Behind the Scenes Magic

Every novelist engages in worldbuilding.  Even if the novel is set in present-day New York, even if the novel is about investment bankers (eww), even if nothing even remotely paranormal, magical, or supernatural happens, the writer of the novel of investment bankers in modern-day New York is still worldbuilding.  They have to bring their New York to life.  They have to trick readers into believing the squiggles on the page are telling a story, one that happened just yesterday, in a place everyone knows something about.

It's not so different for me, when I write about Wistril's Castle Kauph or Markhat's rough-and-tumble town of Rannit.  I have to make the place at least seem to be alive.  If the reader doesn't believe he or she has been taken to a strange new place with new sights and new sounds and new smells, then I've failed, and worse I've wasted my reader's time.

I put a lot of work into my latest fantasy setting.  I'm talking of course about Mage Meralda's city Tirlin, which is the setting for my new book All the Paths of Shadow.

Of all the fantasy worlds I've put to paper, Tirlin would be the place I'd choose if I was told I was to be transported to one of my worlds.  Rannit, on the other hand, would be great fun, but only until the sun set.  I'm too old to run from hungry halfdead and, perhaps worse, only Rannit's rich have hot running water or fancy flush toilets.  Tirlin has both, and the streets are safe day and night, and since Meralda accidentally invented electric generators and electric lights, iPods and the Internet can't be far behind.

Since All the Paths of Shadow is a fantasy, magic is a big part of what makes Meralda's world tick.  So I spent a good bit of time trying to create a self-consistent magical system to go along with the new world.  I think I came up with something both fun and unique.

Latching mass, for instance.  Spells in Meralda's world need to be connected -- latched -- to something physical.  The larger and more powerful the spell, or the greater the number of spells, the more massive the latching mass needs to be.

Simple spells don't require much mass.  Meralda carries a copper tube in her bag to which an elementary radiant spellwork is latched.  She speaks a trigger word, and a beam of light shines from the tube.  It's a flashlight, but instead of dry cell batteries and an incandescent light bulb, you've got a bit of metal as latching mass with a radiant spellwork attached.

That automatically places limits on the nature of the spells and magic Meralda can use.  You can't level a city with a wand, for instance, because a foot or so of oak lacks the mass.  You'd need a monumental object for a monstrously powerful spell -- an ancient tower, for instance, something a thousand feet tall, made of solid granite.  Not that I'm hinting.  Just thinking out loud.

To me, that's the fun part of world building.  You set your own rules, and then you start the game, and see how they play out.

All the Paths of Shadow, in Kindle format.  Or, if you prefer mobi or epub, click here to hit the Cool Well Press site.

Either way, I hope the magic works for you, too.