Welcome to this weeks Craft Post, Special Saturday Edition. Sounds cool and like you’re going to get something extra right? You’re not. I woke up this morning and realized it was Saturday. The day after, the Craft Post was supposed to be posted and it wasn’t. You know what, I was thinking about this post all week, except yesterday. When I got up, while I knew it was Friday as I had to work the mind frame of it’s Friday Craft Post day, never entered into my mind. Why? I am going to blame it on going back to the gym as what I did Thursday. Why? Because after that, I didn’t think of this post again until this morning. Is it an excuse? Absolutely!

Today we are starting a new series on Magic Systems. Why Magic Systems? Well, because I love them and this is my blog and get to write what I want… Didn’t like that reason? Okay, how about this? I have been working on magic systems for the last two months Forbidden Realm Series so it is on my mind. Still not good enough? Sorry, I am out of reasons. Not interested in this series, come back in five weeks. Why five weeks? Well, my original thought on this was going to be three posts and a wrap-up. I am still holding to that for the moment as I plan these posts out but don’t hold me to that. Seriously, don’t I’ll get to week three and remember like five more things I want to cover and expand the series. Now that you have been warned, let’s get into a simple but a must have conversation about Magic. Should magic be mysterious or scientific?

What do I mean by mysterious or scientific? There is a big debate over what magic should be in fantasy. Should magic have a sense of wonder and thus not really understood or should the reader be able to understand it what it is capable of? Think of it this way, Magic in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. In Lord of the Rings, there is magic but you can’t tell how it works and what it is capable of. Sure, Gandalf knows what is capable of, but that isn’t what I am talking about. The reader doesn’t. When magic is used it is pretty cool, but causes problems as well. Harry Potter, you know how it works well for the most part. We know how to cast spells, but a case could be made that we don’t know the fully capable of magic in Harry Potter universe. There are better examples out there for a Magic with rules, but unless you read fantasy it is unlikely the examples will not be familiar. Harry Potter is about directly in the middle of the argument.

So what do you think? Should magic have a sense of wonder or have rules? Let me tell you… MAGIC MUST HAVE RULES!!!

Okay, for those of you who completely disagree with me, I gave you a moment to let your anger out. The whole idea of like this:

“How did you do that?” A young girl asked.
“Ease,” said the elderly man. “Magic. Enough said”

That mind frame once was enough for readers, not anymore. Now, let me clarify my loud statement of Magic must have rules. In itself, is clear but there is more to it. While magic must have rules of how it works, whether the readers know those rules are completely different things. What? You heard me. When magic doesn’t have rules, then it is too easy for magic to just solve problems without needing a reason. This is called Ex Deus Machina. In Greek Plays, all hell would eventually break out and to set things right one of the Greek Gods would show up at the end and fix everything. This is not a very satisfying resolution.

As an author, if you want magic to be mysterious to your reader more powerful to you. I am doing that in Seeing Through the Veil. While, you get an explanation of how magic works, but it doesn’t give you even close to how it really works. By then of the series, you will know more about it, but I haven’t decided if it will be a complete understanding. It is all how you package the wonder of magic, but unless you want to be accused of using Magic Ex Deus Machina to get your characters out of situations, you need to know how it works. The key word you. If you want magic to get them out of a situation and have your characters know why you need to foreshadow it. If it just happens, then it’s a cheap trick, but if you set up magic where certain things like what will happen to get your character out of a situation, then before it happens the reader know that happens well before, not after. After, it comes off as the Author of trying to explain their way out of a situation without really giving a good reason.

Brandon Sanderson, who is well known for have very detailed magic systems in all of his book series. You learn about them and he is very much about rules. However, he understands the idea of some wanting a sense of wonder from their magic. This is what he says about it.

“Mysterious magic or “Soft Magic”, which has no clearly defined rules, should not solve major problems, although it may create them.” Brandon Sanderson.

Please note that Sanderson says that no clearly defined rules, this means that they have not been set out, but doesn’t mean there aren’t rules. If you want to use magic to solve problems Brandon Sanderson has this to say:

“Ideally, the magic is explained to the reader before it is used to resolve a conflict. Much like a sword or a large pile of money, magic is a useful resource. Understanding the resources available to a character helps the reader understand the character’s actions. It avoids questions like, “Where did he get that?” or “How did he do that?””


There you have it, Magic needs rules but just because it has rules doesn’t mean the reader ever needs to know them. If you disagree with this, that is your opinion, but those who prefer their magic have a sense of wonder over rules agree that magic has rules. They just don’t reveal those rules. They may give hints about it, but not ever explain them. Again, if you still disagree then do it how you wish, but just know if you don’t do it extremely well, and even then you will be seen as being amateur. This is my opinion, and it is based on lots of research on the topic.

That is all for this week, hope this post didn’t come off too preachy. I don’t hide my feelings on magic and rules. All the quotes from Brandon Sanderson come from his First Law of Magic. There are three of them, I plan to go over the other two next week and move on from there. However, as I write that post they may be turned into two separate posts. While they are good ideas, I think I can cover the importance of them in one post, but that could change. I do want to cover how I go about developing my systems for those who are interested in how to actually create a magic system. Check back on Monday for my Weekly Writing Wrap-up.


  1. […] third entry in the series, if you haven’t read the previous two, you can find the first one Magic: Mysterious or Scientific here.  The second Sanderson Other Two Laws of Magic here. While you don’t need to read those […]


  2. […] Power is the Key | T… on Magic: Mysterious or Scie… […]


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