How to take your Magic System to the Next Level – GUEST POST by Astrid Knight
Today, we’re super excited to welcome Astrid Knight to the Hive!
Astrid is here to talk all things magic systems. Before we hand you over to Astrid though, let’s find out more about their novel Perception Check:
Her favorite tabletop roleplaying game is real, and her kidnapped childhood best friend is trapped in a far off land. Will she be able to save her? Let’s roll initiative!
Violet Spence wants nothing more than to have a normal life. After witnessing her childhood best friend get abducted by monsters, that’s easier said than done. At twenty-three years old, Violet cannot seem to move past that fateful night ten years ago. Her only solace is Mages of Velmyra, a tabletop roleplaying game filled with goblins, fairies, and all-powerful magicians. But of course, that’s all fantasy.
Or, so she thought. As it turns out, the land of Velmyra is very real and the home of the monsters that took her best friend.
With the help of her friends (and the creator of the game itself), Violet must navigate the once-fictional creatures and powerful mages of Velmyra to retrieve a set of ancient relics—all in the hopes that the journey will lead her back to her friend. But for Violet, fighting monsters and magic workers doesn’t seem nearly as terrifying as confronting her own demons. And she’ll soon realize fighting the battle within herself can be just as tough as those fought against demigods.
Perception Check is the magical first installment of the Mages of Velmyra Saga, great for fans of Dungeons and Dragons, Critical Role, and The Magicians. With endearing and hilarious characters, an exploration of mental health and trauma, LGBTQ+ representation, gut-wrenching twists, and a whirlwind of an ending, you will never want to leave the world of Velmyra.
NOTE: Perception Check deals with the topics of mental health (specifically depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidality) with mentions of childhood sexual assault, alcohol abuse, and animal violence.
How to Take Your Magic System to the Next Level
For as long as I’ve written, I’ve wanted to write magic. Not necessarily spells with a wave of a wand and an incantation of “bibbity bobbity boo!” While it might be nice to have that traditional set of rules for your magic system, what I feel really sets a fantasy world apart from others is how the magic is performed.
My debut novel Perception Check has a system of magic that many reviews are claiming is fresh and interesting. Here are a couple tips on how you can take your magic system to the next level.
1. Read, read, read!: One of the ways that I have cultivated a sense of new and unique magic systems is by reading a variety of books in the fantasy genre. Also, reach out beyond just traditional fictional literature. Movies, television, manga/anime, podcasts, and other forms of storytelling media all have interesting uses of magic.
2. What do you want your magic to do?: First ask yourself what you want your magic to achieve in your world. Do you want to be able to manipulate the physical world? The spiritual? The mental? Do you want people to fly? Do you want to start fires or shoot lightning bolts? Once you figure out what you want to be able to do, you can then figure out how to do it.
An example that I like of this can be found in the manga series Fullmetal Alchemist. While the alchemy used in that series is technically science, it functions as a system of magic. Alchemy is a concept that initially existed centuries before Hiromu Arakawa incorporated it into her work. The starting concept was “turning sets of matter into other sets of matter.” From there, she created her own rules around how that would happen.
3. Have rules: You can always subscribe to the rules of “fantasy doesn’t have to make sense.” Just get ready for your readers to be constantly asking you “WHY? HOW?” If you’d like to have answers to that, think about the specifics of your magic. How does someone cast a spell? Do you need components? Do those components run out? Where do you get the components? Does there have to be a wand or some other magical apparatus? Or do you just do it with will power?
Once you set down these rules, keep track of them! Don’t break your own rules unless you really want to make a point of a character doing so. Write them down as your own little rulebook. Even if you don’t share it with anyone, it will be handy to reference as you go.
4. Know the limits: Magicians, typically, can’t do everything. Unless you’re trying to make gods, there is going to be a limitation to what they do. In Avatar: The Last Airbender, benders can only use their own elements, and typically, they have to adhere to the laws of physics. Even the Avatar themself can’t do EVERYTHING.
While pushing the limits can be fun and drama-filled, there will inevitably be a point where your audience will start to find breaking the rules and finding new stretches to be far-fetched. If you’re going to push the limits, use that technique sparingly and reserve it for things like character development, raising the stakes, or shifting your plot in another direction. It can be a powerful tool, but try not to change your own rules too frequently.
5. Be creative!: Again, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with having someone wave a hand and have magic happen. There are plenty of stories that do that! But if you want to take you magic system to the next level, be willing to brainstorm, think outside the box, and stretch your imagination!
Following these tips can help boost your work’s cred and elevate it from run-of-the-mill fantasy to a stand out piece that will have people talking and recommending your work to other people for years to come!
Recommended reading/watching for unique magic systems:
-Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
-The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
-The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
-A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin
-Avatar: The Last Airbender
Also, feel free to check out my debut novel Perception Check (The Mages of Velmyra Saga: Book 1) for another example of a unique magic system which uses crystals made from run-off magic from demi-gods to cast spells!
For as long as she can remember, Astrid Knight has wanted to tell stories. A native to West Michigan, Astrid fostered a love of storytelling in all forms from a very young age. In 2012, she graduated from Adrian College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English-Writing and Theatre. Since then, she has been an avid writer, actress, and podcast host. She currently resides in Michigan with her husband, her dogs, Bucky and Oswin, and her pet rat, Nugget.