Soft Magic and Hard Magic

First of all, credit for coining the terms “soft magic” and “hard magic” goes to Brandon Sanderson. He says a lot more, but essentially, hard magic is magic with rules. Soft magic is magic where the rules aren’t explained if there are any to begin with. Stories with hard magic can use their magic to solve problems. Stories with soft magic cannot.

Secondly, I bring this up because I ran into a wall created by hard magic while writing a story. So I figured I’d list some of the advantages and disadvantages here, as well as some examples, so other people won’t hit the same wall I did.

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Worldbuilding and Infodumping

I swear you could teach a class using Game of Thrones as an example of how to do pretty much everything right. I’m going to be using examples from it again. Thank you, George R.R. Martin.

Fantasy and sci-fi authors spend a lot of time building their universes. That was an understatement, but you get the idea. I personally have pages upon pages upon pages written about the trade, political, and casual relations between all of the cities in my fantasy, even more written on racial history. Immortal blood angel queens, dryad superhighways, nymph pseudo-goddesses–and I think I’ve done less worldbuilding in total than most fantasy writers.

Point is, we do all this work, and we’re tempted to dump it all on the readers, which is the worst possible thing we could do.

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The Importance of Likeable Characters

A few months ago, someone asked me what elements made a great character. “As long as the character is believable,” I said, “then that’s a good character. They don’t need to be likable–after all, we read about serial killers and tyrants all the time, right?”

Wrong. While characters should be believable, I underestimated the importance of likability and didn’t truly appreciate it until I read a book with believable, but unlikable characters.

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Modern Slang and Language in Fantasy

First of all, I’ll probably be sticking exclusively to non-fiction from now on, with maybe a short story or two to demonstrate a point, but I’m knocking off the thing with Siren and Illyana. I’m not a skilled enough writer to get the story right the first time, nor am I a discovery writer.

And now to the point of this post. Ever read a fantasy where characters talked like they were copy/pasted from a modern novel? By now, fantasy is rarely told Old English-style, and even Lewis and Tolkein seem dated. For some, the age of the writing makes the fantasy setting feel more authentic, and at the same time, modern writing could invoke the same feeling, I think, if certain conditions were met.

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