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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mixing Magic and Modern Times by Nancy J. Cohen

How do you mix magic into modern times? If you’ve been writing straight contemporary stories or tales set in another universe, it might take an adjustment to mix these elements together. Here are some tips to show you the way.

Determine your setting. Where will the story take place? What is different about your reality?

Let’s say you’re writing a YA story. Will the background location be a high school? A summer vacation by a lake? Or a small town where eerie things start happening? What’s peculiar about your place? Is there a circle of rocks that dates back to Druidic times? Or perhaps a strange mist that fills the night air at the lake’s edge?

It could be that an object has magical properties in your modern setting, like the crystals in the TV show featuring teenage witches, The Secret Circle. The point is to take an everyday setting and give it a twist.

Warrior Prince, book one in my new Drift Lords Series, involves sinister theme parks, Thus I set the first story in Orlando, Florida. Where else could a band of hunky uniformed men with laser weapons show up and not get a second glance? Nor do visitors to Orlando’s theme parks expect anything other than a happy, peaceful visit. They’re in for a surprise at my fictional tourist attraction called Drift World.

The action starts when mythologist Nira Larsen goes hunting for a summer job at the theme park’s seedy employment office. Her interview turns into a nightmare when the bad guys attack her. Why are they interested in her? See the next step below.
Create your characters. Which of your people will possess magical powers? Are they aware of this ability, or will they discover it in the course of the story? What exactly are the boundaries of this power, the explanation for it, and its weakness? Whatever ability you create, it must remain consistent throughout your series. If you wish to alter an aspect of it, give a plot twist that causes a mutation or an explanation that produces a logical change.

In Warrior Prince, my bad guys are evil trolls called Trolleks. They’ve invaded Earth through a dimensional rift in the Bermuda Triangle. The Drift Lords—warriors from space—rush to the rescue to quell the invasion, but they can’t do it alone. They need the help of a special group of Earth women with legendary powers.

Where did these powers originate? Since my series is based on Norse mythology, the women are descendants of Odin, the All-Father. He had shapeshifting ability. Thus each heroine is capable of manipulating molecules related to the elements. Nira can alter air currents and choke off someone’s breath. Jennifer Dyhr, a fashion designer, manipulates fabric, corresponding to the fabric of time. Erika, owner of a pottery studio, not only can mold clay but she can mobilize the  earth in her defense. And so on.

And these are just the heroines. The series has dragons who can fly, dwarfs who can change metal into gold, elves who can dance a man to death, and other creatures.

And don’t forget the bad guys. The Trolleks secrete a chemical substance that directly alters the human brain. They transmit it through touch. This process is termed confounding and it turns people into mind slaves. However, my heroines are resistant to this effect, which is why the Trolleks try to capture Nira. Their chief scientist wants to experiment on her. Do you see how the plot develops from the characters and the setting?

Choose a model for your magical system.

If your universe will be based on fairy tales, myth, or folklore, study these stories to see what elements you wish to incorporate into your world. Take the parts that will enhance your story and build on them. Put together your own system that works in the modern world. Remember to stay within the bounds of these tales. For example, I don’t have fairies in my stories because they don’t appear in Norse myths. Be consistent in the universe you create.

Establish the rules of your universe.

Determine how your world operates and then maintain consistency. If there’s magic, where did it come from? Who wields it? What can weaken it? Does it only work under certain conditions? Let’s say your story dictates that living persons can become zombies. How does this happen? Can they be turned back to normal? Can they die? What kills them? What do they want and why? What energizes them? Do they need sustenance? Once you set your rules, stick with them.

It’s great fun creating your own magical system and incorporating it into the world we know.

How do you blend magic with reality?


All commenters during Nancy’s blog tour will be entered into a drawing for a Warrior Prince tee shirt and magnet and a pdf copy of Warrior Prince. Go to http://bit.ly/9ytdvu for a complete schedule of her tour stops.


Warrior Prince: Book One in the Drift Lords Series by Nancy J. Cohen

When mythologist and Florida resident Nira Larsen accepts a job as tour guide for a mysterious stranger, she's drawn into a nightmare reality where ancient myths come alive and legendary evils seek to destroy her. To survive, she must awaken her dormant powers, but the only person who can help is the man whose touch inflames her passion.

After a dimensional rift in the Bermuda Triangle cracks open and an ancient enemy invades Earth, Zohar—leader of the galactic warriors known as the Drift Lords—summons his troops. He doesn't count on a redheaded spitfire getting in his way and capturing his heart. Nira has the power to defeat the enemy and to enslave Zohar's soul. Can he trust her enough to accomplish his mission, or will she lure him to his doom?

Author Biography
Nancy J. Cohen is a multi-published author who writes romance and mysteries. Her popular Bad Hair Day mystery series features hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several of these titles have made the IMBA bestseller list, while Nancy’s imaginative sci-fi/paranormal romances have garnered rave reviews and a HOLT Medallion Award. Active in the writing community and a featured speaker at libraries and conferences, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets.
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Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nancy-J-Cohen/112101588804907


LisaRayns said...

Very informative, Nancy. Thanks for sharing!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I appreciate your stopping by, Lisa!

Unknown said...

Very good information. Thank you so much for sharing.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I'm glad you dropped in, Starla.

River Glynn said...

What a cool template for others to use as they try to shape their own fantasy/futuristic paranormals. Thank you for sharing!

Paula said...

Excellent post, Nancy! Love your process for world building, and the idea for paranormal theme parks... too fun!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Paranormal theme parks are really fun to write, Paula. And Sharon, I am glad you found this article to be useful.

Anonymous said...

Sinister theme park, you had me at that...sounds like a scary story...I like.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Mary, you'll look at theme parks and other tourist attractions in a new light if you read this series.

Luanna Stewart said...

See, I knew there was a reason theme parks give me the heebee geebees, LOL. Although, sounds like it would be fun to have Lothar come to my rescue.

Great post, lots of useful tips.

Anonymous said...

So needed to read this. I'm working on a novella that is titled, Mixed Magic (lol) and the rules need to be added. I like the idea of something to ground the setting too.

Dawn Chartier

Jan Crow said...

Great post and the theme park is an excellent idea. You are so talented!

Ilona Fridl said...

In a lot of ways creating any story is a creation of a reality. Even if it is a contempory, historical, or fantasy. You're creating a spot in time that came from your imagination. And, yes, there are rules to follow for everything for it to be understood by the reader.

Nancy Lee Badger said...

Great ideas. I set part of my books at Scottish Highland games where present-day people dress up as ancient Scots. Yep, my time travelers fit in! Took time to scope it all out, and you have given me even more ideas. Thanks!