I figured that since I now have connection to the internets, and my fingers are wired to write, I’ll get back into the groove of IGMAN (I know I made mention previously about taking a break from it and moving toward Red Wing Black, but I’ve had a recent change of heart and, damn the torpedoes, I will finish this last rewrite before going somewhere else. So, in reaction, I’m blogging about it instead of actually writing on it. Go figure).
All books using magic as a tool or theme must have a magical structure. Like politics or religion or physics, creating an unseen force wielded by anyone or anything must be suitably explained to the reader. Even if it is based off reality (or, you know, Catholicism, as example).
High Fantasy requires much more explanation, generally, due to the near infinite nature of the magic being used (think Harry Potter. Literally anyone could be anyone else, down to the fingerprints, with just a single hair and the right potion). Yes I consider that High Fantasy: that world is in no way connected to mine.
Farther back, reading Dragonriders of Pern, a science fiction/fantasy crossover that required much research, backstory, and a complex ecosystem on top of magic-system, the explanation must be explained in great detail.
The Sword of Truth novels, even moreso, due to the permeation of magic in every aspect. Whole societies must exist.
Urban Fantasy, on the other hand, is an awkward crossover that, in recent years, has gained momentum due to Twilight and Dresden Files and Gaiman’s successful forays. The connect comes from archetypal connections along with a familiar world-structure, a reinforcing of the gothic elements involved with any big city. I believe more great writers are coming, too. With UF, magic can be basic. It can take the place of a gun, or a screwdriver, or anything plot-related that the writer needs. It can be as complex as the Wheel of Time, where whole worlds come crashing into ours as a whole and great wizards must placate demons and dragons in the process.
Unlike most UF novels, I decided to make the magic obscure and weave it heavily into perception and the idea that we have not only five senses, but eight. And according to my MC, we have eleven, with the final one being a vestigial Third Eye. My magical structure spins heavily around the idea that, in connection to Reality, eight other realms of existence overlap: Astral, Dream, Soul, to name three (they aren’t nearly as obscure as they seem). The existence of these realms allows a person to tap into them and use them in the real world as tools, weapons, defenses.
Butcher’s Dresden Files got a lot of things right. Even though Dresden has a firm grip on reality, is certain his magic works the way it should, and squares off against creatures that are just as powerful–or moreso–in the Real, he doesn’t spend much time stepping elsewhere. He has the Nevernever, some Neverland-esque place where faeries and his godmother live, but he spends as little time there as possible. Reality is cemented, concrete, straightforward, and structured as Absolute. Vampires exist wholly in the real world, as do werewolves and zombies and wizards. Butcher doesn’t deal with mystical on the whole. He focuses instead on the magical structure, one that also spins around will, will-power, and belief.
My MC, Soren, knows he’s crazy. His mind plays tricks on him due to the aftereffects of using magic, his training, and of course, fighting unseen things his whole life. He can’t differentiate between a memory of a person, the person’s ghost, or a demon impersonating the person. Talk about flawed.
The first novel focuses only on the Astral, mostly because Soren has sworn off most travel and instead tried to step away from energy-use altogether, and partially because I don’t want to complicate an already complex plot further. It’s enough for the reader to run the mental marathon Soren does without superimposing multiple realities to boot.
Unlike Dresden, Soren grew up cut off from the magical community. All the supernatural creatures he comes across are much more subtle, complex, and otherworldly than most UF. He doesn’t have a playbook to deal with werewolves or faeries or vampires. No garlic vs silver bullet vs stake through the heart mentality. He doesn’t have a monster-hunting dead grandmother watching over his shoulder. He only has his knowledge of people, of the dynamic principles of his reality (which, of course, includes eight other realities), and how the system he observes works.
This makes magic subtle, malleable, fleeting. Much more like de Lint’s novels, where the narrator’s perspective is aware of shifts in reality, of portals and creatures that don’t fit neatly into tropes or archetypes. My magic system works much more in the realm of the real than the magic systems of other writers: prayer has power, true power. Patterns and masks and the construction of staves have connections to pagan beliefs in this world.
I have elemental magic. Invocation and thaumaturgy and all that great wicked dark stuff that came around in the 6th century. Yet I have a whole body of people that look at my MC and scrunch up their noses in disbelief. Soren has no way to show them, usually, how his magic works. Unless Soren practices parlor tricks and sleight-of-hand, he’s out of luck with sharing personal connections to people. When his self-confidence is low, his ability to deal with the complexities of Astral attack is low, as well.
A keen observer could look at the novel and say, “This man is crazy. He creates his own evils and he fights them to conclusion.” Like Quixote. I wouldn’t disagree with him. Yet Soren succeeds. He saves many people. He helps, and assists, and fights his own, personal demons on top of all the demons that exist in the real world. And he doesn’t get away clean and safe. And his mentor is an abusive one that is more Dark Passenger (a la Dexter) than tangible. But that is how I like it.
Truth is, often, stranger than fiction.