined and never once explained throughout the entire book. I enjoyed reading it, but I spend a great deal of time confused because I didn't understand their powers at all. It seriously undermined the plot, which was super interesting.
    That's why with Powerful I've taken great consideration on how the magical system works. Everyone has seriously limited powers over their elements. They learn how to control and manipulate their element, then most of the people use their element in their occupation. Zetalon consists of mostly miners. Laeto has blacksmiths. Varn is farming. Tykra is fishing. What's interesting, though, is that most of the people who go to Floures to learn about their powers don't end up using their powers in their profession. Royals and Councilors basically never use their powers. They have no need to. And that's why Floures really only teaches control over the element and simple tasks. Everyone else learns how to use their powers for their specific profession only. The limits are basically their knowledge of hand gestures, and their brain power. Kyla is the exception, because she can control all four elements, but her magic can overpower her brain which makes her ill. Eli is a different story, but I won't go into detail on that. You'll have to read the book to find out. The point is that the magic system is consistent, simple, applies to the societal aspects of the story, and has strict limitations. Even the steps to the system are part of the story, because Kyla's powers are not consistent with everyone else and her limitations are different than everyone else. See how that works?


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