How to Write a Realistic Fantasy Story: Make Magic Explicit for Your Readers


Fantasy literature causes me a little bit of trouble. Understand me; fantasy is my preferred genre. My problem is not with fantasy stories but with some of them and, most importantly, their creators.

My issue is what I refer to as accountability.

I seek justifications and answers when I read a fantasy novel. I don’t want anything to occur merely because the author has the power to make it so. If a wizard utilizes magic, I want to know how it got there and how and why it works for him.

I’m tired of reading tales in which a magician summons a fireball only to use magic. From where did this magic originate? What are the magic’s rules? Lots of the laws that apply to our world also apply to a world that is not like ours. Additionally, one of Newton’s Laws of Motion states that “to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” as we should all be aware from science class.

Every action we perform, whether tangible or immaterial, is subject to the laws of motion. You’ll typically be prompted to think of something else when you think of something. When you first open your eyes in the morning, many different processes are in motion.

These laws still apply even if a person lives in a fantastical setting. Of course, just because a planet has three moons, requires its inhabitants to breathe nitrogen to survive, has lighter gravity, and can create fireballs just by speaking a phrase, doesn’t mean the laws of physics don’t apply there.

Even if a different world may have differences, it nonetheless adheres to the same scientific principles as all other worlds. Magic can still exist, but there must be established guidelines that go by the laws of nature.

Imagine you have a wizard whose magic is granted by a God native to that realm. I don’t believe in gods, but if there is one or many in your world and the wizard gets his strength from them, it could be a good idea to have some justification for how the god does it. How did the power belong to that God?

The issue of power coming from Gods raises a variety of topics. The people who follow God in your world might think they are infallible and possess all authority. So you probably need to leave it be and not explain how God can set the scene for your world and let the reader be immersed in it. As someone who wants to know where things originate, I find this a little frustrating.

But it can be challenging to explain it in a made-up world if we can’t even figure that out on our own, at least not without shattering the scene of the universe a writer is attempting to conjure up.

But you already understand my point. In a world there must be accountability. Things cannot just occur as a result of “Magic.” Rules and sufficient justifications must be provided so the reader understands that events don’t “just happen.”

I discovered that I was engaging in the same behavior I described. I’ve written some fantasy tales in which magic was carelessly used. When I reread it, I concluded it was superficial and detracted from the plot. Later, when I wrote and attempted to explain my magic in some detail, I discovered that it felt more genuine, exciting, and tangible.

Let’s review a brief scenario. I’ll create a magic source with guidelines.

Okay, where does our magic come from?

Let’s assume that it comes from an energy source that is present in the globe. However, where did this energy come from? We all understand that energy underlies everything. Science has established that as accurate. We may claim that people worldwide are sensitive to power to keep things simple. This has also been demonstrated in our world. Some people are more susceptible to the energy fluctuations in our universe. Have you ever sensed someone glaring at you from a distance and then turning to look for them? That’s just how sensitive we usually are to energy being agitated.

In our world, there are those people who are more sensitive and can sense energy shifts. We don’t have anyone who is extraordinarily sensitive, but we could develop people who are. They could then control it with their minds rather than using tools.

It’s possible to state that a significant magnetic disturbance draws energy to it if we get a little more technical. The south and north poles exist on our planet. Well, picture it being thousands of times more significant. Perhaps it is the energy available to people in our world. However, we would need to ensure that their access to it is restricted if they are as far away from it as is practicable.

You see, we are applying scientific rules to produce our magic. Now that clarifies the origin of the energy source and our “magic.” You can create additional rules for its application and manipulation. Maybe only lightning bolts can be sent by those who employ magic. Alternately, they might be able to use the energy to magnetize themselves to attract metal items, magnetize those objects to flip their magnetic poles, and then use those magnetized objects to launch the metal they had drawn like a bullet.

They might be able to employ magic to make fireballs by using different materials. In our world, magicians would gather sawdust, a little sulfur, and tiny magnetized metal grindings to make a powder to make a fireball. They pick it in their hands, light it with electricity, and then direct the star at their intended target with reversed poles.

Therefore, magic might seem more real when science is applied. Now, perhaps the people living in your world have a different explanation for all this magic being used. They can say that it is divine power. That they discovered how to launch fireballs through experimentation. They may not be familiar with the actual workings of it, but they have their own set of rules. Thus, the show’s basic science and what viewers believe to be its natural science exist.

The true challenge now is to explain it to your audience in a way that makes it seem real while maintaining their worldview.

Let’s investigate this issue now.

As an example—and there are numerous ways to do this—the world we are considering might have a very reclusive wizard familiar with magic in its most accurate form. He was incredibly wise and sought to understand the trustworthy energy source despite not believing in gods. He understood it. So you could include him in a scene in your book and explain the true magic; make sure it makes sense in the story’s context. As a result, your reader may have two different ideas about how magic operates. By doing so, you avoid undermining popular belief in magic while also giving readers the impression that it exists.

There must be accountability to produce a good story. “There is an equal and opposite reaction to every action.” Don’t just toss stuff in and hope no one questions it or that the story doesn’t have a reaction to it or a consequence. This will make the narrative flimsy and implausible.

EVERYTHING has a purpose for existing.

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