Twelve Questions Answered

A few days ago I posted Four Character Sheets to the Wind about the 12 Questions Mette Harrison suggests asking yourself about your magic system. I sat down and wrote out my answers. I’m not sure I answered everything the way the creator intended, but this gives me at least some guidelines for the system so I don’t pull a fast one on myself.


Image courtesy of [digitalart] / 

Twelve Questions to ask yourself about your magic system:

  • How is it learned and executed?

Most people in the world don’t know magic exists. Children are more easily able to access magic when young because they’re creative and have grand imaginations. The sky’s the limit. Not every child can use magic inherently, but it can be taught in a limited scope to most toddlers. If they show aptitude, it can be coaxed through their school years. As long as they practice, they can keep the talent. If they lose interest, they become banal to it like everyone else. Magic isn’t often taught to anyone without a specific aptitude, especially since the majority of the world doesn’t believe in it. When one loses their sense of wonder and falls into the monotony of everyday life, they can lose the ability to cast easily.

When those with aptitude are taught, magic is executed through force of will. Using spells, enchantments, circles, etc can make it easier. Once you’re practiced enough, the bells and whistles aren’t necessary. Through force of will and thought, magic happens. Meditation can aid in magical workings, freeing the unconscious mind from mundane thoughts. When in a meditative state, the caster has a limited focus. They can work with the things they went into meditation with, but it’s harder to switch gears.

  • How is it accessed?

Through the mind.

  • Does it have a will of its own?

The only part of the magic system to have a will of its own would be thoughtforms. When created, they can become almost aware and can grow out of control if not checked and released by their creator. Elsewise magic is simply an ambient force in the world waiting to be taken advantage of.

  • Is it restricted in space and time?

Magic is more powerful the more people who believe in it. If they were to go back to the middle ages, magic would be much easier to control. However, there is the constant threat of being burned as a witch as well.

  • What does available magic do?

Available magic can do anything the caster can imagine strongly enough. If they want to set someone on fire, they can set someone on fire. If they want to turn them into a lawnchair, they could turn them into a lawnchair. The more unrealistic the spell cast, however, the more effort it takes. It would be easier to turn a human into a troll than it would be to turn them into a lion.

  • How does it relate to the character, plot and theme of the book?

The characters in the story who use magic come from a magic using family. They use it to hunt demons, bind spirits and the like. Magic is uncommon but extremely useful against enemies most of the world doesn’t see.

  • What is the cost of magic?

When magic is used, it is mentally fatiguing. If the mental fatigue becomes too much, physical symptoms can exhibit. To most people, it appears as dehydration and physical exhaustion. Some magic users may have the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia. If magic users become too exhausted, they can die. As a channel for magic, the body won’t shut down as it would in other fatigue cases. They will literally burn themselves out and die.

  • What can it not do?

Magic can’t bring people back from the dead as they were before they died. They become zombies.

  • How long does it last?

The effects of the spell will last as long as the caster can keep concentration on the spell. In cases of setting someone on fire, the fire will burn until it no longer has fuel. If the caster continues focusing on the fire burning, however, it may not be snuffed by traditional means or it may relight after being doused.

  • Who can use it?

It can be used by anyone with an aptitude who has been trained. It can be self-taught, but sometimes with questionable results.

  • How do others react to it?

Most people don’t know magic is real. Those who see it will probably gloss it over and think it was a hallucination. Those with an aptitude are more open to magic being real, but if they’re groomed to believe magic is impossible, they will eventually believe it.

  • Why haven’t people with this power taken over the world?

There are incredibly few magic users in the world. Those who use magic don’t want to become a test subject. They are careful to keep it hidden wherever possible. In the case of resurrecting the dead, there would be charges for desecrating graves/remains. Even if they could prove their power, they would be locked up. That, however, doesn’t apply to villains once they amass enough power. 🙂


Are there aspects of my magic system I may have missed? Does this make sense to you? If not, leave me a comment. I’m up for suggestions!


About Carrie Fulk Vaughn

Carrie Fulk Vaughn (C.V. Madison) is a licensed massage therapist, author of LGBTQIA, Urban fantasy, horror & romance. Gamer geek full of Mountain Dew and schadenfreude pie. Twitter addict. Ball jointed doll collector.

Posted on February 25, 2013, in For Writers, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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