Thursday, May 3, 2012

On Writing Magic

Writing magic is hard. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's even harder when you decide not to have your protagonist use flashy elemental magics. Nope, Dafydd never throws around fireballs or lighting bolts. I decided I wanted him to use more subtle magics. Paul handles most of the physical stuff.

Of course, as I discovered when I started writing the second book, that made it awkward to have Dafydd participate in fight scenes, but I think I've handled it well. And in book three, I'm going to pull out something really cool.

Anyway, Dafydd's magic basically falls into three areas:
1. Ritual magic, usually in the area of divination (finding stuff)
2. Potion brewing
3. Aura reading

So far the potion brewing has happened off-screen, though Dafydd and Paul quaff plenty of them, especially in fight scenes. I suppose I'll have to show a potion brewing scene sometime. but I want to save it for one that advances the plot.

Dafydd does a bit of aura reading in Haunted Vampire, and there's a much longer scene in Werewolf Puppy. He also explains how it works in that book, and it was a fun scene to research and write. I spent a lot of time looking up the meanings of various colors and figuring out what they mean in an aura. I tried to mix obvious stuff (black and red are vampire colors) and some less obvious color meanings. Here's an excerpt I particularly like as Dafydd explains aura colors to Paul.

Dafydd and Paul have just left Lounge 201, the vampire bar. Paul had asked him to read a particular vampire's aura.


I frowned, still not completely sure what I had seen. "Okay, mostly his aura was like the rest. Red and black. Some dark green."

"What's that mean?"

I smiled. "Jealousy. Almost everyone in that room had it to some degree or another."

He snorted. "Not a big shock. Jockeying for position and companionship are practically a way of life for my kind."

"But not you."

His eyes widened. "What do you mean by that?"

I shrugged. "Just what I said. There's hardly any of it in your aura."

I watched his face. Even in the deflected light of the passing streetlights, I could see his brow furrow. His fingers tapped the steering wheel. Finally, he said. "I left that behind a long time ago. But that's not all you saw."

"No." I hesitated. "He had some orange mixed in with everything else."

He nodded, as if he'd expected that. His shoulders slumped slightly, and I guessed he'd expected it but hoped he'd been wrong. "And that means?"

"That's hard to say. It's not something I've seen much." I struggled to put something that was pretty subjective into objective terms. "Yellow usually means a connection. If two people are dating, you'll see the yellow in their auras approach the same shade. The closer they are, the closer the colors. The darkness of the shade will tell you how solid the relationship. Darlene and Damien had a lot of dark yellow in theirs. And their shades were practically the same, so I knew they were together."

He nodded. "They've been an item for most of a century. So the other one's aura was yellow?" His voice sounded doubtful.

I shook my head. "No, not yellow. Orange. And I've not really seen that color before."

He frowned. "Orange? But wouldn't that just be yellow and red, like you just said."

"No. Aura colors don't behave like paint. Each color is separate. So red and yellow aura colors don't make orange. It's like green. Yellow is a connection color. Blue is a good color. It generally indicates positive emotions. If auras were like paints, yellow and blue wouldn't combine to make dark green, jealousy."

He nodded. "Okay, but it does make sense that green is a mixture of yellow. It's hard to be jealous if you don't have some connection to someone."

I paused, never having looked at it like that before. "I guess you're right. My aunt never mentioned that."


It took me a couple hours of research to pull together material for the colors in that scene, and the earlier scene in the bar.

By the way, that bit where Paul says that yellow and blue do make sense combined as jealousy? When I wrote Dafydd's line, I honestly hadn't gone there. But as soon as I started writing Paul, I made the connection. That's one of the coolest parts about writing fiction. You really do start seeing things like your characters. If one has a blind spot, you've got it too, until you switch roles.

Next week, I'll talk more about ritual magic and what goes into writing those scenes. And yep, I'll have another excerpt.

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