Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fantasy Character Magic

Fictional writers have a multitude of diverse sub-genres from which to choose within the fantasy genre. Examples include high fantasy (Magic Kingdom of Landover by Terry Brooks, and Tolkien's, The Hobbit), contemporary fantasy (King Rat by China MiƩville) fairytale fantasy (The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi), super-hero fantasy (Lois and Clark: A Superman Novel by C. J. Cherryh), and sword and sorcery (Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard) to name a few. A common element found in all fantasy sub-genres is magic in some form.

Fantasy characters exhibit vast magical differences from one sub-genre to another. In the short story fantasy collection Tales of the Warrior Priest by Teel James Glenn, the main character learns the magic of healing with song. He's not a wizard or warlock but a priest. Magical powers are as limitless as the fantasy writer's imagination.

For the sake of this article, consider some of the more common magical characters.


  • One who practices magic; a sorcerer or magician.
  • Archaic. A sage. Wizards are often presented as wise older looking gentlemen bearing white beards, long hair and a pointed hair, or hooded cloak. However, a character can take on the role of Wizard and look nothing like this. Consider Harry Potter.

  • A woman claiming or popularly believed to possess magical powers and practice sorcery.
  • A hag. Fantasy writers can portray witches as good or bad. In the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, the white witch casts a spell on Narnia that trusts the land into an endless winter without Christmas, while Glenda the Good Witch from the North in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz uses her magic to help and protect Dorothy and her traveling companions.

    For clarification, a male witch, sorcerer or wizard is also known as a Warlock.

    Beyond the obvious wizards, witches and warlocks, unique life forms such as fauns, unicorns, trolls, elves, dwarves, faeries, mages, telepaths, shapeshifters, heroes with superhuman powers and time travelers can be considered a list of ingredients from which to draw as you create your own fantasy realm.

    For example, in the fantasy novel Windwalker by Donna Sundblad, the most special of the Windwalker fantasy characters not only walks on the wind, but has telepathic and shape-shifting abilities. The goal is to make the magic understandable to readers and unique to your storyline.

    Combining Character and Magical Traits

    Common characters found in fantasy novels include: Knights, jesters, kings, queens, prince and princesses, paladins, warriors, priests, shamans, bards, knaves, thieves, alchemists, wraiths, nomads, nobles, merchants, guards, mistresses, dancers, travelers, minstrels, mediums, spies, barmaids, inn-keepers, wenches, swashbucklers/sailors, blacksmiths, silversmiths (and other such trades), slaves, doctor/healer, archer, and woodsman. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a list for aspiring authors to choose from.

    Any fictional fantasy character included in the list above has magical potential. A barmaid casting enchantments with beverages she serves or an alchemist crafting enchanted medallions bestowing special powers to those that wear them fall within the realm of possibility when writing fantasy.
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