Sunday, April 14, 2013

World Building A to Z: Magic and Magicians

This month I'm spotlighting things I've seen in world building and setting from different stories. 

I encourage world builders to check out the world building guide on the web site for Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Patricia C. Wrede devotes an entire section to magic and magicians.  I'm sharing a couple of Patricia's points/questions with my examples:              

Patricia asks:  Can anyone become a wizard, or does one need to be born with some special talent or gift? How long does it take to learn magic?
Sometimes magic can be accessed by "anyone." Take Max from Maurice Sendak's WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. This everyday boy making mischief tames the beasts "with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes."

Magic can be learned. Hogwarts, anyone? In the world of HARRY POTTER, those who do not have wizard parents, such as Hermione, can still be capable of learning and practicing magic while squibs, who have magic in their genes, can't access it. 

Sometimes magic simply comes to the one who is in possession of an object. For Mickey Mouse in Fantasia's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," the mouse has access to magical powers when he borrows his master's hat. 

Patricia asks: Are there magical artifacts (rings, swords, etc.)? If so, who makes them and how? 
There's the invisibility cloak in Harry Potter. We also have the coveted ring in J.R.R. Tolkien's THE HOBBIT. In THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, the wardrobe that transports the children to Narnia is a magical artifact.  One of my favorite picture books from childhood is William Steig's SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE. Imagine owning a pebble that could grant all your wishes. Unfortunately, Sylvester makes a wish without thinking and turns himself into a rock. 

Author Jennifer R. Hubbard wrote a post on her blog about the rules of the paranormal world in Things to consider in paranormal novels. Jennifer asks: 
"If you write the kind of paranormal book where characters have special powers, what limits do you place on those powers?"
Jennifer goes on to suggest a few things, including how the magic might only be effective within a certain range, there could be a cost to practicing magic, and  the magic user might have vulnerabilities.

I found Jennifer's points reflected in Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, a story about a boy who is raised by ghosts in a graveyard, Bod could only Fade when he is not being closely watched. While he has access to the magic of the ghosts, Bod's use of the magic makes him stand out, and he is forced to leave his school because of this. Despite Bod's sophistication, his knowledge of magic doesn't help him recognize the man who murdered his family.

What are other things to consider when you bring magic and magicians into your story?

What are your favorite stories about magic?

If you found a magic pebble that could grant wishes, what would you wish for?


Elise Fallson said...

Where the wild Things Are is an excellent book, the others you mentioned are great too. I've woven magic into my wip but only certain people can tap into it and use the power to its full potential.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'll have to check out Patricia's post. Loved the questions and answers you shared. You're right. There has to be limits to whatever magic we create. My favorite is Harry Potter because I love wands and spells.

Nick Wilford said...

It's a great point about even magic having limitations because without that everyone would be all-powerful and problems would be solved easily meaning in all likelihood, no story. Also, that Neil Gaiman book keeps coming up for me; I'll have to check it out!

Lynn Proctor said...

oh i can't tell my wish ;)---that book about the ghosts raising someone--wow how creative is that!!

Melanie Schulz said...

My wish...I guess that depends- do I only have one?

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah always has to be a weakness or a stopping point, or then you become The Hulk and go all strongest there is haha

John Wiswell said...

The most important thing about bringing any magic into a story is how it'll make things more interesting or entertaining. Sadly few writers have great ideas for magic. The limits of a system or substance can help, but the concept of magic should be no different than any other element in being chosen because it makes the audience's stay better.

John at The Bathroom Monologues

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Magic can be used in any manner as long as the writer stick to the rules he created for it.

Mina Burrows said...

I love Neil. As long as the magic is relevant in the story and adds to the plot, then I'm usually a fan. :)

Kelley Lynn said...

I love that world building guide. As a Fantasy writer, it's SUCH a great tool. :)

S.P. Bowers said...

I love Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Though, as a child, I would have loved being turned into a rock too.

Gina Gao said...

Where the Wild Things Are is a great story. My favorite magic story has to be Harry Potter. If I could have any wish granted, it would be to marry the best person in the world and live without a worry for the rest of my life. (Sorry if that sounds cheesy.)

Anonymous said...

Love Sendak's classic and would now love to read Neil Gaiman's "Graveyard Book". Delightful post. So happy to have discovered you. So inspired to reinvigorate myself to finish my children's books.

Cheers from your fellow A to Z Challenger.

Ghadeer said...

My favourite's got to be Harry Potter ^_^

Banker Chick said...

What a delightful theme you have. I really have enjoyed what you have here. I am a new follower.
Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

Silvia Villalobos said...

Harry Potter is my favorite so far, because as you say even those not born to 'magic' parents, can practice and get real good at using magic. A lesson for the non-magic world as well, I think. Practice makes perfect.
Great M post.

Silvia @ Silvia Writes

Jen Chandler said...

This was a fun post! I love world building! Hmmm, my favorite book with magic in it; I think I'm going to have to go with Susan Cooper's "The Dark is Rising Sequence". A series, not a book, but I hope it counts!

If I had a magic pebble I think I'd wish myself around the world. What a way to travel :)


Morgan Katz said...

I used to love sylvester and the magic pebble!!

my blog:

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Thanks for the mention--I'm glad you found that useful. :-)

I always want to use magic wishes to wish for an infinite number of wishes.

Empty Nest Insider said...

Oh the things I would do with an invisibility cloak!


Jagoda said...

I enjoy Sci-Fi and Fantasy...and I have noticed that my favorite authors apply all such rules and more. Fun post. I'll have to read more.
From A to Z

Michael Di Gesu said...

Love magic in fantasy ... As there are so many different kinds. In my first novel I used elemental magic. Gift of the winds... so much can be accomplished just by movement of air.

If I had a magic pebble. I'm not the greedy or selfish type, so My wishes would be for a cure for cancer and other life threatening diseases. Peace for mankind. A spell to calm all anxieties, fears, and negative thoughts. Imagine HAPPY PEOPLE.... No more murder, physical or mental abuse!

Cynthia said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and for revealing your wishes too!

If I could have any wish granted, I, like Jennifer, would like to extend it into more than one wish.

Jeff Hargett said...

If I found a magic pebble that could grant wishes, I'd wish for more magic pebbles.

Banker Chick said...

Thanks for the SFWA link and these thoughts on magic.
Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

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