Magic. If someone was to ask you to think of the word 'fantasy', and then come up with several words immediately, magic is alm...


     Magic. If someone was to ask you to think of the word 'fantasy', and then come up with several words immediately, magic is almost certain to be one of them. Magic, and the powers it gives characters for good or for bad, is often a key part of plots. But how do you make a magic system for your novel? How do you make sure it has depth and makes sense to the reader?

     In this blog series How to Develop a Magic System, I hope to help you answer those questions. This will be split into three blog posts: source of magic, powers, and limitations.

     This week I'll be talking about the most basic part of a magic system; the source. You could argue that it's the most important thing to consider while building the system, for it will affect every other part of it.

     There are two questions you should ask while brainstorming which source to use.

Where is it coming from? Why is it coming from there?

      Below are the basic options for magic sources.


the World: 
Where it's coming from: In many fantasy novels, magicians can pull magic from the very core of the world itself. 
Why is it coming from there: The world is considered woven from magic itself, and so magicians can sense the world's magical make-up and make it into what they wish.

the Magician: 
Where it's coming from: From the magicians' mind or body, from imagination to emotions, from a single thought to doing a certain action, could be the source of magic.
Why is it coming from there: Oftentimes magic is passed down by bloodline in books, hinting it is in their DNA. This means that the magician is the source themselves, and they have to look no further to access magic.

an Object: 
Where it's coming from: This could be anything from a sword of a long dead king, to a necklace from another world. Usually some prized, treasure hidden for good (or bad) reason. 
Why is it coming from there: The object has magical properties or was once used by a magician. By having contact with this object, the magician can access the power of the object. 

Other People:
Where it's coming from: Another magician, or perhaps the magician is drawing energy or power out of people surrounding them.
Why is it coming from there: If from another magician, it could be a gift to boost the amount of power, or if from others, they could have untapped power that your magician can take.

Where it's coming from: Some form of religious deity, or God, or multiple gods/goddesses, or spirits.
Why is it coming from there: They have great, all-mighty, and supernatural powers which they might grant a sliver of to the magician.

     So when trying to brainstorm your magic system, consider all your options. Try to skirt the typical sources unless they work perfectly with your story. All of these types of sources can be flipped upside down, meshed together, or ripped apart in order to find the source of magic that fits. Weigh your options. Push your creativity, and let that unique magic shine.

Which source is your favourite/least favourite? Have you used one of these a lot in your writing? Which ones do you wish to see more of in books? Share your thoughts in the comments; I'd love to hear from you!

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  1. So I hadn't actually really worked on magic systems until this year! I KNOW. GASP. I don't even know what I was doing in my fantasies before. xD But this year I'm developing this magic system in an alternate earth where there are only wizards and they've only EVER been wizards. And that means trying to figure out what the world will be like if everything is magic, then so many inventions wouldn't exist! Would they even have wheels? or transport of any kind? If they can just magic themselves places. *flaps about* XD Anyway, I'M RAMBLING SORRY! But I like this post and you've got some great tips here I'll have to keep in mind too! :D

    1. Oh I totally get it! I look back on some of earlier stories where magic just 'happened' and cringe a bit. They were fun to write, but lacked a certain level of realism. Magic is really tricky. I also struggle with how much technology to put in a magic-filled world, but to be honest, it just depends on how you want your world to look and feel. So glad you got something out of the post! Thanks for dropping by Cait! XD

  2. This is a really helpful post!
    I'm writing a fantasy novel at the moment and I've been really having trouble explaining the whole magic bit. The main characters are three sisters who all have some kind of ancestral magic that manifests itself differently depending on the person, but I haven't really worked out much more than that, or even what exactly the powers are going to be. I'll definitely be looking out for the next couple of posts on this! :)

    1. Thank you! I'm super glad it was helpful for you; hopefully the next ones will be as well. :) Magic is really difficult to flesh out, especially since there are so many options. Good luck with your story, and thanks for commenting, Laura! :D