What Are Sanderson’s Laws of Magic?
Introduction to Sanderson’s Laws
I like magic systems. That’s probably evident to those of you who have read my work. A solid, interesting and innovative system of magic in a book is something that really appeals to me. True, characters are what make a story narratively powerful—but magic is a large part of what makes the fantasy genre distinctive.
For a while now, I’ve been working on various theories regarding magic systems. There’s a lot to consider here. As a writer, I want a system that is fun to write. As a reader, I want something that is something fun to read. As a storyteller, I want a setting element that is narratively sound and which offers room for mystery and discovery. A good magic system should both visually appealing and should work to enhance the mood of a story. It should facilitate the narrative, and provide a source of conflict.
I’d like to approach the concept of magic in several different essays, each detailing one of the ‘laws’ I’ve developed to explain what I think makes good magic systems. As always, these are just my thoughts. Though I call them laws, they’re nothing more than simple guidelines that have worked for me. Just like it’s sometimes good to violate rules of grammar, authors can violate my theories and still have good books. However, I do think that by following these, you can work to develop more potent and memorable magic in your books.
Please click on the links below to get the full story on each law.
Sanderson’s First Law of Magics: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.
Sanderson’s Second Law can be written very simply. It goes like this:
Limitations > Powers
(Or, if you want to write it in clever electrical notation, you could say it this way:
? > | – though that would probably drive a scientist crazy.)
The third law is as follows: Expand what you already have before you add something new.