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Book: Writing About Magic - Professional Techniques for Paranormal and Fantasy Fiction (Writer's Craft Book 3) by Rayne Hall

Book: Writing About Magic - Professional Techniques for Paranormal and Fantasy Fiction (Writer's Craft Book 3) by Rayne Hall

categories: Book, Writing Fantasy, Novel Writing, Writer's Craft, Writing Guide, Author Guide, Writing Paranormal Fiction, Creative Writing, Fiction Writing

Rayne Hall

Author Rayne Hallabout this book: This book teaches professional techniques for paranormal and fantasy fiction authors. Please note, it is not suitable for beginner writers.

Tales of magic enchant. Since the earliest days, people have loved to hear about good and evil witches, resourceful shamans, clever wizards and wicked sorcerers, about miracles, curses, love potions and magic swords.

In the modern world, stories about magic continue to weave their spell. Authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Gabriel García Márquez, Otfried Preußler, Robin McKinley, J.K. Rowling, Shanna Swendson and Jim Butcher have become famous for novels featuring magic.

Magic can enrich fiction in most genres, especially urban fantasy, high fantasy, magical realism, horror, historical fiction and paranormal romance.

To enthral the reader, fictional magic needs to be believable and exciting.

Novice writers may say, "Magic isn't real, therefore I can make up anything and it doesn't matter" - but that attitude leads to unconvincing stories. If you want your readers to suspend their disbelief while they read, you need to suspend yours while you write. You must believe in magic the same way you believe in your characters and in the world you have created.

Magic is a natural force - like gravity, electricity, photosynthesis or evolution - and it has its own laws. Of course, there are different ways to harness this force, and this is where you can use your imagination. Make sure your fictional magic follows the natural laws, then have fun inventing uses and traditions.

If you're a sceptic, struggling to suspend your disbelief, it may help to remember that most people in the history of humankind have believed in magic, and that all civilisations and cultures had ways to harness its power. Only in our modern western society do people think that magic does not exist.

In the modern western world, everyone believes that electricity is real and knows the basics of how it works. In ancient Egypt, everyone believed that magic was real and knew the basics of how it worked.

Imagine time-travelling to ancient Greece and telling the people about this natural power that can be captured, created, sent through thin wires across long distances, and made to turn night into day, silence into music, and cold into warmth. When you tell them about strip lighting, telephones, television, CD players, the internet, carts moving without being pulled by animals and other inventions of the past three hundred years, the good folks will laugh at how gullible you are, or pity your for your madness - or they may whip you out of town for your lies.

Electricity existed in their world and the effects of it were all around them, but they explained these in ways that fit their view of the world. When they saw lightning in the sky, they assumed it was Zeus hurling thunderbolts in anger.

Magic may be all around us even in our modern world, even if we don't understand it, and even if our scientists attribute its effect to other causes. Most people today are as ignorant about magic as the ancient Greeks were about electricity. But in our fiction, magic needs to be as real as electricity, and for this, you must understand how it works. This understanding will open up a whole array of delightful plot possibilities.

Good fiction excites. Many novice writers err by making magic easy; anything can be achieved with magic. The results are unexciting and pointless. If a magician can get anything he wants by saying, "Abracadabra," and solve any problem by pointing his wand, there is no story.

Fortunately, magic has pitfalls and limitations, dangers and dilemmas. Use them, and you'll have a story that thrills.

This book will show you how to create believable magician characters, how to invent magic rituals and compose spells for them, what tools and ingredients they use and how to get them into trouble.

I'll give you lists of plot ideas. Feel free to adapt them for your fiction.

You're the CEO of your fiction; I'm only the consultant. I make suggestions; you choose which of them to apply. Each story is different. If something I advise doesn't suit, simply move on to the next part.

Most chapters are relevant to most stories - but not all. 'Magical Weapons and Warfare' is great for epic fantasy, but probably not for romance. 'Sex Magic' is useful if you write erotica, but if you keep your fiction chaste, this is a chapter to skip.

When talking about characters, I switch between 'she' and 'he'. Almost everything I say applies to either gender.

I write in British English. To the Americans among you some of the words, spellings and grammatical constructions may look odd, but they're correct and I'm sure you'll understand me anyway.

At the end of the book, I've included an excerpt from my fantasy novel Storm Dancer and a complete short story, to show how I've used magic in my fiction. Whether or not you enjoy my kind of storytelling and my writing style, you may find it useful to see the theory applied in practice.

Writing About Magic is based on an online course I've taught. It includes an extended version for the lectures as well as additional chapters.

The book is part of the 'Writing Craft' series: Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, The Word-Loss Diet, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic, Twitter for Writers, Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes, Writing Vivid Settings, SWOT for Writing Success and more. .

The chapter 'Magical Weapons and Warfare' overlaps with a section from Writing Fight Scenes.

This book has only one purpose: to help you write fiction about magic.

If you're looking for guidance on your spiritual path, for an academic analysis of the psychology of magic, for in-depth historical and anthropological research, for hands-on instruction on how to become a magician, or for a quick spell to catapult your novel into the bestseller lists, you need a different kind of book.

