Friday, 1 April 2011

The Ultimate Rule of Magic Part I

Magic is a fun thing to work with in your writing. In a lot of ways, it can make things easier. You can put people in situations that seem almost entirely inescapable, and then get them out of it. Oh, you killed the main character’s love interest? Just magic them back to life! But the thing is, then things get out of hand. If you can bring her back to life with magic, then why couldn’t you use magic to stop her from dying in the first place? For that matter, why is there even a conflict in the story? Couldn’t you just magic away any problems that show up?

And so you realize that for your story to be worth reading at all, your magic needs some rules. This being magic, you can choose to ignore some major laws of physics (although you can choose not to, as well). At the most basic level, I’ve found that all magic use in a story needs one specific rule:

A magic user can use magic to do absolutely anything they can imagine, provided that they have the magical energy required to do so.

That rule is what I use in my own writing. I apply it to any story I see that has magic in it. And if somewhere in a story with magic my rule doesn't fit, then I know that the author wasn't thinking about how magic works in their story.

The thing about the rule is that it's both restrictive and freeing at the same time. It forces you to make some decisions about how magic works in your world. But it gives you absolute freedom with those decisions. It doesn't even require that they be consistent (although if they aren't, you'd better have some justification).

My first series of posts is going to discuss this rule, and all the implications of it that I can think of. So for now, I'll see you next post.


  1. I think magic in stories should definitely be consistant or like you said, have a very good reason (plot important) for breaking the consistancy. If a writer doesn't follow their own rules they lose credibility with their readers.

  2. I enjoy thinking of/writing rules for magic in my stories. Lots of different types of magic for lots of different types of magic users who all get their powers different ways. Rules are good things. Still sometimes meant to be broken though. Maybe they're more like guidelines, anyways.