5. Even if you’re a panster, outline the fantastical system that governs your story, i.e. magic, advanced science, paranormal bloodlines, etc.

Example: In my Mark of Nexus series, the universe I’ve built contains four races—three of which possess some kind of supernatural ability. To keep track of who does what, and what trumps what, I maintain a color-coded spreadsheet. Even if some of the rules never see the light of Kindle, they’re there to help me shape my characters and their stories.

4. To ground the audience, make sure there are both pros and cons to this system. This ups the stakes and makes our characters more relatable.

Example: Have you ever seen the (wrongly cancelled) show Alphas? All superhuman abilities come with a cost. There’s a character who can memorize any skill in no time and repeat it through muscle memory—but it comes at the cost of her long-term memory. She doesn’t remember anything beyond the past month. (Dun, dun, dunnnn!)

3. Read other speculative fiction.

Next step: Take note of how other authors incorporate their fantastical systems.

2. Establish and incorporate clear rules for this magic system.

Next step: Think about how your rules make the world comprehensible to the reader. You don’t have to lay them out directly within the text, but we should get a sense of them while reading.

1. Be consistent.

Example: If you spend most of the book telling us water will melt your witch, but she takes a hot shower after some steamy love-making with a warlock, we’re going to doubt every other element of the story.

Question of the Week:
Is there a book you know all of the 'rules' for? :)


http://www.carrieabutler.com

Post a Comment

  1. Awesome! Succinct set of reminders here, Carrie. All magic has to have rules. Same applies to science. Like I always say--know all the rules so you can decide which ones are worth breaking. ;)

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    1. Oo, that's a good saying to keep in mind! ;)

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  2. Great post, Carrie. Good advice about magic having pros and cons. I love when a character has to make a sacrifice in order to achieve something through magic. It makes everything more real and ups the stakes.

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    1. Thanks, Sarra! I love to read about sacrifices, too. :)

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  3. Fantastic tips! I've found that there cannot be enough layers to the mythology. The deeper it goes, the better grounded the readers will be. (And the more they have to think about when they put your book down--a good thing!)

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    1. Gotta tear into that onion to make people cry! LOL

      Thanks, EJ!

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  4. From the spec fic goddess herself! ;)
    Color-coded spreadsheets, mmmm!
    LOVE #4 especially! Great stuff!

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  5. Be consistent is my favorite one because inconsistencies are a huge pet peeve of mine. Love this!

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  6. Great tips, Carrie. Essential tools to make any manuscript shine.

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    1. Thanks, Joylene! It's great to see you over here. :)

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  7. Certainly, power comes with a price. If a character can fly, at night that character can be in danger of running into the ground before getting used to "night flying."

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  8. Alphas was robbed big time and left us with a super cliffhanger. Dang it. Could you gives some tips on writing NA horror. I started one for my Roe persona in Nano and I'm curious as to how I do it right without the college or romance element.

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  9. Great post Carrie, succinct and to the point.

    In the magical system I'm using in my current series, the "pro" and "con" is the Law of Cause and Effect" (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction). Basic science, but here extended to apply to magic. I find this works well when the story is set in (some version of) the "real" world.

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