For our Twin Thursday post with the fantastic Rachel of Undivinelight fame, we’re looking at five things we love in magic. This was another toughie for me since there’s sooo much that I love about magic of just about any kind in my fiction.
- Limitations. I like there to be things that mages, witches, sorcerers, etc. physically or morally cannot do with their magic. A sense of constraint, of cans and cannots–or shoulds and should nots–makes it feel more real to me.
- Consequences. Along the same vein from limitations, when a magic-user goes too far, I like to see that there’s some sort of ramification for it. Whether it be a physical cost like exhaustion or a social consequence like criminal charges, I need there to be some sort of penalty when a limitation is crossed.
- Cultural coherency. One of the reasons I like consequences is that they serve to remind me that the magic doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a part of the setting and culture of the story, so it should have a tangible effect on the world around it, and the world should have an effect on it. People are going to react to death very differently if it’s quite normal for the deceased to just sit back up after an hour or two.
- Ordinary or small magics. One thing that I adored about Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic books was the idea of ambient magic, of power latent in everyday things. In weather, in plants. In metal and stone and simple thread. As a Pagan, this is a big part of how I see the world, so first of all it’s refreshing to see a representation of that in fiction. Secondly, it’s a constant joy to me to see characters simply enjoying their magic, taking pleasure in the little things. That wonder is often lost in high-stakes wizard wars and grand feats of power (not that those aren’t fun, too. But the small things are my bread and butter.)
- Creativity! Both in terms of seeing new kinds of magic that I’d never thought of before–like Beka Cooper hearing spirits on pigeons or catching snatches of conversations from whirlwinds–and in how the characters use their gifts. To go back to the Circle books, a few people that I’ve talked to in the fandom have made fun of Sandry. Thread magic? I’ve heard them say. What kind of lame power is that? I imagine other characters in the books feel the same. Until Sandry uses their own clothes as restraints or makes their weapons fall apart. More than the way people break the rules, I love the way they find innovative, unexpected ways to work inside them. It keeps me guessing!