Worldbuilding with Magic

Fantasy stories of all shapes and sizes always have some kind of magical element to them. It’s what ties together the genre across all flavours of fantasy. Magic systems are deeply integral to the story, but they should also be tied into the world of your story. Think of it like electricity – you could describe a mobile phone, but without understanding how it gets charged through a socket on the wall, you won’t be able to understand a characters horror of when their mobile “runs out” of power.

Your magic system should be thought of in the same way. It needs to have an impact on your world (big or small), and your job as an author is to decide what kind of impact it will have. Is it something that is universally accepted throughout society, or hidden away and only a few practice it? How does someone learn the magic (or is it a natural talent?). How would this influence the politics in your world? The geography?

Let’s go into each of these points in a little more detail.

Big Impact or Small Impact?

Whether you want your magic system to have a big or small impact on your world will depend on the kind of story you are writing. Is your magic system (and the use of magic) integral to the story’s plot and characters? If so, you probably want it to have a big impact on the world.

However, if your story’s plot does not have magic at it’s core, then you can let your magic system seep into the background. Maybe the impacts are subtle, less noticeable, as your focus in your story is elsewhere.

Who can use the magic?

If your story has magic at it’s core, then deciding who can use the magic (and why) is likely to be a central point of your story. Have a think about:

  • Can your character touch the magic? Why? What can they use it for?
  • Can everyone but your character touch the magic system? If not, then why not? Does this give a good antagonist backstory, for example?
  • If your character can use magic, what is the drawback? Is this a surprise to them, or expected?

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