Worlds are difficult.
On the one hand, writing a story set in the real world has a host of issues involving
research – especially if you want to make sure that all the details are accurate to prevent pedants from picking holes in your creation. On the other hand, setting your tale in a made up world means you have to make up all those details in order to create things for pedants to get picky about. You could sit and debate about which is the most difficult but, in my opinion, they are both as difficult as each other – assuming you do both properly.
In terms of made up worlds, there is a belief that ‘it is only fantasy’ – meaning that you can get away with a lot of things because of the existence of magic or advanced science or whatever. However, this is not true at all. While there is scope for some strangeness in the make up of a world it is actually a really bad idea to mess around with a world higgedly piggedly and then claim that it’s fine because ‘magic can make anything happen’. The truth is that magic can do nothing of the sort.
Or, to be more precise, the human mind which we use to study the world in which we live and which we naturally also apply to the study of any worlds we encounter, including made up ones, likes to see rules in place. From the earliest humans looking up at the stars and wondering what they were right up to modern man sitting at his computer, we have attempted to make sense of everything. In the early days we created the rules of magic and religion to explain some of the phenomena that we could not explain – gods made it rain, therefore it is a good idea to sacrifce to the god of rain to keep them happy so it would rain when we wanted it to and not when we didn’t. In other words, we not only created the rules, we tried to use them to change the universe.
Rules therefore are important. As G.K Chesterton said “Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame”. I take this to mean that, in writing, it is the limitations which drive the story. Characters thrive on the challenge and adversity of not being able to do what they want, drama and emotion spring from their need to achieve something that cannot be had without a great deal of effort. The existence of magic in the world does not mean that you can ignore the rules. Fairy tales tell us what some of them are – there are only three wishes allowed (and no, you cannot ask for an infinite number of wishes), you have to stick to the path when walking in fairie, the ogre can always be outwitted… And what about other occult laws such as the doctrine of signatures or the threefold law of return? Even in worlds that are as outre and fantastic as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld there are limitations on magic. Wizards there have to be careful to avoid using it in case they attract the denizens of the Dungeon Dimensions, they are not allowed to use the number 8 because of a connection with Bel Shamaroth (and coincidentally with the 8th colour of the Discworld rainbow – Octarine) and old magic items like books and scrolls are treated like unexploded nuclear bombs – carefully shielded in lead and buried in case they go critical. This sort of thing does not happen in worlds where magic is free to run riot over the laws of the universe without some payback.
So, the lesson here is to examine your magic system carefully. Is it too easy for characters to achieve things just by using their magic? Is magic too cheap? Too easy? To lacking in consequences? Can every plot line be solved with a character simple waving their hands and declaiming ‘Deus ex machinae’?* Magic is a force which usually requires time, energy, effort, expense and many other things to achieve. There should be expensive materials (gems are common, as are things made of gold or silver or rare herbs and spices that are hard to obtain), lots of confusing and esoteric research in libraries, elaborate preparations (drawing circles, dancing, chanting, purifying yourself and your ritual space), exhausting and dramatic rituals (drumming, screaming vocals to the heavens, blood sacrifice) and all sorts of other gubbins of that ilk. To paraphrase Pratchett, by the time you have spent all your life learning the spell to summon naked women into your bedroom you are too old, tired and have a body too damaged by exposure to dangerous chemicals to do anything worthwhile with them….
Overall, it makes for a far more ‘believable’ magical world than one where ‘just anything can happen’.
*as god does, in fact, do at the end of one Simpson’s episode… but he is god, he is sort of allowed to Deus ex machinae things by dint of his job description. Though, it is best not to use this approach too often save in parody…
Ok, you know the rules on this by now. You have to visit the other people in the chain or little goblins will come out in the night and eat your shoes. And then die of leather poisoning because goblins are not supposed to eat shoes (they have intolerances, poor little dears) and it will all be your fault you heartless gits… So, to save the life of a goblin today, please read and comment on the following excellent blogs:
dclary (comic) – www.hardhobbittobreak.com (link to this month’s image)
orion_mk3 – http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to this month’s post)
Proach – http://desstories.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
pyrosama – http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
areteus – https://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Diana_Rajchel – http://blog.dianarajchel.com/ (link to this month’s post)
writingismypassion – http://charityfaye.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
randi.lee – http://emotionalnovel.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
magicmint – http://www.loneswing.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Sweetwheat – http://gomezkarla.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
AFord – http://writeword.blog.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Nick Rolynd – http://30minfiction.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
dclary (blog) – http://www.davidwclary.com/ (link to this month’s post)
MelodySRV – http://createamelody.com/ (link to this month’s post)