Why There’s No Magic
Okay, the weird writer mind has had too much caffeine. Or sugar. Bear with me.
Back in the Dark Ages, when I was playing D&D regularly, there was a problem with Wizards. Once they got up a few levels, they just blew everything away. On thinking about it, I realized this was why there was no real magic in the real world. You think we’re dangerous, with a few (tens of thousands) nuclear missiles? How about millions of magicians playing with the Laws of Physics?
Yep. That’s what happened to Atlantis.
A war fought with magic. With soldiers capable of razing cities with a wave of their wands or staffs. With leaders who felt themselves invulnerable behind their magic shields. They blasted their entire continent, chewed away at the very rock until the energy they released melted the great continental glaciers, and raised the sea level to above the highest point of their blasted land.
The survivors sailed away—and threw overboard anyone who showed the faintest sign of magical ability. The witch hunts and burning continued well past the time anyone remembered why. And a darn good thing.
Now, trying to be a more serious dispenser of writing advice . . .
It is important to not make your heroes too strong.
Unbeatable. Is. Boring.
It is occasionally usefule for the hero(ine) to do something stupid, wrong, shameful, or just get beaten. So, you know, the reader is worried about how this story’s going to end.
It is necessary for the Good Guys to try and fail. They need to get more determined, learn something, find or make the necessary weapons, recruit more help, whatever.
It is necessary for the outcome of the final battle to be in doubt. Or if not the outcome (because the readers trust you to defeat the Bad Guys) the survival of the Hero and all of his friends. Because to demonstrate that the Heroes are dedicated to winning no matter what means they are placing themselves at risk. Some of them may well die.
So . . . what do you do when you’re writing a series with magic?
Well, the magic has to have limits. How you want to limit it is up to you, the writer.
For starters, the magic should probably have an energy cost. I have outside sourcing, but some metabolic cost as well, so the amount and duration of magic is limited.
I also require holding a complex spell in the mind, so it takes concentration. You got a dozen armed bandits after you? Teleporting while in a running battle, while also holding a magical shield isn’t going to happen.
I limit the range of effect. If it’s easier to just stick a sword in it, why use magic?
I limit the number of magical people and I have a range of magical strength with very few very powerful magicians. And I limit the breath of abilities any given magician is naturally good at.
And I have various substances that can really interfere with their magic.
And every once in awhile I throw hordes at them, walk them into traps, strand them without backup.
I hate to say that I try to be “Realistic” about magic, and often times my attempts to limit their magic get torpedoed by the Muse, but . . . you have to find a way to put a hero in jeopardy.
So? How do you limit your heroes? And do your fans give you grief about it?
So here’s a story where the main characters are limited by the rules of the college they’re attending:
If you like it in paper, well, the Omnibus is a bit of a goat gagger; it’ll keep you out of trouble for a bit: