author C.C.Cole's blog

Monday, January 16, 2012

On Reigning in the Magic

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"
When I read fantasy books and watch films, another of the many challenges I see is variation of magic in storytelling.  “Magic” can be used as a broad term meaning anything from the abilities of a seer with clairvoyant abilities, a magician extending power to affect others miles away while surrounded in ethereal mist, or wand-wielding wizards so familiar to readers today. 

When I decided to create magical scenes in my stories, I arrived at a T-stop in the road of writing.  Magic, generally will be something supernatural, usually giving a hero/heroine/enemy a “edge” that gives them the memorable power.  The first hurdle is defining the power.  Is it invisibility, mind reading, or human torch?  The next hurdle is the source of the power.   Is the character born with it, or does he/she acquire it through special items, like rings, spell books, suits, cosmic radiation or wands?  How is it used?  Do certain words need to be said, or can the character just use the power by will?  How far a distance can the ability extend?  Can someone across the world feel the effects? 

Though it’s difficult to imagine now, my initial idea for Shevata was for her to be a wizard.  (That was before the Harry Potter-mania, so I’m glad I changed my mind).  I made the change in favor of a more physical character with innate abilities resembling comic book heroes.  Though some readers tell me her abilities seem limitless, her blade can only reach so far despite her best efforts. 

Fantasy novels spun off from popular role-playing games I read mostly in the 1980’s usually did a great job in describing magic, which is extending to current authors I’m reading now.  But the lines need to be drawn in the limitations to avoid the omnipotent character (example “Q” in the “Next Generation” Star Trek series).  Telling the future is one thing, but moving a planet is another.  (I’ll make an exception with Galactus in the old “Fantastic 4” comics; the idea of eating a planet was cool to me as a kid).  Every character must have limitations, and the way the author reveals them is part of what every writer adds to the creative experience.  In filmmaking, fortunately, magical storytelling to me has improved through the years given the necessary core elements of good writing, acting, directing, and production. 

New authors, if magic or special super abilities are your subject, as always, tweet to us about it.  There’s not a single super-ability to outweigh another unless one’s a bona fide unwavering Superman fan.  But even he has that kryptonite problem. 

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