Realistic Magic Systems

Guest Post by Joanna White

For those of you who want to make or develop a magic system but aren’t quite sure where to start, it’s a lot easier than it seems at first. Maybe it seems too confusing for you or maybe you don’t think you’re creative enough. Whatever your reasons are, developing a magic system doesn’t have to be hard or confusing and thanks to Ian, I’m here on this guest post today to try to break it down for you.

What you need to know before you start thinking about your magic system is what type of magic system you want. There are different types, much to your surprise. I’m not talking about different types in terms of how different the magic itself is. There are magic systems similar to Game of Thrones where it’s briefly in there but not overly present – just a whisper in the background. Then, there are magic systems like Lord of the Rings, where it’s in there but it’s mysterious and only a few grand people can do it and the audience/readers don’t really ever learn how to use it. Then there are magic systems like books/shows such as Shadowhunters, and even anime like Fairy Tail or Avatar, the Last Airbender, where it’s broken down and explained throughout the course of the show/book so that the audience can learn and understand how it works.

What you need to decide is which one fits the story you want to tell and which one you want to do the most. Once you have that figured out, then it’s time to be creative. If you aren’t very creative, don’t worry.

The greatest asset and tool I use is Pinterest. There are a lot of different pictures of fantasy art on there. What I do is when I see something, literally it could be a picture of anything – sometimes, it sparks an idea. What if…? That what if question is where it all starts. Whether your magic is explained or not, whether everyone in your world can use it or not, whether its common or not – those are all things you have to decide – it might be a good idea for you to decide how it works.

If you’re not creative, then that’s totally fine. The fun thing about magic is that it doesn’t always have to be explained. Whatever you want to do, just do it, make it mysterious and if the characters see it that way, then the audience will too.

But if you want to give it a go, then you have to think of a few things in order for your magic system to work. As yourself these questions:

How does my magic system works?

What powers it? All magic systems has to have some sort of power source. This, of course, can be anything from prisms to crystals, to energy, to pools and water, to the air itself, to particles, to some sort of creature or race, to rainbows. Anything.

Is it used by energy or another force or something else? If so, where does it exist or where does it come from? Does it come from a person’s body like physical energy does? Does it exist in the air and they breathe it in, like people do in Fairy Tail?

What can it do? Are there any limitations? If so, what are they? For example, in Fairy Tail, mages can only learn one type of magic – one person can learn fire magic but they can’t learn anything else. Or does can it do anything except make people fall in love and bring them back from the dead, like in Disney’s Aladdin?

Are there any types of spells that are forbidden? Why or why not? Is necromancy forbidden because it’s horrible? Is light magic forbidden because it’s too bright or too powerful? Are humans forbidden from learning it or maybe a certain race is?

Is there a price to using it, like in Once Upon A Time – all magic comes with a price – ?

Now, pictures on Pinterest belong to other people, so you can’t use them, obviously, but they can spark ideas. Maybe you see a picture of a girl walking in the snow with a silver sky and it sparks an idea for a magic where people have elemental magic like in Avatar, the Last Airbender, but the effects of it change the color of the sky. Use the pictures as inspiration, whatever they may be, and use them to spark ideas of different things that can literally be anything.

When developing your magic system, don’t hold yourself back. Let your imagination run wild. Make rules for yourself and stick to them, but remember that magic is magic for a reason so typically anything works – so long as it doesn’t break the rules you’ve set in place for magic in your story.

Most importantly, have fun!

About the author:

Joanna White earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment at Full Sail University. The Valiant series is her first published work, which first started off being updated on a website called Wattpad. She lives in the country of Missouri with her husband, where she continues to work on her other upcoming books. Writing has been a passion since she was ten, when she wrote her first book. Ever since then, writing has become her life outside of her family, God, and being a nerd.

You can connect with Joanna through the following links:



Author blog: – Visit the about page to subscribe for free book recommendations, new short stories every week, writing tips, and for the chance for your book to be chosen as book of the month and promoted across all my social media.

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Joanna’s new book is due soon, check it out!

Hunter by Joanna White
Hunter by Joanna White

A reckless young woman named Averella does what no woman has ever done.

She disguises herself as a man and purposefully gets herself arrested and thrown into Zagerah. Her brother Gabriel was taken, and with his disease, he will not survive on his own. She has no idea what to expect inside the prison; all she knows is that once men get taken, they never come back.

The Hunters will find her.

Genetically altered to be faster and stronger than humans, the Hunters use their powers to find and kill every prisoner who enters Zagerah. The only ones who can defeat them, are in fact, themselves.

Jared is a Hunter. It’s all he’s known, all he remembers. He kills ruthlessly and without regret, one prisoner after another. When a new prisoner Dalex shows up, everything begins to change. Jared goes undercover to make Dalex and the other prisoners believe he is one of them, a prisoner himself.

No one knows the truth.

He will trick them.

Toy with them.

Then, he will kill them.

Link to Pre-Order Hunter:

Coming on April 30!

Stay updated with blog posts and more by following Ian Lahey on Facebook. Go to for more author interviews and stuff. I’m told I left a free e-book in there too, somewhere.

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