When I was younger, I used to play imaginary games where I was some kind of magical queen. I could wrap myself in shadows, send fire s...


     When I was younger, I used to play imaginary games where I was some kind of magical queen. I could wrap myself in shadows, send fire shooting from fingertips, and chat to giant dogs. Magic, or more, what I could do with magic, was the most fun part of it, because imagination was literally the limit.

     Today I'm going to be chatting about the powers magic gives characters. This is the second post in the blog series How to Develop a Magic System. You can find the first part here. (And don't forget to drop by next week for the final post: limits!)

     When building up my magic systems, a major problem I often hit is: what type of powers do they have? 

     There are dozens of different powers characters can have. Maybe even hundreds. If you want proof of that, GoTeenWriters covers an extensive list. I use this as a reference point to give me a general idea of the powers before I dive into specifics.

     So while you panic over the number of choices, refer to these questions:

What can these powers do/what effects do they have? How can they do this?

     Let's go through the questions one at a time.

What can these powers do/what effects do they have?

     This might seem like a pretty obvious question (fire=burns things, healing=heals wounds). But many people skip over this question, just going to the standard effects. The beauty of magic is that anything is possible, so long as you make it work within the rules of the world. Never be afraid to push the boundaries of magical powers. 

     Examples: if you are working with shadows (typically people jump from shadow to shadow in foction), what if instead of manipulating shadows, the magician can manipulate what causes the shadows, like the sun or a light source? Or if the powers include the elements, what if you use the oxymoron 'cold fire' and make the fire look like flames, but it's so hot...it feels cold?]

     Play around with it!

How can the powers do *effect*?

     This is slightly tied in with the source of magic. For example, if the source is the magician, the power comes from the magician's mind, body, etc. But once the magic is drawn out of the source, how does it manifest or do the desired effect? Many forms of fictional magical systems rely on touch to transfer the magic, or the magician's will.

     Another way to reword this question would be to ask: how is the magic transferred?

     Powers might rely on an unlimited supply of magic, or certain things within its proximity in order to take its path (ex: need oxygen in air, ground to be burnt, water source nearby to be manipulated).

     This question relies on the prior one, and while it's more logical, you can still bend your imagination and come up with a unique transferring method for your marvelous powers.

How is your magic system building going? What magical power would you like to have right now? Share in the comments; I love hearing from you!

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  1. This is another useful post! Trying to decide on a character's magical powers can be so overwhelming because there's so much to choose from. I always quite like the more subtle powers though, but I find them the hardest to write because they have no really obvious effect like fire or something like that does. I really need to start considering how exactly the powers in my novel work (I've still not quite figured it out!), so this post has given me something to think about :)

    1. Glad I could be of help, Laura! :) Subtle powers can be very tricky, but if done well, they can be very cool and unique. Good luck with your magic, and thanks for dropping by! :D