Magic in Fantasy Fiction

My focus lately for my work-in-progress is building an interesting and consistent magic system.  When I first started planning my novel, I had a vague sense of what it would be and that it would tie in closely with the society’s religion.   When I sat down to write how I wanted it all to work, I researched the topic first.  Some writers shoot from the hip and it works for them.  Not me.  I guess I’m a researcher at heart.  It’s just the way I operate.  However, there’s quite a bit of information out there and I have to admit, I was overwhelmed at first.  In an effort to make it easier for others, here’s a list of what I have found helpful.

  • I have to begin any discussion of this sort with a reference to Holly Lisle’s incredible website.  Her free advice and affordable e-books, clinics, and writing courses are the reason I got up the courage to begin writing and put myself out here.  She’s a believer in scientific-based magic systems and explains the one she created for her series of novels set in her Matrin world.   If you want your magic to have specific rules and act like a force of nature, you can find it here
  • On, Lital Talmor has an article What’s the Magic Word:Defining the Sources, Effects, and Costs of Magic which pretty much explains it.
  • Elfwood  has a section for developing magic systems as part of a larger world building course specifically for fantasy fiction.
  • Breaking Out of Scientific Magic Systems  was written for RPG designers, but it has some interesting things to say about the types of magic most often found in myth and folklore.
  • Brandon Sanderson discusses his law of magic and the differences between what he calls “soft” and “hard” magic systems – great information!
  • There are also books out there, but I have only read Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.  While I highly recommend this book for his excellent advice on how to get and develop ideas, world building and story structure, it only has a small section on “The Rules of Magic.”

This is just a short list, but my hope is that it is a beginning place for those just starting out or maybe a source of fresh ideas for those farther along.  And please comment if you want to share links you have found useful.  Enjoy and good luck!


2 comments on “Magic in Fantasy Fiction

  1. atsiko says:

    Hmm, haven’t run into Talmor before, thanks for the link.

    As a writer of fantasy, I love magic systems, and talking about them and reading what people think about them.

    I’ve actually devoted a lot of the time I have for my blog to discussions on magic systems, and am just starting my second series of posts them.

    Anyway, I’d like to second all of these links as useful resources for beginners, especially Sanderson. Love his systems.


  2. ekcarmel says:

    Thanks, Atsiko, for your comments. I just had a quick look at your blog, and decided I need to spend some more time there. Cool stuff!


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