What’s up, storytellers? I’m C. R. Rowenson, The Magic Engineer, and it’s time to talk about magic. In this article, I’m going to give you a NaNoWriMo magic system that you can use in your novel. In fact, I’m going to give you five.
If you aren’t aware of what that is, that is National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November, all of November, and it, uh… it snuck up on me this year. It really shouldn’t have. I’ve known November is coming and I’ve been planning for all kinds of things to happen in November, so cognitively I had it down. I just never connected the dots.
Anyway, here are five magic systems you can use and mold however you see fit. I hope you can use these for inspiration, maybe to get you out of a rut, because at this point we are going to be a good chunk of the way through the 2021 NaNoWriMo.
Here they are, and good luck.
Oh, I forgot to mention it really doesn’t matter what you’re writing for NaNoWriMo. I’ve got something for you. Don’t care if you’re doing fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romance, bromance, I guess? Whatever you want to do, I’ve got you covered.
NaNoWriMo Magic System 1) Parasitic Antidepressants
This first magic system centers on the idea of parasitic monsters that humanity, or whatever race you have in your story, uses to manage and treat the symptoms of mental illness.
I really like this idea of one because I like pretty much all the magic systems ideas, but there are a lot of cool things you can do here.
For one, these creatures could be more autonomous, like they could be a kind of emotional support parasites. They could be something that you have along with you that is leeching some of these energies from you to help you stabilize any of the anxiety or symptoms of bipolar disorder or anything like that.
They could also be more. Integrated, I suppose, would be the nice way to say it. Here’ they’re incorporated into your system, whether they’re like brain slugs or it’s a tapeworm of some kind, or, God forbid, something that’s like actually wrapped around your medulla oblongata.
Useable in Standard Fantasy Stories
In my mind, this kind of magic system would be perfect for any sort of secondary world or portal fantasy you might want to explore. This system gives you a lot of room to tie it into your characters, whether or not they’re traditional magic users.
They have different ways that they can interact with these creatures. You can also just litter them throughout the wilderness and throughout the wilds and have them show up at different points in the story. They could even be pivotal companions or essential to different plot twists. Lots and lots of different things you can do here.
If you’re still feeling stuck, and you’re not sure what to do. Maybe try to spice it up by doing a bit of quick worldbuilding. Imagine how these worlds would change the way people interact with each other, how it would change the structure of society, how different organizations would adapt to finding, using, and licensing these different creatures. What if there were more volatile and dangerous creatures that were used for specific illnesses, specific mental illnesses?
See, now I’m just thinking of the off-brand or black-market brain slug that does its job, but also does other things.
NaNoWriMo Magic System 2) Devourer of Dreams
In this magic system, the magic users can devour and consume the dreams and nightmares of other people. I’m not talking about dream walking. We were talking straight-up consumption. They destroy the dreams by using them to fuel their own magic.
I wanted this system to be something that could fit into the contemporary world, or even if you wanted to do some magical realism. This system would be great if there was just one person who had this ability. The story could center on them coming to terms with their power and figuring out how to use the magic to their advantage. It’s something that you could filter into the real world without it being too off-putting into unsettling for the rest of your world.
Useable in Fantasy
This magic system would also give you the author a lot of leeways to do pretty much whatever you needed. The dreams may be incredibly inconsistent in the effects they produce, as well as the magnitude and the quality. Not to mention, who knows what would happen if you accidentally consumed some nightmares or different, shall we say, passionate fantasies?
What fascinates me most about this system is how you could use it to explore some strange themes. You can really dive into a thematic exploration of the human psyche, looking into the ID and the ego, examining drug abuse and recovery, or even just the process of healing from trauma.
There are so many cool things here! I say that about every magic system, but it’s true. And I hope you find this next one interesting as well.
NaNoWriMo Magic System 3) Marriage Confluence Powers
This system, as for those of you that want a little more romance or human connection in your stories, whether it’s a full romance novel or it’s just a subplot, this one is for you. In this magic system, wedding bands, or whatever wedding ritual exists in your world, binds the powers of the two individuals, combining them into something new and even more powerful.
