3 Ways to Create Conflict with Magic

(Note from Annie: Today we have a guest post from Katie Nichols all about how you can use magic in your stories and a chance to win a SIGNED copy of The Cruel Prince. These are brought to you by the wonderful people behind the Chapter One Young Writers Conference (for writers ages 11-20) and the new Chapter Twenty-One Conference (for writers ages 21-29). Learn more about both here: www.chapteroneconference.org and www.chapter21conference.org.)

Hello, magical people!

Today, I want to talk about magic, specifically magical conflicts.

I love fantasy stories, especially ones with captivating magic systems. And I love it when magic causes problems for characters. While good stories are full of conflict and problems for the characters to overcome, there’s something extra awesome about magic being the source of problems.

So how do you create magical conflict? How do you make magic not only awesome, but also a source of problems?

Look at it from a bunch of different angles and ask questions. Here are a few suggestions of questions to ask yourself, with lots of examples.

1.Where does the magic come from?

In Tangled, Rapunzel’s magic comes from her hair (and before that, it came from a magic flower). Her magic heals and gives youth. An old witch wanted to be forever youthful, so she kidnapped baby Rapunzel. So really, all of the problems in Rapunzel’s life—being kidnapped then living in a tower—came because of her magic and its origins in that magic flower.

Let’s look at The Lord of the Rings. If you know anything about this story, you know that it’s basically a journey to destroy a magic ring that houses the Dark Lord’s soul before said Dark Lord can get it back. So what problems arise from this magic? Well, it’s evil magic, so there are a lot of problems just from that (more on this later in the post). But it is also very powerful and everyone either wants the Ring or wants to destroy it. One does not simply walk into Mordor to destroy it.

Aladdin doesn’t actually have magic, but his friend the Genie does. The origin of magic here causes problems because the Genie is limited by his magic. He can’t bring people back to life, he can’t kill anyone, and he can’t make anyone fall in love with anyone else. And like the other two examples, many people want this magic and not for the most pure of reasons.

2. How does the magic affect the character mentally/emotionally? 

Another example from The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo is taking the Ring to Mordor, we see him slowly being (for lack of a better word) possessed by the Ring. He doesn’t want to lose it, he is losing sleep over it, he is sorely tempted to wear it, and all this gets drastically worse as the story progresses. Gollum is the picture of what happens when someone is completely consumed by the Ring and insanity is also a common effect of magic in stories.

Elsa from Frozen is someone whose magic has affected her emotions. In the movie, Elsa’s magic conflicts are caused by how others see her magic as well as how she sees it. In the beginning of the movie, she loves her magic as she and her sister play with it. But when her sister gets hurt by Elsa’s magic, she’s scared of hurting people, and she begins to fear her magic, to the point that she is isolated from the rest of society. How society and the character themselves feel about their own magic is a good thing to consider.

3. How does the magic affect the character physically? 

It’s common in magic systems (especially in RPG stories) for the character to become weak or lose some of their ability to do magic as they do it, like they have a limited supply of magic. To do more than they are capable of could be dangerous. A good example of this is The Glamourist Histories series by Mary Robinette Kowal. The glamour magic takes their energy and doing too much can be fatal. (If you are a Jane Austen and fantasy fan, I suggest looking into these books.)

There are other ways to physically effect a character with their magic. In Tangled, Rapunzel can’t cut her hair, or it loses it’s power, turns brown, and doesn’t grow back. In one of the stories I’ve been working on, one of my characters can turn into a dragon. Some ways this could physically effect him is that maybe he smells like smoke or has dry skin or a tint of green even while he’s human.

These aren’t all the questions that you can ask yourself for making magic cause problems, but I hope they help. For more questions you can ask yourself, I recommend looking at Brandon Sanderson’s Laws of Magic. (https://brandonsanderson.com/sandersons-third-law-of-magic/) He writes fantasy (I love the Mistborn series, personally) with amazing magic systems.

Now go create some magical problems! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Thanks for stopping by! Click here to enter to win a SIGNED copy of The Cruel Princehttp://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/50b1bee432/

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