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Monday, December 9, 2013

Indie Review - Writing About Magic


Writing About Magic, by Rayne Hall, is a part of a series of books Ms. Hall has written to help writers hone their craft.  This book focuses on adding magic to fantasy fiction.  It can be found on Amazon.  I downloaded using the Amazon Prime Lending feature.

I met Rayne Hall on Twitter, and she has quite the presence there.  She tweets often, and is very helpful to other authors.  I highly recommend following her and engaging her if you get a chance.

Magic obviously is a big part of my fantasy writing, and many of the questions and criticisms of my early work focus on how I write magic.  Magic in my writing comes across vague and confusing.  I recognize this shortcoming, and so when I saw Ms. Hall had a book on the subject, I jumped at the chance to read it and learn something.

I do not know what I expected from the book, but I was struck first that it reads like a textbook or reference manual.  If I understand correctly, the author actually has taught this subject matter in a classroom setting, and the book feels as if it was pulled directly from that environment.  Each chapter even ends with a number of "homework" style questions/activities so that the reader can go and practice what was just taught.

At first read through, I was a little taken back by this style, but as I finished the book, I appreciate the way Ms. Hall tackled the subject.  Ms. Hall is not concerned with changing your voice or telling you HOW to write.  The book focuses more on what magic is and what role it plays in stories.  She then breaks down many different forms of magic from which to build a magic system around for your own world.

If magic is to be believable and serve a purpose in our writing, then we as writers must do our homework.  An inconsistent magic system, or a system where magic immediately solves all problems can destroy the story I'm trying to tell.

Ms. Hall has certainly done her homework in creating this resource.  She draws heavily from real world systems of "magic" in order to explain the style, training, etc. of the various styles of magic.  She then encourages the reader to take this information to create a new system that works for his world.

For this reason, I highly recommend Rayne Hall's Writing About Magic.  I consider it a vital resource in creating a magic system for my own work.  Though I "borrowed" the book through Amazon Prime, I will add it to my permanent collection, as I expect to refer to it often.  I also look forward to reading Ms. Hall's other books on the writing craft.