Making Magic

By Gail Z. Martin

Which comes first—the mage or the magic?

If you’re an author, the magic system you develop for your world determines a lot about who becomes a mage, and how your mage functions.  And that’s the fun.

Between my Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings series and my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga books, I’ve created two very different magical systems—leading to two very different types of mages.

Where do you begin?  It depends on where you want to end up.

It helps to start by thinking about the role magic plays in the world you want to build.  Where does magic come from?  Is it something that comes from inside an individual, like a talent, or is it a natural force that some people can channel better than others?  How many people can do magic?  A society in which everyone can do a little magic is going to be very different from one in which only a few people can do very powerful magic.

Is magic an open fact, or something hidden?  Are magic users accepted and valued, or feared and persecuted?  This will make a big difference for your character.  And if magic is largely accepted or largely punished, are there places where there’s an exception to the rule?  Do some parts of society feel differently about magic than other groups?

What does magic cost the mage?  If there isn’t some kind of personal limitation or cost to doing magic, mages become all-powerful.  There must be limits.  Maybe magic causes a severe physical reaction, like headache or weakness that limits how much a single mage can do without dying.  Perhaps magic can burn a person up if handled wrong.  Maybe a mage must study for decades to learn spells and potions, or perhaps the mage doesn’t need any tools or fancy words at all, using only the power of his/her mind.

How does your character feel about magic?  Does he/she possess any magical ability?  If so, does he see it as a good thing?  If not, does she wish she had ability?  Is power a blessing or a curse, or just a tool to be used?  If magic is rare, does the character feel special?  If it’s more like a talent, does the character take it for granted?

Once you have a clear idea about how magic works in your world and how mages function, it becomes a lot easier to develop your mage characters and set them in a world that functions with logical rules.  I’ve found that it also helps to do your homework and read up on magical beliefs in the real world, both past and present, and understand the tools and rituals that practitioners believe summon or enhance power.

Writing about magic and mages is part of the fun of creating a fantasy world, one of my favorite parts.  Whether you write magic or just read about it, the next time you come upon a magical system, pay attention to how it works.  After all, that author worked hard to make magic!

The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event includes book giveaways, free excerpts and readings, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 21 awesome partner sites around the globe.  For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in her new The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn  and The Dread).  She is also the author of two series on ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Series.  Her books are available in bookstores worldwide and on Kindle, Kobo and Nook. Find her online at





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