A Checklist for Your Story’s Magic

So in the past, I have written about setting up rules for the system of magic in your story. In my experience, creating rules that limit the magic in your story forces you to be more creative with your system, thereby improving your story as a whole.

But how do you pick the ways to limit your magic? Well, you’re in luck. Because io9.com has posted an article by Mette Ivie Harrison giving you 12 questions for your magic. Harrison’s questions look simple, but they’re deceptive. These questions will force you to really think about the strengths and weaknesses of the magic system you have created. But, having done so, you should be able to prevent a lot of plot holes, logical problems, and any temptations to use magic as a deus ex machina.

Of course, many of you realize that this technique is similar to the one described in the Pixar post from yesterday. Harrison’s post is about making your magic system more robust so that your story improves overall. And while some writers may bristle at the idea of imposing limitations on their story, in my experience, I have found that having no boundaries or limitations leads to getting overwhelmed and panic attacks. By defining your story, you can see your whole world and get really creative within it.

But, Eric, what if I don’t use magic in my story? Well, reader, do you use a cool new piece of futuristic or alien technology? Then consider modifying Harrison’s questions. After all, recall Clarke’s third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I think you’ll find the questions just as helpful.