Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Wizard's Duel

by Jill Williamson

Well, Sarah F. has been an inspiration to me with her comments, so I decided to write two more posts about fighting. Today I’m going to talk about magical battles, and on Friday, the all-out war.

What makes a magical battle different from a regular fight? The magic, of course. Everything else still applies. You need to know the motivations for why these people are fighting, where they are, and their skill levels from my first fight scene post. And you need to consider all those editing topics we talked about last week as well. But the big difference is the magic.

To create believable magic you need rules. You need to know what the magic can do, where the power comes from, and the limitations of this power.


For example, the magic I created in my Blood of Kings trilogy is called bloodvoicing. This is the ability to speak to and hear the minds of other gifted individuals. It is a gifting that in genetic. It runs in your blood like blue eyes or freckles. It’s pretty much telepathy, but I did a bit more with it. Here are some bloodvoicing basics:

Messaging- Sending a thought to another person. Listening- Eavesdropping on the thoughts of another.Watching- Looking through the eyes of another while hearing their thoughts. Knocking- To let a gifted person know you want to communicate. Blocking- Closing your mind so that no one can send you a message or look through your eyes. Sensing- Recognizing when a gifted bloodvoicer is nearby. Jumping- Using another bloodvoicer’s connection to reach a third individual. This is done in cases when an individual doesn’t know their target well enough to make a connection on their own. Influencing- Forcing someone to do something secretly or by outright possession. A naughty use of one’s power. Storming- Forcing someone’s soul from their body. A dangerous thing to do.

When I started out, it was just telepathy. But as the trilogy went on, it developed into a battle skill for people I called bloodvoice warriors. And knowing exactly what bloodvoicing could and couldn’t do, gave my characters parameters for each battle scene that came along. In the end, Achan could leave his body behind and appear anywhere he wanted to, watch and report on enemy activities, or storm an enemy from his or her body. The whole thing was rather fun to write.

I also gave different characters different levels of magical ability. Achan was powerful, but untrained, so he often made dangerous mistakes. And Vrell, my girl character, couldn’t bloodvoice for very long because it made her weak, which put her soul in danger of floating away for good.

That’s the trick to writing with magic. You have to put in the time to brainstorm how your magic works and doesn’t work, give your characters different levels of skill, and then you can do anything within those parameters. If your character tries to do something that is against the rules of the magic, you’ll be able to write the consequences to that, which is also fun. For example, Achan just couldn’t figure out how to “Listen.” Every time he tried, he ended up in another person’s mind, “Watching,” which left his body empty and dazed—a bad move when his body was in the middle of a sword fight!

So tell me about the magic in your story. Where are you stuck? Let’s work on brainstorming the rules so that you can better imagine the possibilities and limitations such abilities will give your characters.

23 comments:

  1. YEAH! I'm so glad you posted about this!
    There are three types of magic in my WiP:

    Physical, which deals with anything that has mass, such as turning lead into gold. When you work with physical magic, you experience physical pain in proportion to the scale of magic preformed.

    Perceptional, this changes how something looks to everyone. The backlash for a magician that preforms this magic is seeing things that aren't really there.

    And then there's emotional. This allows the magician to alter the emotions of someone or something or maybe just listen to the emotions of someone. The backlash for this is that the magician's emotions can get all scrambled.

    The power of a magician is determined by the age at which they manifest. The younger they are, the more powerful.

    Sorry long comment. I'm looking forward to Friday's post!
    ~Sarah F.

    www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

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    1. Cool, Sarah! So you could have some very fun things happen in a wizard's duel. Have you ever seen the Disney movie the Sword in the Stone where Merlin and Madam Mimm battle? You could do some things like that. One could change the leaves on a tree into rocks and they could all fall on the other guy's head. One could conjure all kinds of illusions to scare the other one. And they could be throwing fear spells at the other at a constant rate to try and keep them distracted. There are lots of fun things you could do in battle with these types of abilities.
      :-)
      Jill

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  2. On the WIP I'm planning to start soon, some of the characters have telekinetic powers. I haven't though of weaknesses or many rules yet. Those are great things to think about!

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    1. Telekinesis is a fun thing for a battle. Think of how Jean Gray in the X-Men movies threw things around with her mind. Pretty cool.
      :-)
      Jill

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  3. Oh wow, these are really cool! I don't have magic in any of my WIPs yet, but one thing you may want to consider is the source of your power: is it internal or external? If it's external, can anyone use it, or only certain people with certain resources? That can have an effect on battles. And if it's internal, is there a limit to how powerful they can become or consequences for using too much too fast? I hope everyone gets their stories published someday, because these sound great! Thanks for such a helpful and fun post!

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    1. Very good point! And if you make this clear to the reader, it makes your story so much stronger and realistic. Thanks for sharing!
      :-)
      Jill

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  4. Wow! Your book sounds really interesting! I'm a big fantasy geek too so I write a lot of fantasy, and I'm always looking for ways to make my personal fantasy world more original than others.

