Writing Ranting – Magic Makes a Story

Magic systems are more than just world building in fantasy fiction. As a writer, you make the rules and can use your magic system as part of the plot.

Here are things to consider for your magic system when planning your story…

  • Create a challenge for your characters like newly discovered magic, opening a magical room, translating a magic book.
  • Represent something emotional for your MC. Maybe trauma locked away their powers. Maybe an estranged parent has answers.
  • Establish a social hierarchy. More power could mean more respected or feared. Certain abilities might be good or bad in society.
  • Tools to complete a bigger task. Maybe a specific power will achieve the final goal. Maybe a certain combination of abilities is the only way to solve a problem.
  • Secret magic. Perhaps magic is banned, so any magic users have to hide it. Someone could dabble in dark magic and they have to keep it a secret.
  • A race. There could be something special that multiple people are trying to find.
  • Base your magic system on something real. Manipulating natural energy or elements can make it easy to set limits and exceptions.
  • Magical conduits like devices, runes, spells, etc. can have specific magical effects on things or people around them. 

There are probably more, but these are some of the main things that I have in various WIPS. 

My favourite is connecting emotion to magic. I have a character who fears her magic because her mother couldn’t maintain control, and my MC is worried she’ll end up the same. Another WIP has merging magic that is only possible with a strong emotional connection like family, friends and extra fun when it’s between lovers.

In one WIP, I imagine the magic as a way to combine magic, science, and religion in that one all powerful being (a sort of star) released a massive amount of energy that created the universe. This being then created worlds and more masses of energy that are like stars from a science perspective but are also similar to angels. Each ability has a scientific explanation or theory behind it, such as creating wormholes like portals, breaking down and reforming physical matter for shifting, bending light, etc. Sure, much of it is pushing it in relation to exact science, but it helps me as the writer decide what is and isn’t possible. 

One WIP has stones that hold the power of the elements, and only specific people can use them through special devices. The stones are also used for everyday things like light, heat, showers, helping plants grow, and powering airships.

Writing Update- The Fourth Wall Series.

Oops. I meant to give this one last check yesterday before posting it, since I post my writing ranting on Wednesdays. This week has been a bit weird with final prep for summer camp at work and family health stuff getting to me. Actually, this is perfect way to introduce todays post because it’s something I work on when I don’t have much.

The Fourth Wall is a new mini series I’ve started based on a TikTok video I made about my MC accidentally hearing me as the writer. I thought it would make a few short and fun pieces to have for various characters where they overhear me or tumble into my world if it suits the story’s magic system, which in some cases, it does.

It’s also a way to get an interest in my novels as prequel chapters since they’re set not long before the mains story and don’t spoil anything. I have some other short stories planned for various WIPs as non-spoiler backstories, and some bonus chapters from other POVs. But they’re something to share after I’ve published to keep people interested in between each book in the series.

Mostly, these started when I got into writing slumps or in the middle of planning. They helped with world-building and fleshing out my characters or detailing past events that don’t need whole scenes or chapters in the main book. 

I have my debut novel about to go through the publication process once I’ve chosen my editor and made some decisions on art, etc. My Fourth Wall story with Clair will be available before publication as a glimpse into her life. Also, it’s something fun to write during a busy few days where I need to write but can’t focus on the main novel.

Writing Ranting – How Realistic Are Your Characters? Part 1

I recently saw a few TikTok posts from the same account about portraying body size and characters of colour in books and related character art. I genuinely appreciated her pointing this out since I have mixed race characters and some who are plus sized. I’ve included a couple of her videos at the bottom.

My reasons for these characters vary from loosely representing people I know, including myself when it comes to weight, and being from various backgrounds that are part of the inspiration for my world.

For example, I have a character who is mixed Egyptian and Persian. Her skin colour seemed obvious once I’d decided her heritage, and any art I commission will reflect this. I’m reluctant to share my inspirational art right now because I don’t own it, but I imagine Jasmine from Aladdin with hints of Cleopatra as the best visual representation of my character.

As for her body size… that’s definitely inspired by my own weight problems. She’s depressed and under pressure and puts on weight when she’s due to emotional stress. Then she’s under a different kind of stress that causes her to lose a lot of weight. Both these instances represent my personal struggles with size, so if anyone has anything to say about her suddenly being slim, then I have a long list of reasons why this is very real. But by the end, her slightly larger size is when she’s more healthy mentally and emotionally.

I’m grateful for social media because I learn what readers really want as well as what I want to portray in my books. I would be mortified if something I’d written was offensive in this way, and while I know I can’t please everyone, I can take realistic representations seriously.

I also plan to use a sensitivity reader, especially in relation to race, to be absolutely sure I don’t use the wrong language when describing my character. I want my characters’ visuals to be clear but also using appropriate wording.

Writing Ranting – Helping Other Writers! Part 2

Writing may come naturally in some ways, but not necessarily in others. One writer might have the ideas for a fun story with a good structure. Another might have a knack for writing dialogue, while another is better at scene-setting or world-building. These are just a few aspects that make a good story. 

