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Monday, May 30, 2016

Sanderson's 3 Laws of Magic Systems




I've never done a post on magic systems. The closest I've gotten to it is my post on writing magical items. One of the reasons I haven't approached magic systems is because others have done a much better job talking about them than I can, and to be honest, I haven't studied them that much. But my work-in-progress does have some magic systems in it, even though I don't always think of them as magic systems, and so today I'm bringing you the source that I use when I need help with magic in my story--and really, it's such a good resource that it deserves its own post on my blog.

Brandon Sanderson is one of the top-selling fantasy writers today, and what's even cooler is that he understands and is conscious of what does in his writing and can teach it well to others.


We got a picture with him at a writing conference.

If you like fantasy and haven't read him, I definitely recommend checking out one of his books. He has plenty. But for today, here are Brandon Sanderson's Laws of Magic:

Sanderson’s First Law of Magics: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic. (Read about that law here.)


  • In this article, Sanderson not only talks about conflicts, but explains soft magic systems vs. hard magic systems, everything in between, and how they function. You also get to hear him talk about an embarrassing moment on a panel at a convention.

Sanderson’s Second Law can be written very simply. It goes like this:
Limitations > Powers (Read it.)


  • In here Sanderson argues that what actually makes magic interesting is its limitations, not its powers. He breaks down limitations vs. weaknesses vs. costs

Sanderson's Third Law:  Expand what you already have before you add something new. (Read it.)


  • Sanderson explains how expanding and deepening your magic system enriches your story better than adding something new, and gives some ideas on how you might do this: extrapolate, interconnect, and streamline.

Even if you don't write with any magic, I still recommend these articles because you can adapt a lot of the thought-processes to other part of your story.

1 comment:

  1. Wow.. such a great blog!
    I'm definitely going to read this article. My default position is that magic doesn’t make much sense without the existence of god or gods, magic simply being a human temporally borrowing a gods power to work wonders in its name. I am fascinated to learn about other perspectives on it :)

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