The Rules of Arcana

author - Charlene Mattson 2I have written fantasy all my life, with a smattering of light science fiction and when I was a kid, stories with lots of horses; but by and large, I write fantasy with sub genres like mystery. Fantasy is popular with authors because it allows us to explore concepts in the real world with a stronger boundary between good and evil, right and wrong. If you go around the Kellan Publishing Bookstore, you’ll find many fantasy books, proving how popular it is to write. Traditionally though, as a result, fantasy has also not been considered very literary, but that is thankfully changing. There are many writing genre tips I could come out with when writing to the fantasy genre, but the area I’m going to explore here is magic.

In the kingdom of Altria and beyond, where William Tenys lives, works, and suffers, magic follows some straightforward rules of engagement. In all three books, there are some common threads that we can follow to see the rules of arcana in Altria. For example, (spoilers ahead!) in The Curious Case of Prince Charming, we see how people and metaphysical beings (a demonic entity in this case) can be linked by a pact, creating a Sworn Mage. In The Glass Slipper Conspiracy, this link is made stronger and more obvious by the connection that the villain has with others to create the problems in that book. And Blood Moon Rising (and the next book) are really all about the importance blood plays in a lot of magic and how our inside can dictate our outside (and vice versa).

So, what’s going on here? Well, again, spoilers, so read at your own peril!

Book - 3D The Curious Case of Prince CharmingThe William Tenys books are meant to model and twist fairy tales, usually one or two per book. Curious Case was a play on Sleeping Beauty; Glass Slipper Conspiracy is a play on Cinderella; Blood Moon Rising is a play on Beauty and the Beast and Little Red Riding Hood. The next book is somewhat a play on The Seven Ravens (and draws a little on First Nations mythology, particularly Pacific Northwest, though only slightly) and a bit of Beauty and the Beast or Princess and the Frog; depends on where you see parallels (I leave that to the reader when it comes out). These genre novels must feel like fairy tales while still having the grit of a detective story and that means paying attention to the rules of magic and the rules of mysteries.

Writing genre conventions in fairy tales generally means the following:

  • All curses have to have a way to break them. It may not be a pleasant way (this is where the grit comes in), but there is always a way. It’s up to the character whether to use it!
  • True love can break many curses, but only one person has to feel it and it doesn’t necessarily have to be love for the person.
  • Spells often require an element of sacrifice.
  • Transformation magic is very dangerous!

Oh, and magic mirrors often have an attitude and switch loyalty really fast. Also, wishes? Bad idea…

(William would also like to add that fairy godmothers are not a good thing to have in your corner).

When developing a fantasy novel, (or developing any novels) it’s important to have the ‘rules’ of your world in mind as you write so that you don’t end up with inconsistencies, plot holes, and issues of jumping the shark, all of which can weaken any genre, but I have noticed is particularly damaging to fantasy and science fiction. In the case of fantasy, the rules of magic are particularly important so that readers can easily suspend belief and have the story still make sense, even while fantastical things are happening. This is probably one of the most important genre tips for writing genre in fantasy that I can throw out there to new writers or writers looking to break into fantasy.

Cheers and watch out for magic mirrors and wishes!

~Charlene Mattson

Get your copy of The Curious Case of Prince Charming or The Glass Slipper Conspiracy

Already have them? Check out Blood Moon Rising

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