This week’s discussion is the last on magic for now. We’re going to go over consequences to magic. We’ve already hinted toward this a bit, but a closer look at it is important because there’s so much variation in the topic. So we’re going to examine this area in a little more detail. Since I already covered the importance of having structure to the magic system and the need to have boundaries as well as consequences that limit magic use, we won’t go into that with too much detail. Instead, we’re going to look at some of the kinds of consequences and how they can be used. Let’s get started!
Types of Consequences
Okay, so this particular topic is pretty vast in that the possibilities for consequences to magic and why you have them vary so widely. But let’s take a quick look at some different types of consequences. You can have mental, physical, emotional, or tangible consequences for things. The first three are relatively straightforward. The consequences in these categories will end up affecting the user directly in one of those three areas, so there may be restraint in how much magic is used depending on the severity of the consequences. The last is a little less obvious. Tangible consequences are ones that don’t fall under the other three. They affect the user indirectly instead, usually by affecting his loved ones or by taking something from him that is precious to him.
Examples of Consequences
Obviously, the consequences for using magic change a great deal depending on what category they fall into. A magic system whose consequences are mental might include anything from losing memories to going into a coma. Obviously, the severity may vary depending on the magnitude of the magic used, but the type of consequences allowed will be dependent upon what you choose to use for the consequence category. A physical magic system wouldn’t include losing your mind or losing memories, but it could include illness, losing body parts, blood sacrifices, or some other physical consequence for using the magic or even for making it work. And still yet again, emotional consequences won’t be the same as either of the previous two. This type of consequence isn’t necessarily as common as the first two because it’s a bit harder to come up with things to use. But emotional consequences might include losing the ability to feel a specific emotional, temporarily or permanently, or could even include a heightening of some negative or positive emotion for a time period as well. Or, perhaps the consequences emotionally result in some sort of “mental” illness that affects only one’s emotions or perceptions of the world around them. Typically, emotional consequences are going to go hand-in-hand with mental consequences simply because the two categories often impact each other, even in the real world.
The category that’s most expansive is the tangible consequences category. This is because the consequences are taken out on those around the magic wielder. So, a mage’s sister could go insane because he tried a spell that was really strong. Or, perhaps a close friend dies as a result of the use of magic. Really, the possibilities are endless. The key to note here is that when it comes to consequences, I don’t mean direct consequences that occur because someone used magic wisely or unwisely. Think of consequences here more as a price that is exacted after magic is used. In some systems, that price might be the drain on some sort of extra energy reservoir that the magic wielder possesses or use of life force. In others, the price could be something else entirely. The magic will work, but you don’t get it for nothing.
Practical Use of Consequences
Now that we have a foundational understanding of the topic, we need to understand how to use consequences practically in a novel. This can take many forms because, as noted above, the choices and combinations are pretty limitless. And you aren’t bound to staying with only mental or only physical consequences. You could have differing prices depending on the type and magnitude of the magic. For example, in Pathway of the Moon, I have three different consequence systems for three different situations of magic use.
The first is the normal type of magic almost everyone uses. In this consequence system, people draw on an energy reservoir inside of them. That reservoir will replenish, but those who try to do magic that requires more than what is in that source will end up drawing on their own life force. Obviously, this is a strong incentive for people to understand their own personal limitations and to avoid overdoing it.
The second system is in place for those use dark magic or shadow magic. Since both have similar workings and both can draw on the life force or energy source of other people around, the system is the same for both. In this case, those who have and use this kind of magic pay a different price if they choose to use someone else’s energy instead of their own. They suffer mental consequences as the blackness of the magic used can overwhelm them and will eventually drive them mad.
The final system is in place for, again, those who use magic drawing on the force of others. But in this case, it is for light-wielders because their magic doesn’t operate the same way as the magic of the shadow-wielders or dark magic users. In this system, drawing on the life force of others results in physical consequences, not mental. Using magic this way here results in the loss of physical senses over time, and each subsequent use of others’ life force comes at a higher and higher cost.
All of these systems operate in the same world and series, but they’re all very different types of consequence systems. Hopefully this helps you to see how you can weave consequences into your own book and your own magic system. How you choose to do it will vary to one degree or another from how I’ve done it, but this was just an illustration to underscore the fact that you can combine things as you like.
I hope this article has been helpful to you and has brought you some useful advice on how you can work with this very important area. It’s not a matter of right or wrong in this case, so have fun with this and don’t be too concerned with whether or not it’s “correct”. Have questions or suggestions? Feel free to leave those in the comments below!