Did you hear that?! That’s the sound of the Viral Magic System being finished… terrified screaming and then silence.
Jokes and minor threats aside, I can finally say that the viral magic is complete. It’s been such a long road getting here, it’s hard to believe I’m typing this. After 36 hours of work building the system and twelve blog posts (taking over 90 hours to plan, write, edit, and schedule and 15+ months to release) it’s all over… almost.
I keep saying the system is complete, well I’d like to walk you through how I know it’s done. It comes down to three factors: I’ve completed my process, the magic addresses the story needs, and it feels ready. It’s fine if that doesn’t make sense yet, because we will look at each of these reasons and how they apply to this system. In the end, you should be able to test your own system for completion.
Let’s dive right into it, shall we?
Reason #1: I’ve Completed All The Stages
If you didn’t know already, I have a process I follow anytime I create a magic system. That also means you must be new to this blog because I never shut up about the stupid stages. You can always learn more right here through this conveniently placed link.
My bad. Side-tracked myself, but I will not apologize for art.
At this point, I’ve taken the viral magic through each of the stages multiple times. This series on Building a Viral Magic System has walked you through my early passes of each stage. I also reiterated as much as possible until the value returned became too low for the effort. I also addressed, or at least thought through, all the magic system variables I currently have identified. Finally, I’ve patched the breaks in my system, torn it apart again, and pieced it back together.
Now, I have answers to all the questions I can think of or that anyone has asked me. A lot of the posts in this series talk about stages, processes, and variables, but in the end, it comes down to being able to answer the hard questions.
I took some additional steps where you couldn’t see.
Parts of the development process needed reiteration. I completed these on my own to avoid boring you, but I wanted to make sure you at least knew what those steps were.
Do you remember all the work we did when detailing the portal strain? Well, I went back and repeated the process for the other five effects I plan on having in the story. This was by far the most time-consuming step of the process. That’s because of the level of detail I apply to my system, but you shouldn’t expect this to go quickly when working on your own magic.
I also went back and addressed a few unresolved magic system variables. Mainly, I decided that there would be no magic in the wilds and that the world had neutral magic flux meaning that, at the time of the story, the level of magic in the world remains constant.
Of course, I have all kinds of ideas for when the strains cross over to animals, the viruses mutate into new strains, when the abilities mankind has become dependent on disappear, and — *Slaps self hard*
Sorry. I had to stop myself before I launched into a fresh bout of story and magic development.
Speaking of story, let’s move on to the second reason the viral magic is complete.
Reason #2: It Addresses the Story’s Needs
I haven’t talked about this much on the blog before, but people often underestimate how much value a finely built magic system can bring. It’s amazing how much support and enhancement magic can provide when blended with every aspect of the story. Let me show you what I mean.
From the beginning, I wanted this to be an idea story with elements of horror. How well I manage that is yet to be seen, but the magic itself ties directly into supporting those elements. This is partially because the idea for the story is the magic system and partly because of all the creepy things I tied to the magical effects.
It’s hard to explain without spoiling the story, but the magic also has a large impact on the setting and the plot. While the magic is relatively new, it has still changed the world in such a fashion that this story never would have occurred without its existence. Beyond that, pieces of the magic and how they work create all kinds of problems and opportunities. In fact, some elements are essential for the last plot twist I have planned. Without those elements, I may as well push the entire story into a giant fan.
From the beginning, there were specific aspects of the characters I wanted to shine through. Because the viral magic is complete, I have numerous ways to show the extremes some characters will go to for money, enhance the moral stakes and integrity of the characters, and display how some have an extraordinary ability to plan.
That’s everything I wanted from the system and more. So from this perspective, the viral magic system is complete. That leaves just one more thing to discuss.
Reason #3: It Feels Like It’s Done
That’s a vague answer, I know, but let’s dig a little deeper.
I finally feel like I understand what the magic is and how it works. I’ve got a list of limitations and effects to reference as I craft the story. On top of that, I can see the magic augmenting the plot, setting, and tone to build something I am as excited to read as I am to write.
Another part of this “feeling like it’s done,” comes down to how this system compares to others I have created. It’s easy to fall into a creative rut and just recycle the same ideas over and over. The viral magic system feels distinct from any system I’ve ever worked on. True, the magical effects aren’t that unique, some of them even felt boring for quite a while, but now there are enough details and quirks that the system feels both strange and familiar at the same time.
Kind of like when the basilisk only eats Chipotle like a picky two-year-old…
Most importantly, it feels like the viral magic is complete because I’m excited to work with it! I cannot overstate the value of this. Yes, sometimes you can and must push past the easy, but it’s best to be filled with joy and eagerness when starting work on a story.
Obviously, this is the hardest of the three reasons to gauge, but it is still something you should pay attention to.
The Final Countdown… for the System
As I walked through this series, I did my best to keep track of how much time and effort went into each part of the process. Rather than force you to compile the bits and pieces from all the other posts, here is a final breakdown of the work I did, how long it took, and the related post in the series.
- Early Planning (Part 1: Generating Deadly Ideas) – 1 hour
- Early Research (Part 2: Aligning System) – 2.5 hours
- Part 3: The How and Why of My Viral Magic Research
- More Brainstorming (Part 4: How I Generated More Ideas) – 4 hours
- Determining the Type of Magic (Part 5: Soft-Rational System) – 1 hour
- The Magic System Variables (Part 6: Viral System Variables) – 2.5 hours
- Setting Limitations (Part 7: Powerful Boundary Conditions) – 1.5 hours
- Searching for Equations (Part 8: The Lack of Equations) – 3.5 hours
- Breaking the System (Part 9: I Broke My Magic) – 5 hours
- Fixing the System (Part 10: Fixed the Viral Magic ) – 1 hour
- Building the Story (Part 11: Combining Magic and Story Structure) – 4 hours
- Final Details (Part 12: Adding Details to the System) – 9 hours
- Check for Completion (Part 13: The Viral Magic is Complete) – .5 hours
That makes for a grand total of 36 hours spent building this system.
That’s not a perfect measure because of all the time spent mulling it over on walks and chatting with friends, but it’s a good estimate. Every person and every system is different, so your mileage will vary; this should give you at least some idea what to expect when you sit down to start your next system.
That’s All for Now
There is one last thing I want to point out.
While each of the three reasons is an important metric for completion, I’m not always confident in all three when I stop working. Sometimes the system doesn’t feel ready. Other times, if I had pushed a little harder, I could have taken the system to a new level. Just remember that, like everything else in writing, you can come back and change it later. It’s important to get a version complete so you can stop building the magic and start creating your story.
Now that the viral magic is complete, there are lots of things moving I can focus more time on. For one, I want to find time to write the story I built this magic system for. However, this is not an immediate priority as I continue developing magic building workbooks like Restrictions May Apply and put together other fun and useful products. That doesn’t even consider any conferences I worm my way into in the next year (whenever we can have conferences again).
So, yeah. There’s a lot going on and I’m excited to see where it goes. Thank you for being here and I hope you enjoyed this series on building a viral magic system. If you’d like to see more series like this focusing on different types of magic or even monsters or technology instead, just let me know and I’d be happy to do what I can.
Also, all the “humor” in this post was actually a reference to something. If you know what it is, comment below with a reference of your own. I’ll even give you a clue.
Clue #1: the imposter is a phantom.
That’s all for now, good luck. Rowenson, out.