The magic system in my first series — the LonTobyn Chronicle — had three elements: the mage, his or her familiar (usually a bird of prey), and a crystal or ceryll, as I called it, that focused the power sourced in the psychic connection between bird and mage. Each person’s crystal, and by extension, each person’s magic, had a different color. Blue, red, yellow, green, purple, silver, gold, orange; there was a ceremony each year in which all the mages of the land processed through the capital city, and I pictured it as this winding, glowing rainbow of light and birds and people in cloaks. As I wrote the three books and introduced new characters, I had to assign each one a magic color, and I have to admit that I did this pretty randomly. “Hmmmm. I’ve used shades of blue and red a lot. Better make this one pale violet….” At the end of the third book, in the midst of the climax of the entire series, I had three key characters working together to defeat the magic of the bad guy. And as it turned out, one character had blue power, one had magic that was golden yellow. And the third character, the lynchpin of their alliance, had magic that was emerald green, so that the magic of the first two seemed to blend into the power of this last character. I couldn’t have planned it better. But the thing is, I didn’t plan it at all. I’d assigned those colors ages before without giving them much thought. When I realized how it had come together, I just sat back in my chair and stared at the screen, too amazed to do anything more. If I hadn’t chosen those colors, the last scene would have still worked, but it wouldn’t have been that perfect; it wouldn’t have all come together that way.
I had similar things happen with the magic system in my Winds of the Forelands series. That world had different types of magic — healing, fire, the ability to raise mists and winds, etc. Most sorcerers had a few different kinds of magics — two, three, maybe four — but only a very few had all of them. Again, I assigned them randomly. Okay, I did it with some purpose, mostly in trying to sprinkle a variety of magics through the population of Qirsi sorcerers. But there was a good deal of blind chance involved as well. At the end of the series, though, I had two or three scenes that just worked because the distribution of magics matched perfectly with the sorcerers who were in specific places at specific times. As with the LonTobyn books, I was amazed and surprised at how neatly it all fit together.
It’s easy to say that subconsciously I had planned all of this out, that while I might have assigned those magical colors at random, my plotting of the books incorporated the information at some level and led me to that perfect blending of narrative, magic, and color theory. And that the same thing happened with the different powers wielded by my Qirsi in the Forelands books. Maybe so. Then again, I’m really not convinced I’m that smart….
I prefer to think that when we are deep in the creative process — when we are completely in sync with our characters, our worldbuilding, and our narrative — real magic happens. Sounds ridiculous, I know. Magic doesn’t really exist, right? Wrong. I’ve watched my brother, who is a professional painter, take a blank, flat canvas, and with a few strokes of his brush, create an image that not only has color and form, but also depth and even movement. Tell me that isn’t magic. I’ve watched a friend of mine, a stunningly talented musician, take a familiar song that was originally recorded with several guitars, bass, drums, piano, even horns and strings, and with just his hands and his guitar, turn it into a solo piece that works every bit as well. Tell me that isn’t magic. I’ve taken pictures that I thought were okay, only to come home, look at them on my computer screen, and discover that I’d captured colors and contrasts and contours I hadn’t even known were there. Tell me that isn’t magic.
There’s no formula for this. There are no instructions I can offer you so that the same things will happen in your books. At least not beyond this: Do the work. Build your worlds, develop your characters, write the stories that are burning inside you. If you’re true to your creative vision, the magic will happen.
So sure, for all you skeptics out there, it’s possible that those moments at the end of the LonTobyn and Winds of the Forelands books were nothing more than the fortuitous blending of creativity and background work and kismet. But to me, that sounds like magic.
How about you? What magical moments have you experienced as you write your books and stories? Time to share.
David B. Coe