Do You Believe in Magic?

"Magic Abound" © 2007 by Mark Cummins

Magic Abound

[As an aside, as soon as I knew what the content of this post was going to be, you can probably guess (from the title if nothing else) what song has been in my head.]

The Shiny™ came back from Apple, all fixed up with a new logic board (the sound card is apparently integrated), a reseated cable which had come loose, and with the hard drive wiped and re-initialized with the latest and greatest version of MacOS. When I got it home, I cranked it up and the first thing it asked for was for me to supply a drive on which I had backed up with Time Machine, and it took about 2 hours to restore it to pre-problem status. I was back up and running in less time than I thought possible (because I used to use only Windows).

Of course, then I started having to type all those ideas I was flooded with into Scrivener.

The good news is that I finally worked out (I think) how magic works in my Urban Fantasy series (la de da, doesn’t that sound high-fallutin’?). This may sound trivial and ho-hum, but you have to remember that I’ve been writing this thing for the better part of two years and have two novels at various stages of completion, plus ideas for a couple or three more. It’s about time I figured this out.

It uses elements from a lot of things that have come before, and probably isn’t unique, but since I’m not writing a “How to Cast Magical Spells” book and am trying to tell a story within the framework, I don’t intend to actually ever lay out how it works for readers. (Plus, that also gives me wiggle-room for changing it as time goes on. :)

There’s definitely some stuff in here from Babylon 5/Crusade, a touch of Star Wars, a smidgen of Dungeons and Dragons, a healthy dose of ancient Greek mythology, a soupçon of The Belgariad, and a sprinkling of Actual Science™.

Now, here’s my question. Although I need to know How It All Works™ (I’m not going to stop doing that ™ thing any time soon, by the way, so get used to it) in order to have some internal consistency (hopefully), how much does or should the reader ever know? Is it enough to leave it something of a black box, or should I sort of have the characters who can perform magic explain it a little bit as they go, for the reader and/or other characters who are not able to do it (and who therefore ‘stand in’ for the reader)?

I’ve seen it done both ways, and to excellent effect. I think it depends on the writing, but . . . still, I’m curious.

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One Response to “Do You Believe in Magic?”
  1. I think you should only give up enough of the magic system to move the story forward. No need to spoon feed the reader, IMHO.

    For example (and this is an odd example, given that I’ve never written a magic system before), it would be good for the reader to find out that the hero can do magic only on alternate tuesdays…and the big battle is happening on a Wednesday. But to know that the magic is unaffected by the type of clothing the hero wears would be useless information.

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