An Inside Look at Revision: Making Magic Work

Italian Woman by
Anna Bilińska*
Aubrey: Remnants of Transformation is available on Amazon and Smashwords. With every chapter, I posted notes about the process of revision.

Chapter 9

Good fantasy should never be random.

Orson Scott Card may have said it first (or loudest), but most fantasy writers agree: it's okay to use magic in a story, but your rules have to (1) make sense; (2) be consistent.

In other words, magic in fantasy should never be treated as an easy fix.

For a writer, a fantasy world with workable magic means creating a kind of "other" physics in which cause & effect match up. If this spell makes Person A do X, why does Person B react differently? There must be an explanation.

Granted, some writers, like Star Trek creators, just fudge. As The Cat says in Red Dwarf, "Oh, a magic door! Why didn't you say so?"

Unfortunately, like with historical fiction, I'm slightly too aware of this issue to unself-consciously ignore the inconsistencies. The problem: like with setting, I am far more interested in human-interaction than in remembering my world's physics.

Solution: in the case of Aubrey, I eliminated all  kinds of magic except water-based potions, including, especially, alchemy, which is referred to in the text but never discuss. Alchemy is fascinating but highly complex, having its roots in, as Wikipedia states, "mythology, magic, religion, and spirituality," including mysticism and some of the odder lore of the Middle Ages. In all honesty, trying to keep it all straight and not make some huge historical blunder scared the bejeebies out of me.

So the magic of the Academy is specifically potions: a nice, safe controllable magic. Which worked right up until I needed it to be more complex--at which point, I was surprised to realize how variously water-based potions can be deployed: as drink, obviously, but also as injections, steam, fog, spit, etc.

The principle for fantasy writers: even simple rules will prove more complex than you anticipated, so if you want to create a fantasy world (and you want it to make sense), keep an eye on that magic!

*The artist's full name of Italian Woman is actually Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowic. She was a Polish painter. This painting was completed during one of her trips abroad.

Since Chapter 9 marks the end of Part I, this is the last of what I think of as the "sad" images associated with Aubrey. In Part II, the paintings change to reflect Aubrey's change of spirit. 

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