Author Topic: Need ideas for what Magic can do  (Read 2168 times)

fardawg

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Re: Need ideas for what Magic can do
« Reply #15 on: June 23, 2011, 01:14:48 PM »
I want to make one final plug here that I respectfully disagree with the premise behind your original question.

It is phrased in such a way as to indicate:

1. You have an existing world or story and
2. You want to add magic over the top of said world/story


Actually... no.  I'm trying to come up with interesting magic systems that I can build a world or story around (or at least weave it into an existing one if it fits - not just adding it superficially). I completely agree that a system shouldn't be window dressing. That is completely anathema to me. 

I do have existing stories, but most of them have mundane systems because I couldn't come up with an interesting one, though I did have what I believe to be interesting limitations etc. It's usually the limitations or way of transmission that I use as a springboard to build the world. For instance, I came up with a system that uses a fluid in a specific way (I'm being intentionally vague), so I built a hierarchical political system around the people who have special access to it. The entire story grew from that premiss; though it did incorporate elements from another story that fit perfectly. 
If I would find a system that would make a specific story better, I would change the world and story to flow from the system rather that just throw it on top. But that is not what I was saying in the post.  What made you think that btw?
« Last Edit: June 23, 2011, 01:34:57 PM by fardawg »

Juan Dolor

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Re: Need ideas for what Magic can do
« Reply #16 on: June 23, 2011, 03:52:20 PM »
I find myself coming up with what I think are fairly interesting ways to receive, transmit, use, and limit magic. Yet I constantly get stuck on exactly what I want it to do. I usually end up with the basic Elemental magic, or magic that enhances natural abilities and properties of people and items: strength, speed etc.  but I want something different. Any suggestions?

If you want your magic to do something different, start a dream journal.  Your  brain is coming up with strange ideas that defy logic and physics every night.  Start writing these down.  At first you will remember very little, but after a few weeks this will change and you will get a lot more.

Most of what you write down will not be directly useful, but you will get a lot of new ideas.  And the exercise will ensure that you write every day, which is really a good idea for writers.

fardawg

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Re: Need ideas for what Magic can do
« Reply #17 on: June 23, 2011, 04:50:28 PM »
If you want your magic to do something different, start a dream journal.

I've actually tried that to generate story ideas. Unfortunately, my dreams are so fractured and fragmentary that it never works. There is nothing in them to latch onto. Thanks for the advice though.

Juan Dolor

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Re: Need ideas for what Magic can do
« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2011, 02:31:42 PM »
Mine are, too.  So the short stories they influenced came out pretty weird.   But after writing a few, the setting started to come together in a very interesting way.

Jason R. Peters

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Re: Need ideas for what Magic can do
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2011, 01:59:54 AM »
If any single dream is too fragmented, one option is (similar to the powers idea) start crossing them.

Another option for both magic and story ideas is to randomize two wikipedia articles. Or one wikipedia article with a dream.

Examples:

I once dreamed I was at a benefit dinner with Michael J. Fox, I assume for Parkinson's. Mostly, I remember that he was unfailingly polite and a good conversationalist besides. I hit "random article" on wikipedia and was linked to a tiny article about the Thomas River.

What could possibly inform fiction or magic about these two items? Even the dream is relatively mundane. But possibilities are actually endless.

The first thing that jumped to mind is that a cure for Parkinson's was found in the Thomas River. Going with the magic element, said cure is magical in nature. A magical cure carries many implications for industries like pharmacy and medicine.

Or perhaps I associate Michael J. Fox specifically with Back to the Future (which I do). Perhaps the Thomas River navigated upstream takes people in the past, downstream into the future, and you can travel back and forth. Or choose a river you like better; the point of the article was just to jog ideas loose.

The best way to approach any article or dream for fiction is to solve a problem contained within it. I hit "random article" again (got a stub but linked over to) Kiribati, an island nation in the tropical Pacific. Remote places make me think of hidden magics, for example if the Kiribati are actually from another planet and the island is a crossover realm. Or perhaps their music has hidden powers not seen elsewhere in the world.

The article says a Japanese-proposed space shuttle called "HOPE-X" was to have a landing strip in Kiribati, but HOPE-X was cancelled. There could be a million reasons (many of them magic-related) why that happened.

Moving the same story to a fantasy setting, perhaps there's a city from which every ship sinks when it sets sail. All ships that land on said island are permanently grounded. Does it become isolated due to the island's curse, or does it thrive on a constant influx of new arrivals? The story's hero is one of the many determined to break the curse.


Shiael

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Re: Need ideas for what Magic can do
« Reply #20 on: June 27, 2011, 04:47:40 AM »
The powers-matrix was actually created for a video game I intended to design, an RTS where you could...well...combine powers.

I did something similar to that to get an interesting story idea. I looked at my DVD collection, closed my eyes, and grabbed two or three at random. I then forced myself to combine the core storylines. I tried to find common elements between them no matter how odd. I actually combined Shawn of the Dead with the live action Popeye movie. You would be surprised at how well that worked.  When I tried this with the Stock Superpowers I got Your Hearts Desire combined with Powers via Possession. Hilarity ensued!  ;D
Can't wait to read it! sounds funny :) and i suppose headless monkeys in this case were considered technology, but in some cases technology is a form of magic,lol
Nothing is ever easy...

