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The Writer's TAYble - Screw the Rules, I Cast Flare!

Hey, it's been a while since we've done one of these, no? What's the subject for today? I hope you filed that form in triplicate before casting Magic Missile, because today we're discussing the rules and regulations for casting spells.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -Arthur C. Clarke


It's this quote that has perhaps brought on the age of magic no longer being a Deus ex Machina, a phenomena that occurs solely to save the day. Think back to Gandalf who perhaps only used magic a dozen times or less during the course of the Lord of the Rings, and each time it just is. No need to explain what's going on, he's just casting Magic Missile at the darkness. But these days fantasy writers seem to focus on the rules for casting magic more. Does it require life energy to cast? Can you only cast this spell on a Tuesday while it's raining and the moon phase is waxing gibbous? Do these rules bog down the lore, or do they actually make things more interesting.

I personally take an approach that is a mixture of both. Think of "Hard Science Fiction" versus "Light Science Fiction". One gets the details perfect while the other just sort of hand waves through their science. I stand somewhere in the middle in regards to magic in my writing. In fact, I've actually gotten down into categories.


Internal Magic - Call it Willpower or "Fighting Spirit", Internal Magic is the Green Ring of magic in my writing. So long as the caster has the will to continue fighting, complete their task, honor an oath, they can continue to cast. Internal Magic itself can be broken down further into styles. One of my characters, Locke, uses an Internal Magic known as "The Armory" to create weapons that appear instantly with just a thought, but brings no combat prowess with them. Another character, Skadi, uses Internal Magic to cast ice-based spells that take longer to will into existence.

External Magic - Magic that requires fuel. This fuel can be anything. This could be compared to Bending from Avatar which required a source of the Bender's element to perform. So a caster that uses External Magic may require flame to redirect the heat, or water to deluge a target. My example in this case would be Voltaire (yes, my namesake), who draws in moonlight to fuel his magic. He's only able to store a certain amount of this energy for later use, but if it's a Full Moon all bets are off. Alternately, if it's a New Moon any excessive casting comes at a severe cost.


Artificial Magic - This category of magic could also be called "Infused Magic", but I choose to go with "Artificial" because it requires "Artifacts". An Artifact is an item that has become magical through any given process and the magic can be used at any given time. These Artifacts can be anything from a mirror to a sword, and what they are capable of doing is an even wider and stranger range. My friend Mishro's character is a user of Artifacts, an "Artificier" in this case. While an Artificier can possess and use an unlimited number of Artifacts, it comes with a major drawback in ignorance is power. That huge blast of wind when I swung this sword sure was a weird coincidence, eh? I thought for sure I got hit, but I'm not bleeding at all!

God Tier Magic - The Deus ex Machina still exists in my universe. There's some magic that just cannot, and should not, be explained. This is the kind of magic that just is. If there's gateways connecting dimensions, why bother going into an information dump on why they exist? They're tools to be used by both character and author alike, just do so. And, of course, this also applies to magic used by actual Gods, whether they be of the Greek or Cthulu variety. Beings that transcend what is humanly possible are capable of performing feats that are beyond humanly possible. And in true Deus ex Machina fashion, this is where "Screw the Rules" comes in.

Illustration for article titled The Writers TAYble - Screw the Rules, I Cast Flare!

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it writers, is to either discuss magic in literature or write up a short including some magical action! What kind of magic do you prefer? Is it structured, or is it quick and dirty? Let's get writing!

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