Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Checklist for Writing Fantasy Story Magic


  • Is the setting European, African, Asian, Polynesian, American, or completely made up?
  • Is the culture tribal, ancient, medieval, industrial, modern, hybrid/steampunk, future, or urban?
  • Is magic valued, tolerated, proscribed, or forbidden?
  • Is the magic folk magic, ritual magic, book or "school" magic, or state magic?
  • Are there specific classes of magic user, for example, apprentice, journeyman, master, adept?


  • What effect does magic have on the environment?
  • Does using magic deprive plants and animals needed resource?
  • Does magic residue form any waste products and do these waste products harm the environment or attract magical scavengers?
  • Is the magic work against the natural (or divine) order of the universe, does magic suspend the order, or is it "super-natural" in that it is so in tune with the universe that it can manipulate universal order in ways non-magical forces can't?
  • What is the role of the spirits (ie resurrection, summoning the dead, conversing with the dead)?
  • What is the role of magical creatures (ie griffons, dragons, etc)?
  • Are seers seeing an unchangeable future, or the most likely future? How does magic interact with luck, karma, and fate?
  • Are certain plants / animals / minerals / spirits immune to magical spells ? Absolutely necessary for magical spells?

  • Is the story's magic based on a historical magic system?
  • Is magic a science with laws, or is it poetical art -- is it High Ritual Magic or is it a Non-formal Mystic Something, or is it like working with animals like horses, elephants or cats?
  • Are spells influencing the physical plane, a non-physical plane, or some combination of planes?
  • Is it parapsychology and psychic powers?
  • Is it placebo effects, suggestion, and psychology?


  • Is using magic something anyone can learn, is it a talent one must be born with, or is there a magical technology which allows anyone to wield magical artifacts?
  • Do magic users get carpel tunnel syndrome, or trick knees from using magic?
  • Do magic users have special dietary needs?
  • How much time to magic users have to spend practicing magic?
  • Does the magic user like using magic? Is it fun, or a compulsion, or does it hurt but it's for the Greater Good?
  • If the magic user does not master the magic, does the magic master the magic user?
Post a Comment