This week: Smoke and MirrorsEdited by: Annette
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Magic tricks, sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors ... fantasy that happens right in front of us can't keep up with fictional magic.
Smoke and Mirrors
Magic in fantasy fiction has the potential to fall flat. It might be inconsistent. It might be so ridiculous overpowered that it can never fail, thus creating a boring story arch toward total domination of the magic-wielding faction. It can be so weak that it may as well not be there. It might be nature magic that simply exists, but can't be used to drive the plot forward.
Magic in fantasy fiction also has the potential to be mind-blowing. The limits of what is possible and acceptable in fantasy fiction are much larger and give an author so much more freedom to create anything needed for the plot to keep going. Both magic wielded by persons (or animals) or naturally occuring magic can be a perfect driver for a compelling story to unfold in front of the reader.
Magic shows that we go to. Those tricks seen in circuses, magic parlors, or even at private parties by talented illusionists can be astounding. However, a magic trick is really only surprising the first time around. The second time around, it might reveal itself. The worst is watching a sleigh of hand trick from the wrong angle and being able to see the moment when the card gets flipped into the magician's sleeve.
As writers, we should combine these two types of magic into stories.
It might be fun for a writer to tell the story of a parlor trick magician to keep failing his shows and end up finding out that he can wield actual magic - that has nothing to do with cards or lost balls under overturned cups.
It could also make a good fantasy plot to write a witch who uses actual magic to make sure her smoke and mirrors show can never get busted for being fake. But not because the tricks she shows are real. No, her magic helps her conceal certain parts so that nobody can look in from the wrong angle.
Any which way you want to look at it, fiction writing wields the strongest magic. That of our unlimited imagination.
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Replies to my last Fantasy newsletter "Magic Connects All Human Cultures" :
Beholden wrote: And thank you once more for including my short story, Uriah and the Tagman, in your Editor's Picks.
You are welcome. And thank you for writing Fantasy.
BIG BAD WOLF is Thankful wrote: Sometimes a spellcaster only has so much magic in them, sort of like a bank account, or physical energy, that must replenish after it is used. Sometimes the results are interesting.
I have seen this in stories. It makes sense. What would be the point of limitless power?
Steven NaNoWriMo-ing wrote: Magic and rules is one of my biggest issues with fantasy stories. There tends to be a lack of consistency in many magic systems. They tend towards the over-powered wizard class, or the fact it seems anybody can learn magic and thus diminishing its impact, or a system that enables some things but not others when that does not make sense (JK Rowling). The original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons had magic very hard to master and very hard to get good spells for many, many levels. Lyndon Hardy in Master of the Five Magics really made learning magic quite an ordeal. In Lord of the Rings, Tolkien only names three wizards in the entire trilogy; magic is the rarest of vocations. But in too many books it seems anybody can pick up magic, or it can kill an orc but barely scratch the hero/ine. Sorry.
I feel your frustration with the lack of consistency - at least when it is inconsistent within one body of work. Fantasy, by definition is even more made up than Action/Adventure. This means authors have more freedom to do whatever they want. It should make sense within the story though. You are right about that. I also think that magic that is practiced should be rare, but natural magic that makes the world magic should be abundant in Fantasy writing. Just how in the real world, we can all count on gravity to do its job, denizens of fantasy lands should be able to rely on some nature magic to produce certain expected results each time.
Paul wrote: Magic MUST have rules or it couldn’t be used.
Do this (whatever “This” is) and that (whatever “That” is) will happen. It’s essentially a series of rules and the rules are whatever you make them to be. If different things happen when performing the same ritual it’s not magic, it’s chaos. Actually that’s not a bad idea for a story, the person performing the magic can’t predict the results of their magic, just that something will happen. Kind of throws a real kink into the stream.
You make a lot of sense. Magic that has a cause and an effect is also easier to explain for the author. I don't see why those rules shouldn't exist.
brom21 wrote: My fantasy magic is usually reserved for the main antagonist. There are magical creatures like phoenixes, dragons, griffins and spirits etc. I put in. I also usurp angels which are are not magical but supernatural beings. Sometimes, there are magic objects that grant magical powers to individuals in my works. I am curious to know how others conceive magic elements in their narrations.
It makes sense to give the antagonist some type of power that makes him/her a formidable adversary. A superpowered hero like Superman who can overcome anything is really not that compelling. I like magic objects, animals, and the use of supernatural beings. They all make the fantasy world more rich.
dragonwoman wrote: Thank you for including my story Doing the Quest Magical in this newsletter.
You are welcome. Thank you for writing it.
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