Does your story have a mage, a wizard, a sorcerer or a witch cast a spell? Here are some tips how to make this scene believable and exciting.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE RITUAL
Each act of magic requires a ritual. The details vary, depending on the magician’s skill level and preferences, and the system of magic, but broadly it covers eleven steps. You you want to structure your scene along the stages of the ritual, or show only some of the steps and gloss over others.
The mage locks the door, reads the instructions, gets his tool ready, assembles the ingredients, dons his robe, lights the candles.
The mage now creates a circle. This can be a physical circle (for example, drawn with a finger in the sand or with chalk on the floorboards) or a mental one (visualised in her mind). The circle serves two purposes. It keeps harmful influences (e.g. dangerous demons attracted by the ritual) out, and it keeps the magic power in.
The mage prays to his god or goddess or a saint of his religion, summons a demon, calls nature spirits or invites the spirits of his ancestors, with a request that they land a helping hand. Some mages will make an offering to the spirits they invoke, for example, pouring wine on the ground or – for darker kinds of magic – a bowl of blood to welcome the demon.
- Altering the State of Consciousness
The magician changes how her brain functions so it becomes receptive to magic. Often, this involves going into a trance, for example through chanting, drumming or dancing. Deep meditation is also a possibility. Some mages take mind-altering drugs as a short-cut, while others consider that wrong.
- Raising Power
Magic needs energy, and the magician either taps into an energy source or creates energy. This is an important phase of the ritual; without it, magic will not work. If you like, you can add sensory effects here, such as flickering lights, sounds, and changes in temperature. Readers enjoy these details.
- Speaking the Spell
The mage speaks or chants the words of the spell. In some magic systems (such as Ancient Egyptian magic), it’s essential to get the words, pronunciations and intonations exactly right. In others (such as Wiccan witchcraft) the words are merely a vehicle by which the spell travels, and what matters is the intent, i.e. the magician needs to concentrate fully on the purpose of the spell.
- Thanking or Dismissing the Spirits
Once the spell is cast, the mage thanks the spirits for their assistance (if she invited them) or dismisses them (if she summoned them), or says another prayer to her goddess or god.
- Closing the circle
The mage dismantles the physical circle (for example, by wiping away the chalk line), or visualises the imaginary circle as fading.
The mage needs to come back to reality, The quickest and easiest is to drink some water or eat a little bread.
- Keeping Records
Like a scientist conducting experiments, the mage records what exactly he did during the ritual, with which ingredients, what the purpose was, how it felt, and so on. This allows him to keep track of the efficacy of the magic, and learn for future rituals.
Magic is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. After working major magic, the mage needs a rest. If possible, she’ll take a nap.
Steps 2, 3, 4 and 5 are sometimes carried out in a different order or combined. For example, by drumming and dancing, the mage can change her consciousness and raise power at the same time.
The ritual can take as little as two seconds or as long as two days. A public ritual is likely to take longer than a private one, because the mage wants to please the audience.
An experienced magician may use a shorter ritual than an inexperienced one. Ritual helps the magic, and a novice needs all the help she can get. An inexperienced magician gets best results if she adheres to the ritual precisely and takes a lot of time. A veteran mage can do something in minutes or seconds because she has the experience.
Here are some ideas how you can create twists to keep things exciting.
What if the mage has to work magic at short notice, without time for proper preparation, or without the accustomed tools and necessary ingredients?
What if the circle she cast is incomplete, and an evil entity enters while she is in trance?
What if she requests the help of a spirit, and that spirit refuses to support the spell?
What if he summons a demon, and that demon is too powerful for him to control?
What if tiredness or distractions make it impossible for her to concentrate, and she can’t hold the intent in her mind?
What if he’s mentally exhausted after the ritual, and his enemies use his vulnerability to attack?
You can also twist some of these ideas for a different perspective. If the good guys in your story seek to combat an evil sorcerer, they may try to distract him while he focuses on the spell’s intent, or to attack the normally invincible mage during the short window of vulnerability after magic spell.
What kind of rituals have you included in your magic scenes?
Do you write fantasy fiction? This book is a resource for authors. Crammed with information, tips and plot ideas, it helps you create stories about magic and magicians which are believable and exciting.
Learn about power-raising, ritual, training, initiation, love spells, sex magic, costuming, equipment, correspondences, magical weapons, healing, protection, miracles, spells, amulets, talismans, curses, hexes, illusionists, charlatans, natural and ceremonial magic, witchcraft, shamanism, alchemy, necromancy, ethics, conflicts, secrecy and more.
Draw up a psychological profile for your magician, invent fictional spells that work, avoid blunders, and create trouble for your characters.
This book is part of the Writer’ Craft series (Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, The Word-Loss Diet, Writing About Villains etc.), and is especially useful for writers of high fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
Bio: Rayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. She is the author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft series (Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic and more) and editor of the Ten Tales short story anthologies.
She is a trained publishing manager, holds a masters degree in Creative Writing, and has worked in the publishing industry for over thirty years.
Having lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian on Sulu Dial 02theTwitterPic Sulu Scary 01 lookstowardsskull Sulu Fight Scenessouth coast of England where she enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore. She shares her home with a black cat adopted from the cat shelter. Sulu likes to lie on the desk and snuggle into Rayne’s arms when she’s writing.
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