Thursday, April 1, 2010

Using Magic as a Free Pass

Kristi and Valerie both got me thinking with their posts this week. Kristi mentioned that it is human to act out of character, and Valerie talked about listening to your characters, and recognizing when something is too far out of character.

When you throw magic or paranormal elements into the story, does it change those things? Can your character do things without thinking, or do something totally out of character because magic makes her do it?


But how boring is that?

Look at Harry Potter. Sure, he uses his wand to get out of some pretty tight situations, but Harry's wand doesn't just do what he wants it to do. He has to learn how to use it. And he isn't always right and sometimes bad things happen as a result. But Harry learns from his mistakes and come mega showdown, Harry and his wand kick ass.

I'm guilty of doing this myself. Something awesome and scary happens to my MC, and yet she follows an awesome and scary guy into the woods anyway. As of right now, it's because A.) Awesome-scary guy used freaky-deaky powers on her and B.) she's got nowhere else to go.

Nowhere else to go is way more realistic, right? But if you had nowhere else to go, would you still go into the woods with awesome-scary guy? No. But maybe she would. It's up to you/me/the writer to decide. But, like Valerie said, whatever you/me/we decide, it has to make sense. It has to make the reader think "okay, that might be stupid, but I get why she did it."

If I would just have Awesome-scary guy use magic powers on her to make her forget everything and follow him like a drone, that's boring. And it makes me not like the MC because she's kind of pathetic.

Sure, you can just write something magic in there to make her do it. But would you want to read that?


  1. Great post! I especially hate it when magic is used to solve the big problem at the end of the book. Like "oh no! He's going to die! Wait, what's that? My touch is suddenly magically healing because of the power of love? All I have to do is touch his wound and blink three times and he'll live! Yay!"

    It's cheating when a problem is solved without any work on the characters' parts at all.

  2. Yes! And you made me realize a mega error in Fated, but I think I fixed it at the end. If not, I think it's time to move on, lol.

  3. I love this post! You're right that whatever the magic is has to be believable and not an easy way out. I understood why Inda went into the woods with Drystan so I think you did a good job with that. :)

  4. You are so right! That's why no matter how fantastic the magic it's ultimately about the humanity of the characters that makes it a great story.

    BTW, I left you a surprise on my blog today so stop by when you get a chance. :)

  5. I certainly get frustrated when I read a book and that happens. It cheapens the whole thing for me.

    Since I don't write fantasy, I'll never be tempted to do this. But I do like to read it as long as it's realistic.


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