Work in Progress Page Updated

The page was set up when this template was introduced, but until two or three days ago it remained blank. I finally got the opportunity to add some content to the page and that’s when I discovered the progress bar doesn’t work in the page template (although it worked perfectly in the sidebar).

After much struggling and not getting anyway fast, I decided it was time to ask for help. Lesigner Girl over at Illusia not only sorted the problem out for me, she coding the progress bar in CSS so that I could do away with the ugly old table coding for good. Thank you so much, Lesigner Girl. 🙂

The works listed on the page are only a few of my current list of projects. All the completed manuscripts will be added at a later date. Newer projects will be added as I start them. No doubt I will fiddle with the content layout until I get it just right, as this will be a source of inspiration and encouragement for myself as it shows that no matter what I might sometimes think…I do write and I do have the staying power to finish a project.

Mage Mustering

In January 2006 I wrote a story for a competition in an Australian magazine. It didn’t win and now I’ve been rewriting the story for use in the upcoming Anthology publication.

The story has been completely revamped. I used the characters and the setting, but the plot took a lot of “bashing” and eventually changed altogether. The end result is a stronger plot, better characters and a world with a magical system. Yes, Mage Mustering (which was once called Guards’ Mustering) is the short story which caused my recent dilemma.

At the beginning of this week I set a personal goal: The story will be finished and edited by the end of this weekend.

Yesterday, being a public holiday due to the Apec meeting in Sydney, allowed me to turn my mind to writing in an aggressive way. I went to bed at my normal workday time on Thursday night, instead of staying up late as I usually do when I don’t have to worry about arriving at work with bleary eye sight. I set my alarm for 7.30am with the intention of sitting at the computer, all day if necessary, and getting the battle scene written.

By the time I had made a cup of tea – I honestly wouldn’t consider sitting at the computer without a cuppa, not first thing in the morning – and settled down to write it was 7.40am. I had a lot of trouble getting started and fought off the urge to play a game of pinball first. In the end, I bribed myself with the allowance of a well earned rest (with the promise of breakfast) after half an hour of writing. I thought that was fair.

I opened the file and forced myself to read the battle scene through from the beginning (yes, I made a few editing changes as I went) and then I started typing. Ten minutes later, or so I thought, my stomach grumbled and I looked at the clock and discovered that I had been typing for two hours – it was 9.45am – and the scene was finished.

Now that is what writing should always be like. It’s proof that I was so engrossed in what I was doing that I didn’t even know how much time had passed. I love it when that happens and wish it happened more often.

I have since gone through the entire story twice. I will edit it again this afternoon, but I think I can safely say Mage Mustering is done! 😀

Making Magic Real in your Fantasy Writing

By Will Kalif

Magic is a wonderful aspect of Fantasy. It can add whole new dimensions to the world you are creating by bringing new dilemmas and new problems and challenges. It can also bring a fair amount of spicy and interesting conflicts. But magic is not a panacea. It should not be used to easily solve plot problems and difficulties that your protagonists face. It has to follow rules and you have to establish these rules.

Everything in your fantasy world follows rules. And even if these rules aren’t spoken they are implied and understood. Do your characters have to eat? Of course they do! If a character gets wounded in battle is there a price that is paid? Of course there is. Magic must also follow rules. It is a tool and a source of interesting material for your writing but it is not a panacea. And these rules must be understood by your reader.

There is room for a lot of creativity when it comes to putting magic in your writing. After all, it is magic! But you cannot use it as a crutch to easily solve the problems your characters come across. You should use it as a tool for adding richness to your world and for adding another level of problems to be overcome. The way this is done is with the simple rule that magic always brings something with it -something unexpected or unwanted. This something could be unwanted side effects or as of yet unknown implications. Here are some suggestions and guidelines for successfully using magic in your writing.

There is a price to be paid. This is a common technique for managing magic and you see it often. In order for characters to use magic they have to pay a price. This price could be as simple as body weakness and the need for sleep or as complex as the need to drain their own blood to cast spells. (The more potent the spell the more blood that is required.) This puts a limit on the magic.