Working with others can help share your talents to make one super talent while keeping your stories your own. I would never consider sending anything to an editor or agent without running it by my peers, and in exchange, I help them too. 

Critiquing is a great way to share work with other writers. I found Critique Circle several years ago. I go by Fantasist if you want to find me on there. I’m not particularly active since I’ve finished critiques and betas on one book, and the next isn’t ready for sharing. But I found this website amazingly helpful. Not only learning about writing, but learning about my own style and what kind of writer I want to be.

I’m also on a couple of private writing chat groups and have my own on Discord, which is a bit quiet lately, but mostly because there aren’t that many people on it yet. Feel free to email me or find me on Discord lovefantasy#0367 for more info and an invite.

Sharing your work not only brings writers together, but you can learn so much about writing and what you want from it. I think I’ve learned more about writing from sharing and critiquing than anywhere else. 

Writing and Reading Ranting – Don’t Feel Bad I’ve Not Having Enough Time!

Lately life has been getting to me, and I haven’t had much time or brainpower to write or read. It happens to all of us. I meant to post this yesterday but forgot. 

Instead of huffing and getting frustrated about it, I’ve focussed on short posts for my writing blog which I’ve hashed out while waiting for something or half watching TV after lunch or dinner before getting on with the essentials. It takes less brainpower than writing my novels because I’m just expanding on whatever thoughts crop up on any given week in relation to writing. 

I’m always thinking about my novels or adding notes, but sometimes, sitting down to write at a document can feel daunting when life is weighing on me, so I’ve dialled back in that respect. I did manage to hash out some rough scenes last weekend on my viper WIP and felt pretty good about them. I can never let any WIP sit for long.

As for reading, I’m catching up with my Audible TBR since there are a few good series I’m partway through. I’m currently flipping between Mystic Bayou by Molly Harper and Halven Rising by Jules Barnard which are a group of standalones but follow on from one another through different protagonists. 

So I don’t feel bad for not writing and reading, because I am writing and reading in the ways that I can. And I’m keeping up with my social media posts since they feel good to make. I’m on TikTok as @lovefantasynovels and on Instagram as @emiiadashfire

Writing and Reading Ranting – What’s the Point if You Don’t Follow Through?

A writing and reading rant today since this both annoyed me as a reader but made me think about how I could avoid this as a writer. 

I’m going to start off vague so as not to spoil a recently released best-selling fantasy series. I recently saw a video review of a widely-wanted scene from book 4 of a series that was set up in book 2. I gave up on this series in book 3 so I didn’t read said scene, but I know what it was and how excited readers were over it. 

It fell short apparently, and quite a few reviews had said the same thing.

It’s like any build-up when you plant possibilities in a reader’s head. You need to either dial back the build-up to match a marginally interesting moment or amp it up and have the climactic scene to make it worth it, otherwise, it just feels like a letdown. The same can be said for overdoing a scene that wasn’t set up in any way or was just overdone with no real need to be.

I recently reread another popular fantasy series after several years. I won’t say which one, but if you’ve read it, you’ll probably recognise it. It’s not quite a top favourite, but I enjoyed it more the 2nd time and rediscovered a top favourite character (not the protagonist). Anyway, There’s a sort of prophecy where the protagonist has to sacrifice her magic and lifeforce to close the gates to other worlds and send the demon king back to his own world. Mades sense. But when we got to said scene, I’d clearly missed a key detail in that it wasn’t guaranteed that the demon king would be sent home. It was part of a bargain with another group of people who changed their minds at the last minute. I was like… WTF? 

I was prepared for something to go wrong, but not so pathetically. It made the whole prophecy look pointless since the protagonist was relying on an ancient bargain. I went back to see what I’d missed, and it was there, but… lamely pointed out. There was little to no doubt that it was a done deal, and certainly wasn’t established as something she had to worry about. So when the bargain failed, it just fell completely flat.

It became more of a plot device since it had other implications for the character by leaving her with virtually no magic. I can understand the need for it from that perspective, but honestly, there could have been countless other ways to do that with a surprise scene that left people more shocked than disappointed over it. 

On the bright side, it did get me thinking about a prophecy in my own book and how to balance the build-up with the climactic scene. It’s a very different prophecy but is hinted at and built up in a similar way, so I’m going to use this experience to help me think about what would work better or even if I need the prophecy at all. Could I throw in a twist instead? 

The Dragon’s Ring by Fil Reid – Out Today!

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of my writing buddy’s debut novel. Check her out on www.filreid.com or find the book on Amazon UK or Amazon US. Or click on the Amazon link via Goodreads and it should take you to your country’s Amazon. 

This time-travelling Arthurian fantasy was a fun ride from the start. Gwen is scattering her father’s ashes when she gets sucked back in time to when King Arther was just a prince. The rest… you’ll have to wait for my review coming soon. 

All Alone!

Characters might spend time alone, either before or after significant events. Preparing and processing is important for character motivation and consequential actions. It can also keep throughs out of busy scenes where it might distract from the moment.

Here are a few things I like when reading or writing characters on their own. 

