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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rewording Magic

A long time ago (so long that I have no idea on where to even begin to look for the link) I read something about how to name things in a fantasy world. The thrust of the article was to not go and rename mundane things. If your world has a rabbit-type creature, call it a rabbit. The idea was that it would be too complicated to describe your rabbit and associate it with the new term.

I agree with this idea most of the time. But I broke this rule in one really big way in my first novel. I replaced the word “magic”.

In my defense, I did this before learning the rule. And I had a very good reason for doing so.

When I hear the word “magic”, I think of Harry Potter, Disney movies, and the like. In my story, what we’d call magic is an ability that just about everybody has. It’s ordinary. It’s mundane. And rather than give the abilities that feel that comes with the word “magic”, I changed the word.

In my story, magic is more akin to intelligence. Or athletic ability. One can study and train to get better at it. It’s not the province of magicians or sorcerers.

But now I wonder. If I’m going to go back to my novel and rework it, should I go and change the word back to magic?

I’d like to know what you think. Would it be too distracting to use a different word? Would you put down a story in which magic was called something else? Or do you see my point? Should I keep it as is?

20 comments:

Crystal Collier said...

Interesting question. If you keep "magic" as a different term, you set your world apart. As long as you define your "magic" in such a way that the reader clearly understands, I don't see a need to change it. I've got a book about fairies, but I never call them fairies. They have an entirely different name, thus a different culture, and thus become an entirely new entity. That's our prerogative as writers, right?

Charity Bradford said...

I agree with Crystal. If it's so wide spread that it's mundane, then it's just part of your world culture. Whatever the people in your world called it should be fine.

mshatch said...

I don't always call magic 'magic' either and I sometimes give unknown names to other items, like tea or items of clothing. I think the trick is in making it obvious what the thing is and not making hard to pronounce. And, Crystal has a pint; it's our world, we are the Gods of it :)

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

It works for Star Wars! No one questions what The Force is, but we can all tell it's some sort of magic. :D

LD Masterson said...

Go with your own word, just make sure it's meaning is clear from the beginning and you stay within your own definition and parameters.

Jess said...

Laura (two comments up) has a great point!

Liza said...

I'm agree with those above. I like the idea of a different name, as long as the meaning is clear.

Ink in the Book said...

Another vote for everything posted above me. Why fix somethng that isn't broken?

Liz said...

The plan was to make it pretty clear what it was. Whether I got it in the execution or not...

Liz said...

Thanks. I'm in the overthinking part of the rewrite.

Liz said...

Sometimes it's hard to be a God.

Liz said...

Aha! That is so true.

Liz said...

Thanks. And yep, clarity is key.

Liz said...

She does, doesn't she?

Liz said...

Okay, then.

Liz said...

Well, the question is is it not broken? I've been second-guessing myself a lot lately.

Debra Harris-Johnson said...

Any word can mean magic or stand for it. Thanks for visiting my guest post and commenting.

DEZMOND said...

hm, I'm intrigued, what's the actual word?

Laura Stephenson said...

^This is what I want to know.

Liz said...

I left it out mostly because my names are still changing. You should see what some of my character names used to be.