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How I Created a Magic System from Scratch

If you're a fantasy reader, chances are that you've read books with killer magic systems.

Harry Potter, anyone? Mistborn? Okay, ANYTHING by Brandon Sanderson?

Fantasy authors have two unique challenges that other genres typically don't: worldbuilding and magic systems.

Worldbuilding (especially fantasy worldbuilding) is another blog post altogether, but today I want to talk about the magic system I created for the Rising Elements series.

I read an excellent article by Hannah Yang from ProWritingAid about building a magic system. She talked about types of magic systems, when to use those certain types, and how to build them.

There are two types of magic systems: hard magic and soft magic. Hard magic has defined rules, logic, and boundaries, while soft magic is more atmospheric. The reader doesn't know all the limitations of soft magic, but it doesn't detract from the story (think Harry Potter, which is somewhere in the middle of both magic types - we know some of the spells Harry can do, but we don't understand the exact limitations).

For Rising Elements, I knew I wanted to create a magic system that centered around the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire - plus a bonus fifth element that I threw in for fun), but I had to be sure that my magic system took that common magic system and twisted it into something new.

In the world of Thios, the creatures worship a goddess known as Seraphine. She is the mother of the forest, a benevolent goddess who believes in balance above all else. If you perform a ceremony called the Rite and she finds you worthy, Seraphine grants you a bond with a single element. It appears in the form of a tattoo somewhere on your body and allows you to control that element.

But every good magic system (at least hard magic like mine) has limitations. *cue suspenseful music*

To use your element, you must draw upon that element from within your own body. For example, if you're bonded to water, you draw upon the water in your own body to fuel the magic. Water users have to drink absurd amounts of water. Earth users are always hungry. Air users are constantly out of breath. And fire users are always cold.

But that's not all! Seraphine's magic bonds you with your element forever. If your tattoo is broken - AKA cut, pierced, burned, etc - you will lose your bond with that element and it will kill you. And the more powerful you become with your element, the more your tattoo (and thus your Achilles heel) grows.

This magic system has been so fun to play with! It has gone through many iterations since my first draft, and I'm loving the final product!

What's your favorite magic system you've ever read? What questions do you have about my magic system in the Rising Elements series? Let me know in the comments below!


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