RDDK

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Re: Need ideas for what Magic can do
« Reply #21 on: June 29, 2011, 08:45:40 PM »
1. Age magic - immortality.
This one is easy in the sense that you don't need to come up with as many rules. You also have a simplistic magic element that can HUGELY affects the world you create. How do people feel about the immortals. What do the immortals do with their immortality? Where did it come from and can it be shared. Etc.

2. General magic - fireballs and healing
This is kind of the Merlin magic, where everything and anything can be done if you know how. It's been renamed in many books with different rules, but the main thing about it is that it isn't a specific isolated ability.

3. Superhero - single power or sets.
Here you have the isolated ability or abilities. Invisibility, absorption, can throw fireballs (but nothing else). Usually it comes from a reaction to a foreign element or some kind of inborn ability. You can go a lot of ways with this and how the people with these abilities (born or learned) are regulated in the world.

4. Race magic - racial quality.
This ties in with super hero magic. Mind reading, ESP, nightvision, and so on. Here it is attached to a race instead of a single person. With this you have to make a world where these abilities can exist without their causing a devolution. If humans gained mind reading as a race, we'd probably all be in a lot of trouble.

5. Science - alchemy, symbioses, futuristic.
Science fiction, but not science fiction. What I mean by this is scientifically based magic, but where the characters do not know or understand science, and so to them it is magic. For instance,  something like the Venom suit from Spider Man isn't really magic, but to a normal person on earth, it sure looks like a monster from hell.

What I do when I have a magic idea is then run it through some tests. What do I want my character to do with it. If he does this, what will happen. I work as hard as I can to invalidate my idea, then try to fix the problems, until I end up with a system that works.

Another thing you can do, which is the opposite of what another poster said, is to write the story first, or at least the outline. Then go through it and in places where things happen, [Hero wins contest] you can think about how magic might have been involved here, rather than him just being physically stronger. Or if there is a battle, and the enemy escapes, come up with magical reasons instead of luck and a fast horse. It's kind of like reading a history book, which tells you "this happened and this happened and this happened" but doesn't always tell you how. I think it could help you with coming up with ideas when you have specific circumstances for the magic to be used.

Anyway, hope that was helpful.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2011, 08:58:02 PM by RDDK »

Juan Dolor

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Re: Need ideas for what Magic can do
« Reply #22 on: July 05, 2011, 04:09:08 PM »
I want to make one final plug here that I respectfully disagree with the premise behind your original question.

It is phrased in such a way as to indicate:

1. You have an existing world or story and
2. You want to add magic over the top of said world/story

I challenge you, rather than using magic to SUPPLEMENT your existing world (adding fire magic or healing magic), build a story AROUND the magic (or in SciFi, technology).

I'm a firm believer that a love story with elves should just delete the elves, or a mystery story with fireballs should just delete the fireballs. Tolkien's story, however, would not have worked without rings of power. Without Feruchemy and Allomancy, there is no story for Mistborn. Without runes, Elantris is meaningless. Without a tainted Saidin, the fear of men channeling doesn't exist.

In each case, the magic is as vital to the story as the characters and setting (in good fantasy, magic is indistinguishable from setting), not something the author added to an existing story which could stand alone without the magic.

I disagree.  I think a magic system that's only window dressing is totally fine. 

I like Brandon Sanderson and other authors who write novels where the whole point is to understand the magic system and how the world works and then transcend in godlike fashion.  But that's not the only way to write a fantasy novel. 

For example, I love lots of sword and sorcery-- Robert E. Howard, Fritz Lieber, etc.-- and in those novels the magic system is complete window dressing.  But that's okay, because the plot is not about the magic system, or even people who use magic.  So the magic just adds flavor. 

In the same way, there are novels in which the plot is built around a religion or a culture.  Judaism and Hasidic culture, are absolutely central to The Chosen, for example.  You take that out, and there is no book.  But there are lots of books in which those same cultural or religious elements just add a little flavor.  They supplement.  And that's not a bad thing at all.

Juan Dolor

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Re: Need ideas for what Magic can do
« Reply #23 on: July 05, 2011, 04:22:53 PM »
If any single dream is too fragmented, one option is (similar to the powers idea) start crossing them.

Another option for both magic and story ideas is to randomize two wikipedia articles. Or one wikipedia article with a dream.

I think this is really important. 

Larry Correia and John Brown have a lecture about generating story ideas-- you can find it on youtube.  And one of the things they talk about is the need to push your ideas just a little bit.  You begin by brainstorming, just writing down things that go 'zing' in your brain, things you think are interesting or exciting.  But then you take another step.  Maybe you start combining these ideas together.  Or maybe you do what they call the "list and twist" approach, where you go down your list of ideas and think about how to take them in a novel or strange direction.

So a dream journal, or wiki-walking, or anything else is a good start.  But you have to take that next step and push your ideas.