Thursday, January 14, 2016

Balancing Magic in Fantasy

Balancing Magic in Fantasy
Magic is one of the most unique and rich elements allotted to the fantasy genre—it is what makes fantasy fantastic. In some fantasy worlds, magic is only a hint in the distance, a threat of an unknown force to come. Yet in others magic is interwoven into the daily lives of the world’s inhabitants. The challenge is finding a balance that creates a fantastical element in the world without overshadowing the rest of the story.

I choose to have the foundation of my magic based on science—it is well-understood, measurable, and understandable—allowing even those unfamiliar with fantasy to become swiftly comfortable with the magical aspects of the novel. I often choose to use this magic to put individual characters in predicaments that test their resolve, strength of character, or morality. Magic is, sometimes, also used to create aspects of the world that are awing or terrifying. With the strong foundation in “realism,” these magical elements hold even greater understanding and thus, even greater impact on the reader.

My personal favorite magic in the series is healing. I love the threat on a character’s life, but there are many fantasy novels that utilize healing magic to allow characters to escape from death—very often by pulling miraculous healing from an area readers had no idea about. I believe that this tips the balance and causes magic to be a negative force in the story. A miraculous survival may be great as a onetime ploy, but when characters survive time and time again, the threat of death wears thin. In order to balance this threat of death and allowance of healing magic, I chose to have the healing magic capable of doing only what the human body can do naturally. There are two essential elements to this healing:

One: if a character suffers some injury of the heart, there is no amount of healing on Aersadore that can ever allow the character’s heart to be as it once was. When a human suffers a heart attack, scar tissue is used by the body to “repair” the heart. It is the same on Aersadore—magic can be utilized to speed up the process of this repair—thus possibly saving an individual’s life—but it cannot be used to reverse the damage. 
Two: How quickly and effectively a wound is healed is based entirely on the health and skill of the healer. For example, let’s go with the extreme that someone once asked me to define: What if someone’s arm gets ripped off? Technically, if the arm could be put back exactly where it had been removed and healed quickly enough, the arm could be reattached. However, the human body only has the ability to heal so much at one time before the body runs out of the nutrients it requires to heal. Thus, even if a healer could speed up the healing process of the aforementioned one-armed individual, the person could not possibly recover their arm. A second element comes into play to counteract this: the ability of a healer to transfer their own health (nutrients, etc…) to a wounded individual, allowing them to heal past the normal allowed amount. However, this means damage to the healer since they are sending their “health” to the wounded. Thus, such a use of the magic is a double-edged sword and while readers might be thrilled that One Arm gets his arm back, they are now terrified about losing Skilled Healer.

I have chosen a middle route in how much magic Steps of Power contains: magic is commonly present, but not inundating. However, the most important aspect of balancing magic is not howmuch magic the world contains, but how it is presented. The key is that the magic enhances the storytelling ability without detracting from the suspense. Because the characters now possess fantastic abilities and skills, plot possibilities open up; however, magic should never be a suddendeus ex machina that works one day and never again.

By such a balance of magic, the rest of the story is complimented and enhanced, rather than overshadowed. Such physical limitations of magic, such as healing, allow for both moral predicaments, tension, and added understanding of the skills and limitations of characters. Thus, the balance of magic creates an even richer world for the fantasy genre… A truly fantastic world!

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