However, if you're a fictioneer who wants to write exciting stories about magicians, you've come to the right place.

Rayne Hall




In this chapter, we'll dress and equip your magician. Although special garments and tools aren't always necessary, they're helpful.


Most magicians have a special garment for performing magic, something which makes them feel special and gives them confidence.

For Religious Magic, the practitioner may wear beautiful clothes to honour their deity.

When performing for an audience (a paying client, or a religious congregation), stunning clothes can impress.

Often, the garment is a robe, a long garment. The colour may be significant. Some magicians wear either black or white, because these are neutral colours. Others prefer a bold colour such as purple, red or royal blue. In some hierarchical organisations, magicians wear robes according to their ranking or degree. Sometimes, the robe remains the same colour, but the rope tying it around the waist changes in colour as the candidate advances through the degrees.

When magicians wish to stay unobserved - for example, if magic is illegal and a group of them perform magic outdoors - they prefer black, because this makes them almost invisible, especially at night.

In some branches of Wiccan Witchcraft, practitioners perform magic in the nude, because they aim to be close to nature. Since they also aim to do it out of doors, they need a private location, or they may get unwelcome attention from voyeurs and passers-by. Wiccans use the poetic word 'skyclad' for outdoors nudity.

Jewellery is often silver, and almost always contains gemstones (especially for High Magic) or crystals (especially for Wiccan Witchcraft).

Since hair can conduct magic, most magicians wear their hair loose during the ritual.



Here's a list of items which your fictional magician may use:

• Most magicians use a stick. It's called 'wand' if it's shorter than an arm, and 'staff' if it's longer. It may be plain or decorated. Sometimes it contains a crystal. Usually it is straight, though ancient Egyptian magicians used curved sticks. Some magic traditions specify that it must be naturally fallen wood, not cut from a living tree. The wand or staff is used to direct magic, like an extension of the arm.

• A knife. In many western systems, including Wiccan Witchcraft, this is called 'athame'. It may be blunt for mere ritual use, or it may be sharp and used for practical purposes such as chopping herbs and cutting threads. It often has a black handle.

• Symbols of the elements. Different magical traditions have different elements. For example, Wicca uses Earth, Air, Fire and Water (sometimes with Ether as a fifth element). Chinese magic uses Earth, Fire, Wood, Water, Metal. Ancient Mesopotamian magic used Salt Water and Fresh Water. Water may be symbolised by a bowl of water, Fire by a candle. In some traditions, the knife symbolises Fire (in others, it symbolises Air), and the wand symbolises Air (in others, it symbolises Fire).

• Crystals can increase the power of magic. They're like batteries, storing and releasing energy. Rose quartz is especially good for love spells and relationships, citrine for business and money matters, and amethyst for spiritual and psychic quests.

• An image or symbol of the deity the magician worships, for example, a statue of a goddess. Some magicians pick and mix statues from several religions. If the magician has her own temple, or works in a religious venue, there is probably a permanent altar. Other magicians may have small portable altars which they set up for the ritual, and dismantle afterwards.

• Materials and ingredients for making potions, amulets, talismans and such. These can include paper, scraps of coloured fabric, ribbons in symbolic colours, dried herbs, string, etc.

• A sacred/spiritual/magical journal, and writing implements. If the magician is literate, she writes up her experience after the ritual, to keep a record of what magic has been done when, and to study the effects. In Wiccan Witchcraft, this is called a 'Book of Shadows'.

• Candles, incense, matches or lighter. The colour of the candles is often significant, for example, pink for love spells, green for money magic. The incense may serve to help the magician change levels of consciousness, or to purify the place (e.g. in Shamanism, the practitioner may use smudging herbs).

• A spellbook (sometimes called 'grimoire'), or a written liturgy, spell or instructions. Written notes are useful, especially if the magician is working this kind of magic for the first time.

• Offerings for the gods or spirits, for example food, incense, perfume, wine, flowers.

• A musical instrument (probably a drum, rattle or bell), or a CD player with ambient music or chants. In Shamanism, this is usually a large tambourine; in Ancient Egyptian magic, it's a sistrum rattle.

• Anything else the magician (or her author) decides she needs.



• What if the magician needs to work magic, and she doesn't have access to her usual tools, or the necessary ingredients aren't at hand?
• What if the magician performs 'skyclad' and gets surprised in the act by someone who is either morally outraged by nudity, or tries to take advantage?



Cunningham's Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham Cunningham's Encyclopaedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic by Scott Cunningham Practical Candle-burning Rituals: Spells and Rituals for Every Purpose by Raymond Buckland Crystal Enchantments: A Complete Guide to Stones and Their Magical Properties by D.J. Conway and Brian Ed. Conway Creating Magical Tools: The Magician's Craft by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero


1. In a work of fiction you remember, what garments does the magician wear, and what tools does she use?
2. If you were a magician, what would you prefer: to use the same tools every time, or to improvise? Why?



1. What does your magician wear for magic?
2. What tools does she use regularly?
3. Write a sentence or paragraph in which the magician prepares to work magic.

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