"It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."
Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene II.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

NZATE CONFERENCE 2014 Keynote #3 - Michael Pryor: Five Kinds of Magic

Michael told us about the magic he discovered in the library, where the first book he ever took out was CS Lewis' The Magician's Nephew

The second kind of magic was when he went to a course on how to do magic tricks. This involved a funny story and Michael pulling a bunch of flowers out of his sleeve.

He tells us that writing fantasy fiction has its challenges. Fantasy writers are dreamers. Part of the magic of writing fantasy is that while we do everything other writers do we also have to do world-building.

[By this stage I have no idea which of the five kinds of magic we are on but I am enjoying this! I have stopped secretly checking the Slytherin House pro boards site news on another tab... ]

Planning, researching and devising the world before you start can pay off. Michael told us about someone who had spent 5 years on 'the map' before he started! "I think this was a little obsessive. It's a spectrum," he explains to general laughter.

Some of the things Michael sees as important to know before he starts writing:

  • climate
  • topography
  • food
  • clothing
  • language/diction
He tells us, iff you want to know the difference between language and diction you go back to Tolkien - "Every fantasy writer in the modern era has a debt to Tolkien."

  • currency
  • government
  • religion
  • architecture
  • history (your world will have a back story)
  • science and technology
  • flora and fauna
  • measurement
  • weapons and armour
  • travel
  • communication
  • time (how do you measure?)
"Magic is one of the things that make fantasy, fantasy." But it can ruin a story. If it is powerful enough it can destroy the story by destroying all tension and solving all problems. The way to get around this is to put limitations on magic. e.g. Magic can only be done by females. Or magic can only be done by people under the age of 16.

Fourth kind of magic: research. "I love the splendid things I stumble across when I am supposed to be researching." One of these was discovering The Boy's Own Paper. This leads us into the idea of steam punk as a fusion of The Boy's Own Paper world and the world of cyber punk, and into Michael's series The Laws of Magic.  He talked about how his characters began acting in a way they weren't supposed to. Romance entered in and he tried to force it out but the characters kept coming back to it so he had to listen to them.

Check out his webpage here: http://www.michaelpryor.com.au/laws-of-magic/ 

I think the fifth kind of magic was the writing part! Michael finished by saying: "I write fantasy because I love it and because it's MAGIC."

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