  • Keep it short. Long paragraphs of time alone with their thoughts can be boring.
  • Tie it into something active, like exploring or going through old trinkets that prompt memories for the character to think about. 
  • Practicing something potentially useful is another way to make it active and have the character pause once in a while to remind themselves why they’re doing it. 
  • Make it lead up to something like a significant event that the MC is preparing for. What are they’re hopes and fears for the outcome
  • Or have the MC processing something afterwards. How do they feel about it and what are they going to do next? 
  • Maybe have them talk to a pet or inanimate object or someone they lost in an imaginary conversation. 

So there you have it. Ways for an MC to be alone without boring readers with nothing but thoughts. 

Random Update!

Don’t forget to check out my Reading Ranting for thoughts on reading and book reviews. Feel free to ask about my Writing Ranting Discord group @lovefantasy#0367. Follow me on Instagram and TikTok.

Writing is going really well. I rewrote the intro the Out of Ashes, which is now with a couple of writing friends for fresh eyes. I’m happy with the new opening. It’s a little more dramatic on an emotional perspective, but not too heavy on story points. 

We’ll see what my writerly people say, then I’ll revise it based on their suggestions, and try agents again. So far, no luck. One said they would take a look at my full manuscript in January, but they’re not taking on new clients this year. That was encouraging that they showed interest.

I’m not taking it to heart because a writer never knows what a potential agent might be looking for. You miss the mark by a fraction, and they won’t consider you. I’ve read enough people moaning about not getting an agent to know that it’s a long shot and might take a good while. 

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to self-publish any time soon unless I edit myself (BIG FAT NO NO ON THAT) and smile very sweetly at a couple of graphic designers I know to do a super cheap cover and help me format the book. I wouldn’t feel right asking for that if I couldn’t pay upfront, even if they did offer me friends and family discount. But if I won the lottery, then I’d love to commission a cover and formatting from them as a fully-paying client.

I’ve gone TikTok mad 🤪. It started off as an extension of my Instagram with writing-related reels. It spiralled from there and became a blue-haired steampunk girl cosplay. This is actually super fun for my writing since I have a blue-haired steampunk character. She started off as a secondary character, but as I wrote more of the book, I saw openings for more characterization.  

Here are some recent favourites from my Instagram and TikTok. As you can see, they are quite different, but both are meaningful to me as a writer and avid reader.

The link to this TikTok video looks questionable depending on what app you’re looking at it, but it’s a safe link.

But mostly, it’s fun and has prompted me to put myself out there more. After a rough few years with low self-esteem and serious self-doubt, it’s about time I picked myself up. I used to do all kinds of creative things,and I was good at them, but finding the confidence and brain power to do them has been hard in recent years. 

I’m also doing fun videos on Instagram in relation to reading and writing, which I freaking love doing. I bought a ring light, some cheap props, and new makeup, but apart from that, I don’t need anything. I use TikTok or Instagram’s built-in video editing software or PowerDirector’s free version for more precise editing. I’ve yet to explore Snapchat’s video capabilities, but it’s on my list of things to learn more about in order to make my videos more interesting. And as of October, I’ll be minimising content on this site and posting links to my Instagram and Facebook.

On the personal front, I’ve painted my spare room and closet, died the lower half of my hair turquoise, and am just having a lovely summer break. I still have two weeks off, plus a mini trip planned, just a couple of nights away, but I’m looking forward to the change of scenery.

Featured image from a recent TikTok and Instagram. Yup, that’s me, and I love this video despite struggling with self image for years.

Writing a Series!

Writing a series can boggle a writer’s mind before you get things figured out. If you plan to write multiple standalones with overlapping characters and world-building, then you have more freedom with plots. But if you plan for your series to be one massive story with shorter installments in each book, then you need to think carefully about how to start.

Here’s a quick list of things to consider. See below the list for more thoughts.

  • Plan ahead in plot and world-building.
  • Don’t reveal too much.
  • Don’t hide too much.
  • Multiple POVs can keep things fresh.

Trust me, I’ve drafted a pentalogy, and book 5 was the deciding factor in things that I needed to play on as soon as book 1. I strongly recommend you plan the whole thing, even if book 2 and onwards is more of a rough synopsis or scribbles of world-building that only make sense to you. It helps you see where you want the series to end so you can get the journey right.

Consider carefully what elements you play on in book 1. You don’t want to reveal everything and repeat yourself in the rest of the series. At the same time, you need to hint at things you’ll need for later. Ideas that come out of nowhere can annoy readers depending on how you’ve played the possibilities prior to the reveal. This also helps with keeping things fresh in each book. 

One idea, and hear me out, is to switch protagonist in each book, or at least alternate. My Starlighters saga alternates female protags with their respective love interests as the 2nd MC. I still give the others a POV so readers don’t get disappointed if they fall in love with my 1st protagonist and her love interest, but they take a back seat in book 2 and 4 to give a fresh perspective on the ongoing story. 

I also have alternating minor POV for a couple of short scenes to give a fuller perspective throughout the whole series. You’d be surprised how much a POV switch can spice things up. 

There are so many things to consider when writing a series, but if I’ve learned anything while outlining and drafting multiple series, is that you have to account for future possibilities. 
Image by fotografierende from Pixabay