Now, the original people from the couple may have abilities on their own, or you can make it so that they only have abilities once bound. This is where I’m channeling a bit of He Who Fights with Monsters by Shirtaloon because I just love the confluence essences in those books.
So that’s the idea here. Person A has this power, person B has this power, and together they have the power to destroy the world! Or, you know, whatever you want to do. The choice is yours.
Useable in Romance
And if you wanted to dig into some of the world-building with this magic system, this could bring an interesting light to arranged marriages. Think what you will of them, arranged marriages have been around in human history for a very long time as a matter of creating alliances, settling disputes, and consolidating power. This would just be another way of doing that. You may have families that intentionally get certain people married because they want a very specific marriage essence.
NaNoWriMo Magic System 4) Time Storage Technology
In this system, technology can store and release bursts of time.
This may seem simple at first, and you can certainly keep it that way if that’s your flavor, but there’s a bunch of different ways we can spin this. Personally, I think it’s more interesting if you have to store time in order to spend it later. And I’m even thinking in terms of it’s just time, just the acceleration of time. It doesn’t affect any other math or science equations.
So, for example, if a car was speeding along at 60 miles an hour and you cut the time to half well, it covers half the distance in one hour, so it would only cover 30 miles in an hour, but it still has the kinetic energy of a vehicle traveling 60 miles an hour.
Useable in Science Fiction
If take that and throw that into a science fiction story, you’ve got some interesting options. I mean, think about them stealing all the temporal energy of an entire orbiting body and then releasing that to give their ships the equivalent of faster-than-light travel. They’re not actually faster than light because their speed technically hasn’t changed, but people can make the trip in a fraction of the time.
I hope you’re liking these magic systems so far because sometimes I feel like I’m just sitting here coming up with ideas and being like, “Yes, my ideas are brilliant and so cool.” They just get me excited, and I wish I could write dozens of stories overnight so that I could do everything that I want with the magic system. There’s just so much!
Anyway, if you’re liking this article, consider signing up for my newsletter or sending me an email. I would love to hear what you do with these magic systems, what your struggles are, and just to know that you’re out there and enjoying these articles.
NaNoWriMo Magic System 5) The Blind Stalkers
OK. This one is for you, horror folks. And if you know me, I love horror, which is why it should be no surprise that this might be my favorite of the five magic systems.
In this magic system, there are blind predators stalking the wilderness that can only see through the eyes of marked prey.
The core idea from this magic system came from the idea of a deer in the headlights. If the monster can see through your eyes, then the most dangerous thing you can do is look right at it. That said, if you know something is stalking you and you see it, you’re going to have a hard time looking away. But if you don’t. It just finds you faster!
The marking can be anything. It could be a pheromone signature, a bite, a magical tattoo, or even a curse. It doesn’t really matter. The idea was for the mark to be tangible and observable.
Useable in Horror
If you like the stories where people turn against each other and show that they are the true monsters, you can do that here. It’s very similar to a zombie situation, where suddenly a character is marked and the survivors or travelers need to decide what to do before the creatures arrive; if the creature arrives, it’s going to kill everybody. Do they beat their friend and leave them for dead? Do they try and protect them? What do you do?
This could even happen partway through the story. The hero is just trying to make it from city A to city B when they get marked. And now what was going to be an average journey is now a horror story as they’re hunted across the lands.
And if you really want to, why not go full Squid Game and turn this into a controlled, broadcast, and deadly game of hide-and-seek? Why not?
There you go. five magic systems you can use in your NaNoWriMo novel. Or any novel, actually… I mean, if you find this outside of November, I’m not going to know.
Thanks for joining me in this article while I talked about a bunch of random magic ideas and nerd it out about all the different terrible things that I could do. I really appreciate having you here. Consider joining my newsletter to get weekly emails about magic systems, mental health, and more.
Whatever you do, keep writing and stay awesome!