• Jabe Stafford

Write Good Violent Magic

Write Good: An Absurd Storytelling And Adventure Blog

Violent Magic

“You got a permit for that tornado?” Said no one ever.

(I know it sucks, but…) We don’t have magic in our reality.

No one’s got fistfuls of superheated wall clouds they can use to whip up tornadoes on a whim.

The violent shiz in our world? A metric frick-ton of it needs a permit and gets regulated. Why? Because it has consequences. Magic’s got to have consequences too, or your entire book becomes a lame game of “I win” instead of a famed game of “friggin’ epic wizard duel everyone references for years to come.”

Violent magic in fantasy can be exciting and scary to read because of the consequences. You can bring excitement to the reader not only with the magic you want to write, but with how the characters learn it, handle it, and deal with others using it. Introducing the scariness of the magic can be tougher, but with the right things at stake and the right prices paid to use your magic, it’ll terri-frighten your readers to the point that they can’t stop reading because they crave things your magic provides. Like how to get out of it. Or how characters grow to use or resist it. Magic is also making a promise to the reader that says, “Hey, you’re gonna see some epic shenanigans,” and following through on that promise is just as important as continuing to build on it.

Wait, did this crazy writer/blogger guy just say, “Use violent magic to build trust and keep promises to your reader?”

YES. (If it’s that kind of story…) Blow shit up in your book so you can show what you have to offer and keep offering it.

To start setting up those promises of future magical clashes, characters gotta learn it. If ya wanna explore tropes, here’s a menu of tasty tricks:

-Council/ancient organization capable of teaching a character.

-Mentor character able to teach another character.

-Magic discovered on accident and character must learn solo.

-Magic dying out and it picks a character to help it survive for X reason.

-Trauma of some kind leading to development of magical powers.

-Magical badass dies & a character must grow into that badass’s role.

These are just a few flavors of magic (Mmmm, mint chocolate lightning bolts). They all provide ways for you as the writer to SHOW the characters learning, using, and reacting to your magic. (Yessss, peanut butter pyromancy) So much is tied to magic that you’re promising readers they’ll get to see your fantastical spells used both in the opening and in future chapters. (Which I’ll get into later after enjoying this browniebender’s butter pecan) Pick something and write with it. Explore it. See what the stakes are.


What’s at stake matters to characters as much as your own motivations to do things like vote, apply for jobs, go to college, and so on. Your own life has prices to be paid, so your characters’ magic needs that too or it doesn’t feel real. Free magic for everyone has prices too. Consider those prices. What does it cost to use magic in your story? What’s its limit? What’s there to gain by slinging that magic around? Make those part of the character’s arc and life too. If the MC doesn’t have to deal with the consequences, then the character who DOES have to deal with them has got to have bones to pick with the MC. Use those consequences to push your characters and seize your reader by their holy-shit-I-wish-that-was-real sense.

(Here’s the juicy part I promised earlier.) Hey, you blew shit up in the first chapter and that blowing-shit-up-ness affected your characters’ lives. Now readers wanna see more of your showy, violent magic. That’s why they turned the page. (Or one reason among a frick-ton.) Drill deeper into your violent magic and deeper into your characters’ connection to it. Do they hunger for more knowledge of it to use for a purpose? Do they want to ban it or eliminate it? Did they see an opportunity and want to regulate it or profit off it? Selling tornado permits might be a dadgum lucrative enterprise if your MC grows to learn how to sling hurricanes and enforce the tornado permit market.

(See? I also promised this was an absurd storytelling & adventure blog. Pretty absurd thinking about tornado permit saleswomen and the Cat 4 hurricanes they can dish out if you piss ‘em off, right?)

But with great tornado-slinging comes great other shiz happening. And that’s how you build up writing momentum with your violent magic. Cause and effect. Cause and effect. Personal cause and personal effect. And…

Boom! A layered, entertaining and violent magic system people will enjoy reading because there’s always relevant, believable magic and consequences going on.

Like tornado permits. They matter.

Get that tornado licensed now.