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I always see good critics about Kingskiller Chronicles realistic magic system. But I can't stop wondering... "Why do people like it? Is it because it's more human and more close to reality?"

Stranger Things has some realism with Eleven too. When she uses her powers, she gets tired and has some limits based on range and mental strength too.

I know that balancing magic powers is important or else the characters get too overpowered or the situation could be solved easily using magic, etc and etc...

What I want know is: why should I do magic more realistic? Or why I should not?

I think this topic is more suitable for opinion-based answers involving defenders of low-fantasy fans and high-fantasy fans. Brandon Sanderson also has a topic on his website explaining about magic systems if you guys want know more.

I'm sure there is no definitive answer and the question seems to be very vague. But it still would be good to see what you guys think about this.

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  • Hi, and welcome to Writers. We just answered a question very close to this one recently. May 2, 2017 at 20:47
  • @LaurenIpsum These seem different enough to me. The other was "which should I do?" while this question has decided what and is asking how. I would link them but keep them distinct.
    – Michael
    May 2, 2017 at 20:49
  • Yes, Lauren. I dont know exactly how to ask this. This is something with more opened answers. What I want are just the opinions of people about "Why should magic be more realistic?" Maybe I should edit to ask also... "Why it shouldt?"
    – Hanilucas
    May 2, 2017 at 20:55
  • Just edited it, Lauren. See if it is ok now. or if I need to be more specific and/or give more info?
    – Hanilucas
    May 2, 2017 at 21:05

3 Answers 3

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I do not see this as a yes or no point, but as a gradable one, so the question is not whether I should have no rules or tons of rules, but rather between a few basic rules and lots of detailed, maybe even unnecessary for the story, rules.

Leaving out the 'no rules' extreme, I'll say that the fewer rules one has, the lazier the fictional world feels. A lot of pople might disagree with me on this particular point, but I like coherence in my fictional worlds so that is how I feel and, I suspect, a lot of other people too.

On a practical point, if the magic system gets created as the story progresses, there will be need for some spells or rituals later on that could have been useful at some event at the beginning. These will lead to readers asking 'well, why didn't they use that spell at that time?'. I believe this also happens in Harry Potter (I haven't read it but a couple of friends have said words to that effect). So, if you previously determine the rules for the magic system, these situations will not happen because, when an event pops up in the tale, you just go to the 'writer's magic rules book' and check what can be done.

A very detailed system, even going to the point where situations that will not happen in the story are taken into consideration, has the same appeal as mechanic has to those who have an interest in how things work. You see how that piece goes into the other piece and how, together, they make something else happen. It's alluring. Your mind starts conjuring and visualising a world of possibilities based on those pieces and their movements. You get an urge to create, you start thinking 'what if'. This is true for legos, engines, clockwork and magic systems.

But do not mix up a 'book of magic physics' with your story. Write it on a separate notebook or file or whatever. Let the rules be gleaned through how they're used and not through the mouth of a teacher.

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It should not matter. This is your world. You created it. You decide the rules. You choose how everything works. It really is as simple as that.

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The answer is quite simple...it's a question :). What kind of book are you writing? If you're writing something which (despite the magical elements) comes across as "grounded" then you should have lots of rules and at least some explanation around how it works.

This goes 10x if any of your main characters use magic to solve problems. Spell of 'Win Now' is super boring.

If you're writing something much more "high fantasy" or conceptual, and none of your main characters use magic consistently, then less explanation is necessary.

Your explanations don't even need to be correct or fully conceived - understanding of what makes magic, well, magic is not necessarily a science in your world. You don't need a detailed understanding of the ligaments, tendons, balancing muscles, brain pathways and nervous systems to be able to walk, it's instinctive.


On a personal note, I'm currently trying to write a loosely-historical low fantasy novel. A very small number of people in the world have access to limited forms of magic.

For me, this links into religious overtones and power structures at a human level. On a scientific level, I've tried to think a lot about the limitations of how the magic can work, even though there's very little understanding about where this "power" comes from.

Part of the book is a mentor-type character (who doesn't have magic) trying out various experiments with the main character (who does) as he tries to measure, map and understand something which is usually hidden behind layers of mysticism and secrecy.

Personally, I find that really interesting - while many might be bored to tears and not really want to know how it all works. Would Gandalf's magic be better if we knew how many giga-joules of energy he's outputting? I doubt it :)

Understanding is a double edged sword!

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