Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Don't make the magic too convenient

The essence of fantasy is some magical element. But don't let the magic be too trivial, too convenient. Every action of daily life should NOT be magical: magical warm rooms, magically heated food, no illness, no disagreements with anyone. In order for the reader to feel engaged with your characters, they must have obstacles to overcome, and a worthwhile goal to attain. Omitting these elements leads to a rather boring story. Magic should have a price -- a common cost is the slow slide to selfishness and evil; or the user might be exhausted for days after casting a spell; or the user might have to abstain from some food or drink or activity in order to wield power. (Often the magic user must be celibate; personally, I feel this ties in too well to our already-restrictive culture. But how about a wizard who can't drink coffee if he wants to succeed? Now some folks might find THAT a real sacrifice.)

[revised slightly on April 12 -- Rachel Holmen]