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    1. That's great, Jazmine. And a very wise and valid point. I think that's why people like mine. The magic was different enough. It's been done before, but like you said, I really tried to make it as original as I could. And I had Achan as my hero, of course. And everyone loves Achan.
      ;-)
      Jill

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  5. This sounds so fascinating, I need to read these! Magic in my world (or, rather, my WIP's) is the "wild" kind of magic. It's there, it's ancient, it's rare, but few can figure out how to tap into it and control it. Of those few, most end up as Lichs, weakened half-humans controlled by their own magic. I think the key to writing good magic is to make it just a little scary - keep the threat of something going wrong always hanging over the magic user's head. have magic that becomes too tame or predictable, and your plot will turn out the same way.

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    1. Great point, Lindsey, with the "keep it a little scary" thing. Doing so adds a lot of conflict and tension, which is always a good thing.

      I really like the sound of your magic and what can happen when it overpowers a user. It sounds very interesting!
      :-)
      Jill

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  6. A question on fantasy writing in general: I've been trying to plot out a fantasy story, but I don't want to have one all-evil villain. It seems kind of cliche and unrealistic. I know not all fantasy series have this, but most of them do, and if not they have an evil organization or country or something like that. Is it possible to have character-driven fantasy? Anyway, thanks for this post! I need to think about rules for my magic :)

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    1. From a different Anonymous: All-evil villains are the easiest to write and to read, because the audience can hate them completely. But I think that the scariest villains are the ones that aren't completely evil, the ones that have some kind of paradox in them. A serial killer who spends his spare time helping kids in orphanages, or something (ok, so that was a wacky example. I'm just making this stuff up here). Such paradoxes are confusing until you understand the character: the killer grew up in an orphanage, or some such. A villain you feel sorry for, even empathize with a little bit, is both much scarier and much more real.

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    2. Thanks! That would make it a lot less cliche and a lot more believable. The only problem is, its hard to justify an MC killing off a villain who isn't all-the-way evil. Oh well. Maybe I can make a magic, unescapable prison or something... or turn him into a tree. That worked well in Tamora Pierce's Immortals series. I could try something like that. Anyway, thank so much!

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    3. You bet it is possible, Anonymous 1! I think that villains are cooler when the reader can relate to them. If you can give them a powerful motivation for their evilness that the reader can see why they chose that, it makes your story so much better.

      Jill

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    4. Good point, Anonymous 2. You can also give them something that they care about that will make the reader sympathize with them.

      Anony 1-- Why does the MC have to kill of the villain? Why can he reform him? Of just foil his plans?

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  7. The magic I have is more of a magical force that they can use to create spells. Where I'm stuck is by finding different ways to describe magical battles. A lot of mine look like this:
    She waved her hand and easily tossed blue sparks at him. He dodged it and returned his own. After blocking, she returned another spell.

    Basically, it sounds terrible and I am trying to find new ways to write it...and it's not like I can cut the fight scenes, because they are the main climaxes of the story.
    I'm excited for the post on full out battles. I have a magical war going on in my WIP so that will be very helpful.

    Ugh! Magic is hard!

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    1. I think maybe it would be easier if you used stronger verbs, to give a sense of force and danger (a battle without danger is really just a play-fight and not very exciting). Maybe something like: She waved her hand and blue sparks flew at him. He doged and sent his own spinning back at her. She blocked and ... something. Something I've doen for my writing is to make a list of stronger verbs for the weaker verbs I tend to use. Under 'walk' for instance, I have verbs like stumbled, wandered, trudged, etc. You could come up with a list for how many ways you can send spells (sent is kinda lame). Maybe some verbs like threw, thrust, spun, lashed, flung, etc.

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    2. Thank you :D
      I found that it helps if you have a good thesaurus :)

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    3. Before they came up with tabs and bookmark toolbars, thesaurus.com was my homepage. ;-)

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    4. Abigail, what do the spells do? They aren't just sparks, right? Do different spells have names? Or are they shooting the "sparks" like fire to burn them? If the reader knows what the spells are capable of doing, it will up the danger. And you don't have to explain the spells, necessarily. You could name them simple things that make what they do obvious.

      Also, Anonymous makes a good point about active verbs. Watch for any place where you can choose one word over multiple words. You wrote: "She waved her hand and easily tossed blue sparks" which can become "She flicked a fire spell"

      Also, try to add details. Close your eyes and picture it and describe the details you see. Little details help.
      Ex:
      She flicked a fire spell, but he dodged it and returned his own. His sparks were red. She blocked them, but some of them singed the hem of her robe.

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  8. Hahaha good idea! Thesauri are a writer's best friends :D (I feel so weird using the plural for thesaurus! Doesn't that look weird?)

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    1. Yeah... thesauri is a really weird looking word.

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  9. The magic in my world is a forcelike magic, fuelled by emotions. I would post more about it, but what I have written about it is well over a thousand words, and I still have more stuff to add! =D

    Thank you for this informative post, Jill! I really liked the way you did blood voicing battles in your trilogy.

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Disagreement is welcome. Rudeness is not. Please be considerate of each other!