The unknown consequences to come – Often times a protagonist uses magic without fully understanding the implications and early in a story he or she reaches new heights and later finds out there are dire consequences. This is a useful tool that serves as a way for the character to throttle and monitor his use of magic. This technique works very well because it helps in character growth. Early in the work the character is naive but develops a certain amount of wisdom as time passes.

Corruption of self – The use of magic is often tied very closely with the corrupting effect that power brings. As a character uses more and more magic he becomes morally tainted by it. This is a parable for the adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The loss of something – Sometimes using magic means the loss of something. This could be the loss of physical abilities, loss of humanity or even the loss of the ability to get married. It could be anything and it is a great tool for a writer because it brings up conflicts where your characters have to carefully weigh the benefits and pitfalls of using magic. So how should you manage magic in your writing?

The first rule of thumb is to lay out the basic rules for the magic early in your writing. That way the reader isn’t surprised by the weak writing trick of having your protagonist solve problems by pulling out obscure and powerful spells. Your reader can also enjoy and understand the conflicts as they occur. Second of all you must always be clear on the ramifications of the use of magic. There is always some kind of price to be paid. And finally you must remember that the antagonist probably has just as much right to the magic as the protagonist. There must always be balance. It is a sign of weak writing if the good guys always get powerful spells and the bad guys just have clubs. Keeping this balance of power also makes for much more interesting stories. If you are using magic to solve your character’s problems you are cheating your reader. Good magic should bring up just as many problems as it solves.

Will Kalif is the author of two self-published epic fantasy novels. You can download free samples of his work at his personal website:
Storm The Castle – Creativity and Fantasy with an edge

Or you can visit his site devoted to fantasy on the web at:
The Webs Fantasy Guide

Note by Karen: I have included this post, written by a third party, on this website because it is something I am currently having difficulty with. If I’m having trouble with magic in fantasy, possibly other visitors to this site are too. I hope the post helps more writers get magic right in their fantasy stories.

Finding the REAL Problem

Last week I wrote about My Writing Future and a few days later I gave a Dilemma Update, and now I’m going to write about finding out what the real problem was.

For as long as I can remember I have always NOT enjoyed writing conflict/battle scenes. I tend to skip over the top of them when I read published novels, because I’m not interested in this part of the story. I suppose I want to skip over them when I’m writing too. However, I have written smaller – contained – fight scenes that don’t go on forever. I don’t particularly like them, but I manage. Where I have a problem is the conflict scenes that are on a much larger scale. You know the ones I mean – the Lord of the Rings or Magician type battles.

That narrowed things down for me a bit. It has nothing to do with genre, or what I had for breakfast, or my doubts about my writing…it has something to do with the actual battles in my stories. But what?

Then a friend asked me what magic my antagonist and protagonist could do. And then I was asked to describe that magic from a non-magical person’s point of view.

Excellent questions if he had asked someone who knew the answer. But he didn’t ask someone else, he asked me and he was referring to my story, which is something I should know ALL about. Right? Wrong!

Now we’re getting to the real problem. I don’t know anything…and I mean anything…about my world’s magical system. Is it any wonder I sit in front of the computer and play Minesweep or Pinball instead of writing? How can a writer weave their magic when they don’t know anything about magic? I’ve been writing long enough to know that it can’t be done. “Write what you know” means that if you haven’t done it personally, then research it until you can convince people you have. I’m a planner by nature, yet I completely pushed the details of this important scene to one side in the hope that it would write itself. And believe me…I waited for that to happen.

A simple question lead me to doing what I should have done before I started writing the short story…I researched magic. I built a magical system, I created attack and defence spells and I feel as if I can now tackle the scene because of it. In fact, the scene is three quarters written.

Here are some of the websites I visited in order to get me started in magic spells, systems, types, and how to put it all together. I hope you learn from them as much as I did.

The Rules of Matrin’s Magic by Holly Lisle – I think she’s talking about magic in one of her books, but it’s a good read for anyone wanting to use magic in their own story.

Tolkien, Fantasy and Magic by David Grubbs – This is talking about magic in the Tolkien series, but, again, it’s worth a read.

Spells of Dungeons & Dragons – Even though this one is written about Dungeons & Dragons, it will give you ideas about type of spells that your world might have.