Speed Dating Your Magic in
Under Ten Minutes
Before you can move on to defining your magic in Stage 3, you’ve got to do a basic alignment check on your magic system first. Today, we’re going to walk through a high-level alignment exercise to do exactly that before starting in on the magical laws of your system.
I’ve done this exercise multiple times, both by myself and with others, and it has always uncovered new and interesting information to act on. And, as the title post suggests, it should only take nine minutes to complete.
Before You Start The Exercise
- Find/steal ten minutes of uninterrupted concentration
- Complete at least one iteration of Stage 1: Idea Generation
- Have a story concept. It can be vague and nebulous, but it’s got to be there
- Understanding of the 6 Components of Story: Character, Plot, Setting, Theme, Elemental Genre, and Magic
Just in case you forgot, here’s a quick refresher on the 6 Story Components.
1) Character: The people and personalities within the story
2) Plot: the rising and falling arc of events in the story
3) Setting: where and when the story takes place
4) Theme: the deeper message and purpose of your story
6) Magic: the system you’re working on right now
If you want more information on these components, their importance, you can find it in our previous discussion about Stage 2. Now that’s all out of the way, we can get started
Speed-Dating Your Magic System
Step 1: Grab your laptop, whiteboard, or piece of parchment made from human skin.
Step 2: Write down each of the components, leaving some room between each.
Step 3: Set the timer of your preference for one minute, and in one sentence or less, describe the Character Component of your story.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 3 with the remaining five components.
Step 6: Set the timer for three minutes and explore how your future magic system relates to and connects with the other components.
Step 7: Do a little dance ‘cause you’re done.
Bonus tip: Don’t bother getting it perfect. Focus on what gets you the most excited about any each of the components.
Bonus-bonus tip: You can also write a couple of descriptive words if complete sentences aren’t your bailiwick. For the Elemental Genre, it’s probably better to just list two or three anyway.
And there you have it. Basic alignment done.
Speed-Dating the Viral Magic System
I know you’ve got this, but I’m going to show you what it looked like when I worked through the exercise. This was done on the same Viral Magic System from my demonstration on brainstorming pillars. Just as advertised, the entire process took me about nine minutes
Character: An evil corporation with a powerful secret, and a crafty prisoner with a compromised immune system
Plot: the prisoner is playing a high-stakes con to gather information from his interrogators
Setting: an interrogation room in the bowels of a company building
Theme: how greed can twist both wonderful things too terrible ends
Magic: Virus Magic, duh. Easy
Looking at my answers, it became clear I had new information to act on and new action items to complete
For example, I learned that the prisoner must be able to hide at least some of their abilities if I want the magic to be part of his con. After looking at my answer, I decided this would fit best as a short story with the prisoner’s motives and abilities revealed as a twist at the end. This means the POV character cannot be the prisoner.
Even the short answers on theme and character got my brain whirring. The viruses could have appeared in the world some time ago and the company is just now gaining enough knowledge to control them somehow. In the pursuit of profit, the company directs their control into some unethical directions.
After just a couple of minutes, I identified several areas to research. Specifically, I need a deeper understanding of virology and antiviral drugs to understand what the company might be capable of. I also need to learn how companies and corporations have twisted their research and legal practices in unethical ways.
Spending more time on the process would undoubtedly reveal more research topics and ideas, but this is enough for now.
How’d This Exercise Treat You?
I’d love to hear about your experiences speed-dating your magic system. Leave a comment below and share how it went and what you learned about your budding magic system. This exercise is quick and effective; I can’t wait to hear what you got from it. Well, I’ll see you again in two weeks.