Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Writing About Magic - Book Review

Writing About Magic by Rayne Hall is a concise guide for writers who seek to incorporate magic in their writing. The book is divided into 15 chapters including: Magic Systems, Training and Initiation, Correspondences, Magical Weapons and Warfare, just to name a few.
Originally a series of lectures given by Ms. Hall, the book is written in short paragraphs and bullet points.
It is a quick and helpful read, particularly for those who want to write about magic in the 21st century.

Several chapters include the "blunders to avoid". Here are a couple:
- "Avoid giving [your magician] too much talent. A character who excels at both magic and psychic gifts can solve too many problems too easily, which would make the story boring." This is quite true, and as writers we will probably find it difficult not to give our characters too much especially if the magician is the lead character – that, at least, is my problem in life.
- Day job – most magicians can't make their living from their magic. Most have day jobs.
Hall notes, more than once, that magicians tend to work in healing and science-related fields like medicine, aromatherapy, massage therapy…etc.
Although there is a bit of added focus on Wicca and modern witchcraft, there was no mention of Druids.

Each chapter ends with a couple of questions as food for thought as well as a writing exercise.

There are also notes on word choice and collocation. For example "In Wiccan Witchcraft [the spirits] are 'invoked' or 'invited'."
Choosing the correct names and profession for your character is important, Hall notes, highlighting that "if your character is clearly a shaman, a necromancer or a witch, use to that term."

There are also references to medieval and pre-literate periods and how to incorporate magic within those periods.

Most of the chapters are dedicated to magic that involves spell-casting rather than magic the character might be born with or elemental magic – at least that was one of things I was looking for. I also wish the chapter on costuming and equipment were longer.

It was also fun to trace how previous reads and popular writers incorporated aspects mentioned in this book in their own works. I found myself scribbling Harry Potter here and Lording of the Rings there among others as I have read.

Old cover for Writing About Magic
Used by Goodreads
Writing About Magic is rich with ideas for writing. Whether through the examples Hall makes and suggests or through reading, one gets ideas that can be in-line with Hall's notes or their reverse to create possibly comic scenes or stories.

The book also contains Hall's short story "By Your Own Free Will" as an application of several of the characteristics and techniques mentioned in the book, such as: love spells, correspondences, and magic and free will.

Writing About Magic is an excellent, well-ordered reference for new and modern writers. It is a light, easy to navigate and enjoyable read.

I'm also keeping this book in the easy-to-access pile to keep my mind fresh with ideas and to remind me not to give my character "too much talent".

Learn more about Rayne Hall by following her on Twitter. She regularly posts tips for new writers.

Other books about writing by Rayne Hall

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