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Writing how a Character casts a spell/uses magic

M. LeRenard

Is not French
Maybe part of the problem you're running into here is that the instant you describe how your magic 'system' works, it ceases to be magic and becomes instead technology. I think in that sense, J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien treat magic in exactly the right way: you see people do it, you know it involves mystic words and sometimes an aid like wands or whatever, but the system itself is never explained. You remember when Star Wars Episode 1 came out, a lot of fans of the old movies complained to no end about the introduction of 'midi-chlorians' as an explanation for the Force, basically saying the whole idea ruined the concept of the Force by giving it a concrete source. You know... it basically turned it into DBZ power levels, where someone's ability to use the Force came down to their midi-chlorian count. People preferred the ambiguity of the original idea--the fundamental power of 'magic' or any of its equivalents seems to be our inability to understand how it works.

That said, for an apprentice situation, you might just make it so that the character must rely on intuition only. His training might thus require things like meditation, focus, calming exercises, etc., so that he can more easily achieve the state of mind necessary to start chucking around giant snowballs or whatever. But don't actually explain how it 'works'. It just does, and some people have a knack for using it and others don't. Then you can just limit the uses of it by the fact that no one really understands what they're doing when they cast spells, and a lack of understanding means you're limited in what you can achieve.

I don't know. Just an idea. I like some of the other ideas people are throwing around, too.


Tastes Like You Only Sweeter
Maybe worth nothing but I had this issue once in one of my books. I had to explain to an apprentice how to use the magic he had. first you must understand that magic is a leap of faith. since all magic responds to the will or belief of the user they have to believe in it or it will not work because that is what they believe. second, in many cultures the belief is that there is a metaphysical center of power in a persons chest (about an inch below the heart). This center is the where the power or energy that is what we call magic exists. it is also the energy that gives life to all living things. To use this power is to focus the energy and by believing that something will happen to cause it to happen. It starts by concentration and learning to channel the energy of your environment, such as the magical lay lines of a planet (magnetic lines of draw). then using the energy from within to draw that energy into an ever increasing and narrowed path to perform what ever function is required.For example one might draw the energy into a narrow beam and create a spiritual bolt or fire bolt or even a magical blade. One might use the energy for healing.If you opponent in a battle believes in the power as well and see's or at least thinks that your power is greater then his own will causes it to be so. As for casting a spell, well the idea is that one can use the energy from within both by concentration, sudden fear, or practice to perform the required task. Components for such things as fire balls and the like (sulfur) can be ignited instantly by a sudden burst of that energy. I have no idea if this helps you but there is my solution. Of course that is just fiction for you. Whatever solution you decide on will be right for your world.
this has to be the closest response i've recieved to actually answering my question, definatly a few things i'll have to think on and hash together with the in-universe limitations.


New Member
i generally like it to be a concentrated effort of will, the character feels the snow and ice around him, then draws that feeling inward, building it in his minds eye to the form he wants, then expelling the energy/chi/mana using​ the gesture or word.


Fennec World dominance!
Magic and it's usage can be entirely up to the author. It's source can be from anything. A special rock, sword, talisman, a God
or, the person casting's inner power. It's casting can be done in many different ways. Chanting is common, as is intricate hand

From my latest book:

“Can I get dressed?” She asked. Tasha smiled. ‘If you want to get dressed you can. It doesn't’t matter if you do or not. It is just the two of us and I’ve seen my share of women without clothing human and hybrid. Standing up Marilyn walks over to her bra that was hanging up and she starts to pull it on. She freezes as Tasha began to chant. She turns to see her making intricate patterns with her hands as she chanted. Instinctively Marilyn releases her bra and it falls to the floor and she crouches ready. She already knew what spell this was. It was the same one that the other woman had tried to kill her with. Tasha continues and she waves her arms and the walls of force move over Marilyn and stop forming a sealed box around the room. Marilyn let out a growl. “Tasha stood and smiled. “Relax this is protection not an attack. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to scare you.” She explained. “The last person that cast such a spell tried to kill me. What did you expect?” She growled.


New Member
Quick thanks to Troj, while I've always enjoyed writing magic and always thought myself pretty decent at it, those links were a fascinating read.

Magic is one of the few things I think writers have it better over artists expressing. A picture can only capture a brief moment of what could be a thrilling magic battle.

To the OP, as far as fitting magic into a setting, I find the most common approach tends to be treating magic as any other skill or discipline, that takes dedication and practice to master.

A master blacksmith trains years to learn the ways of shaping metal, to make wondrous arms and armour. An assassin or a ninja similarly spends his or her life learning the ways of stealth and murder with blade and poison.

So a magician is simply an individual who chooses to spend years mastering the art of shaping the mystical power of the universe they're in.

As a lot of the guys before me have suggested, you probably need to know what's out there, before coming up with a style of your own.

An example for your ice magic, just off the cuff:

Cursing as he backed away from his masked assailant, he raised his arm muttering an incantation, and grabbed the descending blade with his bare hand. Grinning at the assassin's surprise as the blade cracked against his frost encased palm, he clenched his fist, and snapped the sword with a flick of his wrist, before sending the his surprised foe sailing through the air with a backhanded blow that caved in his ribcage. Frost crackled as he flexed his fingers, now encased in gauntlets of magical ice.

He flinched as he heard a familiar twang-hiss, and yelped as a bolt dug a stinging furrow along his ribs. Spotting the other assassin who had ducked behind a tree, frantically cranking to reload his crossbow, the wolf bit down the pain and rushed towards him.

He tackled the assassin to the ground, just as he was raising his weapon. Rolling and wrestling with his foe about in the dirt, he gasped as he crashed against a tree root, the wind knocked out of him. His foe, seeing an opening, drew a dagger and stabbed it downwards with a blow the wolf was barely able to stop, catching his enemy's wrist. The wolf forced himself to calm, as he realised his foe was stronger, and was forcing the blade inevitably downwards, intent on ending his resistance.

He let a cold rage build in his heart, focusing all his anger to channel his power. Closing his eyes, he picked out the life force of his foe, hot and vibrant, and met it with a surge of will. He heard a gasp, then a screech of pain, as his foe's blood vessels burst, warm blood turning to ice in his very veins. With a final gargle, which sounded like so much crunching gravel, the man gasped out his last breath, and stilled, petrified.

He shoved the statue corpse off him, weariness overtaking the mage as the adrenaline left him drained, but the rage still smouldered in his chest. He would find the one who sent these men, and they would pay.

Fighting usually doesn't do well with explanations. Your system of magic should have been outlined well before you actually want to use it in a battle itself. Trying to do both can be a bit unwieldy, and you might have to design the battle specifically so you can do it smoothly.