You have done your brainstorming and are well on your way to setting up the rules for a magic system. Now what? If you want to share it with others you’ll need a story that showcases it. I have come up with 10 prompts to guide you through thinking about different aspects of your world and your magic and how you could craft a story out of it. For more tips on turning your idea into a story, see my article here.
1) Lack of Magic
I have only read one book that I can recall where it was commonplace for everyone to have magic and the kid who doesn’t is the strange one. It was Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher. I still have the sequels on my To-Be-Read List but that first one was brilliant. There are of course cases where magic societies within a larger non-magic world have attitudes toward those of their kind who can’t perform magic (Harry Potter, Orson Scott Card’s The Lost Gate), but I have not seen another on the scale of the Butcher novel.
It occurred to me that this idea could be taken in a number of different directions. The magic-less one(s) could be outcast and forced to live in the wilderness where, maybe, they start their own civilization. Magic-less members of society could be killed once it was clear they didn’t have any magic. You could even pull an Emperor’s New Clothes where the magic-less person finds a way to trick the others. The possibilities abound.
There are a ton of books and movies about going to a magic school. But they are always about high school through college level. The exception that readily comes to mind is Harry Potter where they start at the equivalent of American middle school.
But how do magical kids learn to read and do math? What about sharing and communication and climbing trees? It would be fun to write a book from the perspective of a teacher for elementary level magical children. Anyone who has ever spent more than ten minutes with a children knows they can cause plenty of mischief without magic, but what could they do with it? Picture a whole daycare of Jack-Jack’s from the Incredibles or the Weasley Twins from Harry Potter. How would the teachers even begin to cope with that?
3) Narrow the Stakes
Fantasy books have a tendency to veer toward epic stakes. Save the city! Save the Country! Save the World! But people in these magical realms live ordinary lives too. Epic heroes cross paths with dozens of others who don’t need to rush off to some over-sized battle.
What ways would your magic system affect the lives of everyday people? I’m not suggesting you write about a wizard going to the dentist or anything, although I won’t discourage that either. Something along the lines of a mystery or a romance, where the stakes are high, but limited and personal. Coming of age stories are another great line to take. I think you get the idea.
4) Mr. Perfect
Imagine the best person to ever live. Now give them your power. What would they want to accomplish? How could they use the power to make those things come true? Then what could go wrong? Who would want to stop them and how could the magic help the bad guy hamper the progress of the good guy?
5) Pure Evil
Conversely imagine the worst person ever. What would they want to accomplish with your magic system? Who would be affected by this sinister plot? Who on that list would actually be in a position to fight back? It might not be who you’d think immediately. All sorts of things hold people back from acting even when they think it’s right. What could this (possibly reluctant) hero do to stop the bad guy from achieving their evil visions?
Imagine a situation where someone who has powers would need to keep them a secret. Perhaps magic-users are persecuted in this world. Or perhaps someone they love had a bad experience with magic and your character is afraid of being rejected if the secret comes out. Or maybe they have a secret agenda and want to keep their magic hidden until the last minute so they can be underestimated.
7) Magic Boom
If you don’t already have a world built for your magic system try this one. Imagine a world where magic is rare or non-existent. Then add an influx of magic-users. Everyone has to learn how to use the power all at the same time. Magic schools could be more like cooperative learning environments and unique challenges would arise as experimentation is necessary but very dangerous.
8) Broken System
What would happen if magic in this world broke? Who would try to fix it? Who would try to take advantage of the people who relied on it but could no longer reliably access it? Try to come up with scenarios that include both restoring magic and losing it forever.
Can your magic system be combined with technology of any sort? Think of things all the way from steam-powered engines to nanobots. Could magic and science work together for good or evil? You could tell a story in such a world or tell the story of the person trying to make it happen. Both scientists and magic-users would likely disdain the other. Or maybe they’d get along famously and something else terrible could happen. Because something terrible always happens.
What would you do if you had the powers of your invented magic system? See if that could be made into a story, either in our world or adapted for a world you create.
I hope you have fun creating a story to show off your magic system. Check out my other posts on magic stories for more tips and prompts. Let me know in the comments if you got any ideas from these prompts.