This week on Hide and Create, Diana Rowland, Moses Siregar, Joshua Essoe and Jordan Ellinger talk about creating magic systems.
One thing that we can agree on, and there is a lot of debate on this subject, is that you have to remain consistent with your magic. Casually introducing new powers into your magic system will leave readers feeling untethered to your world.
If magic plays a big role in solving the problems of your characters or your story, then it should have rules that govern it, If it doesn’t then there won’t be any tension. If there are no rules, then you can just use “magic” to get out of any situation, and your readers will expect that, and you won’t evoke any emotional responses. That’s what we’re calling a hard magic system.
If magic isn’t used to solve major conflicts and is used more to evoke a feeling of wonder and to provide an atmospheric backdrop, to add a sense of the unknown, and perhaps evoke a feeling of mystery in your story, the rules don’t have to be as hard and fast. That’s what we’re calling a soft magic system.
Both can work beautifully, it all depends on your story, what your goals are, and who your audience is. The real cost of magic boils down to conflict!
Whichever way you choose to go, break your system, and exploit it to figure out how it can be abused; figure out all the plot holes it might create so you can fill them.