A LOT OF THE STORIES I read, watch and listen to have elements of magic in them. It can be anything from subtle hints to an underlying magic to elaborate magic systems.
When I decided to get back into the manuscript for my Ulfrheim saga, it dawned on me that I had a lot of questions about magic. Some of these were fairly simple, but others I’m still not 100% sure I have resolved. So, now I turn to you, my dear readers, and ask for your thoughts on the subject.
Here below, you’ll find the six questions I’ve been pondering, plus a bonus question with a twist at the end. Please, if you can, take a moment to respond to them and explain your answer. I don’t just want a quick one-word response as I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter.
Whether you are a normal story consumer, a complete fantasy nerd or a real life häxa/wicca/witch/magic wielder, your response is welcome and most appreciated. You can either use the comment section at the bottom of this page, or you just copy the questions, paste them into an email, add your answers and email them to me at aswewriteblog at gmail dot com. If you’d rather submit your answers via Google docs, here’s the form for that.
1) What is magic?
What, exactly, is magic in your opinion?
- Is it a talent? (something innate);
- Is it a skill? (something you can learn);
- Is it an energy force? (something you tap into);
- Is it a biological element? (a kind of mutation); or
- Is it, perhaps, something else entirely?
2) The origin of magic
Where does magic come from? Where did it all begin? Was there a magical Big Bang? Or did we inherit it from the old gods or some primordial being?
3) Application of magic
Are there rules or principles that govern the application of magic? Can the magic ability become stronger or weaker depending on what happens to the mage? In Harry Potter, for example, Harry has stronger magic protection because of his mother’s love, whereas other wizards seem to have lost their magic as a result of trauma. Similarly, in Wheel of Time, we see Aes Sedai get stronger or weaker as a result of things experienced by, or done to, them.
4) Limitations of magic
What do you need to do, or have, to do/practice magic? A certain affinity? Or some particular object like a wand and a grimoire?
What are the limitations of magic? In Sanderson’s First Law, Brandon Sanderson claims that there are essentially only two types of magic systems: soft and unlimited with endless possibilities (Tolkien), or hard with clearly defined limitations (Ashimov). He also notes that most writers end up somewhere in between (Rowling). Where do you land on this? Do you agree with him?
5) Types of magic
Are there different types of magic? If so, can they be classified and sorted into groups, categories, systems or families like animals, plants or chemicals?
In Scandinavian folklore, for example, we do have humans like the witches and trolls who have certain skills and abilities; but there are also a number of beings, like nacken, vittra and the troll cats for example, who have various magical properties or abilities.
Are they altogether different beings, or creatures, with different types of magic? Or could they be organised into some kind of classification system showing how they all relate to each other and the same source of magic?
6) Examples of magic (systems)
What are your favourite, and least favourite, examples of magic and/or magic systems? If they relate to particular books, films, series or games, please state where your examples are from and why you feel they are particularly good or bad.
This question is all about you and your personal feelings about magic and the use of magic in storytelling.
7) Do you believe i magic?
Finally, a simple yes or no question. But, of course, it comes with a twist. Please, tell me why you said yes or no.
8) Data collection info
As a general rule, I don’t collect people’s personal information. I do, however, think it’s interesting to look at your answers and see if I can find any particular trends or tendencies in there.
To this end, but only if you feel confident doing so, I would like to know:
- Your age group (in the tens is enough, i.e. 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s etc)
- Your gender (prefer not to say is a perfectly acceptable answer)
- Your country and ethnicity.
Please note, I won’t be saving names, user names, email addresses or any other personal information. The results of this survey will be discussed in one (or more) future post(s) on this blog.
I may quote or refer to individual answers when I discuss my findings, but I will never disclose any details that may serve to identify you. I’ll be using the IKEA principle and give each informant a simple, but catchy, Old Norse/Scandinavian name. =)