Welcome to Part 11 of
Building a Viral Magic System
Damn, Daniel. Back at it again with the Viral Magic!
The last couple of times we worked the viral magic system, we did everything in our power to break it before working just as hard to fix it. Do you know what that means?
We have finally completed our first iteration of Stage 3: Definition for this system!
It may not seem like much, but that first pass through the Stages 1-3 is often the hardest part of building a magic system. All we have left is Stage 4: Iteration, where we go back and repeat previous stages until this system is so potent the Center for Disease Control tries to shut me down.
They may already be trying, but that’s for unrelated reasons. Honestly, I had no idea they had a division focused on inter-planar pathogens. Who would have guessed?
After patching up the system, I had some questions that needed answering. So, much as I did in Part 3, I did some research and found answers. We’ve got a lot to cover, so I’m not going to spend time walking through the details of the research. Suffice it to say, I got what I needed.
But what to do next?
Normally, I would repeat Stage 1: Idea Generation and Stage 3 to get elbow deep into the guts of the system effects to determine how they work. But this will be a Rational and Soft Magic System, so there’s no need to build everything right away. One benefit of Soft Magic is that I only need to develop the pieces necessary for the magic and story structure.
So my next step was to combine the magic and story structure to determine exactly what pieces I needed.
Building the Viral Magic Story
Before doing anything else, I started by reviewing the tidbits I already knew or wanted in the magic and story structure.
What I’ve Got So Far
- I want a prisoner who let themselves be captured to play a longer game.
- Throughout the story, I wanted the Point of View to transition from the captors to the prisoner.
- The prisoner will successfully escape and ruin their captors.
- The Viral magic will be pivotal to the prisoner’s escape and ultimate success.
- I want immunodeficiencies to be part of the equation.
I love every bit of this list, but I needed specific details to pinpoint what to develop next.
What I Need
Naturally, I hit a mental block immediately. So I did what I always do in these cases and called for backup. My friend Chautona Havig came to my rescue; we spent several hours talking and brainstorming. We eventually came up with the two following 7-Point Structures.
You heard me right. TWO story structures. In order to manage both POVs, I wanted to know the magic and story structure from the captor’s side as well as the prisoner’s.
(If you aren’t familiar with the 7-Point Structure, check out this blog post and/or these videos)
Hook: The guards find someone trespassing on the private island and trying to break into the archives.
Plot Turn 1: They capture the trespasser, but the Owner/CEO decides they need information from the interloper.
Pinch Point 1: The prisoner is infected with magical viruses, and they have to figure out how to get them under control.
Midpoint: The experimental antivirals seem to work, the infection has passed, and they can start the interrogation in earnest.
Pinch Point 2: The prisoner’s health rapidly declines and is at risk of dying before they learn what they need to know.
Plot Turn 2: The prisoner manifests more magic, escapes imprisonment, and starts fighting their way through the compound.
Resolution: Failure. The prisoner fights their way free and posts damning evidence online.
Hook: Successfully made it to the private island and tries breaking into the data servers.
Plot Turn 1: They are caught by guards on the island and the owner/CEO arrives and begins the interrogation.
Pinch Point 1: When the captors use potent antivirals, the prisoner must work to repair their delicate timeline.
Midpoint: One of the prepared viruses takes hold, and the prisoner begins the second phase of their plan.
Pinch Point 2: The prisoner gets far sicker than expected and might die before completing the mission.
Plot Turn 2: Symptoms of infection appear in the Head of Security and several guards; the prisoner can launch the final phase of their plan.
Resolution: Success. The prisoner escapes and releases the evidence, dooming the opposition.
There’s a lot of information to chew over in those two story structures, but it gave me the context necessary to proceed. With the basics of the plot in front of me, it was much easier to select a few magical effects.
I Selected Specific Magical Effects
This is where all the previous work I put into building the viral magic really came together. Because of the boundary conditions I put in place for the viral magic system, the prisoner couldn’t have more than 3 viral powers at once. That said, they could plan ahead and attempt to time the infections to have an additional 3 powers later in the story.
This left me with a maximum of 6 magical effects I could display. Up to three in the beginning and another three in the end.
It was also clear that, throughout the story, the prisoner had specific needs. For example, they needed a way to get onto the private island where the story takes place. They also need a way to gather information from their captors and a way to fight back and escape.
From there it was a not-so-simple matter of sitting down and reviewing each of the magical effects I generated previously to consider what it might do and how it might shape the rest of the magic and story structure.
I eventually narrowed it down to five magical effects (two in the beginning and three at the end) I wanted to display in this story.
Magical Effects at the Beginning of the Story
Host Strain: Enhanced Body Performance
Sneaking onto a private island is no small feat. After thinking through several options, increasing the soon to be prisoner’s physical prowess seemed like the most versatile solution. Once on the island, the virus would grant them the edge they need to overcome opposition with superior training and equipment. Plus, this gives me the option for a solid action scene at the beginning of the story.
Environmental Strain: Non-Cellular Matter to Dust
This was more of a tactical selection. If the intruder evaded capture, this power could get them past a number of obstacles to gather the information they wanted.
From a story structure perspective, this effect provides some much-needed tone and context. By adding this in, I provide obvious demonstrations of magic early in the story and demonstrate the intruder’s cleverness and forethought. That this causes further complications for the captors is a bonus.
Magical Effects at the End of the Story
Vector Strain: Mind Control
No surprises here. I’ve been waiting to use this effect since I first conceived of the viral magic system. Not only is it the most obvious choice, but it also happens to be the best. Because of how I want the vector effects to work, the prisoner can realistically only have 1 such infection in the time provided. While other vector strains might have helped in the end game, none would resolve their problems so neatly while simultaneously giving me a delicious twist to weave into the story.
Host Effect: Remote Viewing/Hearing
No plan survives contact with the enemy, as they say. Information is the key to adapting a plan in a rapidly evolving environment. It was essential the prisoner have a way to stay one step ahead of their captors. This strain could provide the prisoner information they need while adding further mysteries for the opposition to solve. In terms of story structure, this power will provide a nice boost to keep things interesting throughout the middle as the plot streaks towards the final confrontation.
Environmental Strain: Portals
Why is this one here? Only because it’s my favorite effect in the entire system! Allow me to rationalize.
While the other effects were added to address specific problems, this strain acts as more of a contingency. I did my best to plan all the major points in the story, but just as no plan survives contact with the enemy, no outline survives contact with the first draft. This strain will grant the prisoner more creative control over their surroundings and provide me with options to solve plot problems I don’t know about yet.
Next Steps for the Viral Magic
I have to be honest with you; it was hard narrowing it down to those five effects. There were several other cool and disgusting effects I desperately wanted to use, but they didn’t work as well. After making the final selection, I realized something.
The system is almost finished! The end is so close I can practically taste it… tastes like curry and victory.
Before I reach that savory status, I’ve got more work to do. First, I need to work with each effect individually, adding definition and detail to the chosen aspects of the viral magic system. This will, naturally, involve additional research and some brainstorming, but nothing too crazy on either front. This may take some time, but this is where the system will become truly unique.
After that, who knows. This may be all there is to it. The viral magic system will finally be complete and I can then turn to writing the story… hopefully.
Thanks For Stopping By
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That’s all for now. Thanks for joining me and I’ll talk to you again soon. Rowenson, out.