Write Good Simple Magic
Write Good: An Absurd Storytelling And Adventure Blog
Magic ain’t easy.
You’re basically telling readers, “Hey, pretend this thing NOBODY CAN DO is something that people CAN DO in this story’s world.”
Levitating? Conjuring? Fire-breathing grill master dragons who sneeze on New York Strips until they’re just the right amount of pink and upload the grilling video to Instabreath?
Just pretend. Ya know, the way you did when you were a kid.
Getting readers into that mindset can be tougher than a dragon’s hide, and you can do the thing. Yes. You.
Keeping magic simple so that you can write more without obsessing over systems or world building is one way to help you as the writer AND offer more to the reader too. Once you’ve picked your simple magic, you can dig deep into the consequences (let’s be honest, you can dig into the immature, goofy uses of it too) and show how it affects characters’ lives. Even the best wizard waffle makers find time to be serious and time to be friggin’ weird as hell with their magic, and readers WILL think about those weird uses…SO YOU SHOULD TOO, and make why they USE or DON’T USE magic that way part of the characters’ lives.
A book is a relationship between writer and reader. If you’re writing magic, find the readers who want magic. (Not before you start writing, of course. You gotta do what your book needs to finish it first.) A great way to get readers into the, “Let’s pretend” mindset is starting off showing how cool your simple magic is. Or how big an impact it has on the protagonist. Weaponized wizard waffles might be how the protagonist protects the diner he or she works at when an antagonist tries to rob it, or embezzle from it, or poison customers with putrid pastries. Showing the magic, its users, and its simplicity right in the first page is the start of that relationship with the reader. Have FUN with it.
Once your wizard waffles whip some weirdo’s butts, the reader’s willing to pretend with you more. Intentionally weave questions and curiosities into the next chapters. How else can waffles be used? Does the magic work with all breakfast food? Is it sugar-based? Getting one or two simple pieces/rules about your magic established early makes for fewer annoying obstacles, both for you as the writer and for the reader. You won’t be stuck halfway through your novel thinking, “Crap, the syrup spell CAN’T do that, but I NEED it to do that so the plot advances and the MC doesn’t die.” Death by syrup would not be how I choose to go. Making the magic simple enough where you aren’t intimidated (but challenging enough so it ain’t namby-pamby writing) can help you build momentum and get TONS of writing done. If you’re stopping every chapter to quintuple-check your magic rules or the consequences for using them, the magic might not be the kind of simple you’re aiming for. Keep having fun with it!
You and the reader are now building up steam. They’re on board the wizard waffle wagon and they’re hungry for second breakfast. As the writer, it’ll help you more to dig DEEPER into that one magic than it will to add a frick-ton more magics. Breakfast spells, lunch magic, and dinner rituals will be too much to stomach. And after all, you promised breakfast, so deliver it. Second helpings? Fine. Using the waffles as heat-seeking frisbees to attack baddies? Sure, as long as the reader can swallow it. A three-course supper with dragon-grilled steak spells in a breakfast magic story? Probably not gonna sit well.
Simple spells can change human behavior in HUGE ways, so have FUN exploring many possible aspects of a character’s life that could change because of one simple magic. Is your waffle wizardry making people feel so super-satisfied they get addicted and can’t eat anything else? Is it drawing the attention of international restaurant chains who can’t beat your wizard’s sales, so they’re trying to hire him? Did your antagonist just monopolize the enchanted flour industry and your wizard’s gonna be out of business unless some sneaky sabotage—which they’re not good at—happens? THOSE little consequences can develop into genuine and satisfying character arcs, so have FUN cooking ‘em up.
Your reader will have fun stuffing their mind mouths with your stories too.
By the end of your story, they’ll WISH they could do the magic that absolutely no one can really do.