A note on magic systems (or why the truth is often stranger than fiction)

As will (eventually) become apparent in King of Sparrows, most of the fantastical elements are left very ambiguous. I often say to a friend, who – on occasion – is given snippets to read, that there is no magic within the story itself, but this is perhaps a lie. There is a magic at work. It is behind the scenes, subtly pulling the characters along or sweeping them away, wrapping them up as the plot unfolds. So the question is – who is the caster, the one holding the strings?

The straightforward, and rather obvious answer, would be myself: the writer. In a flash, I could devise them means by which a character falls to their death, in love, or even escapes a burning building. Of course, this is ridiculous. I can no more force this power upon them than any of the characters could themselves, so who can? What power drives the story onward?

To be honest, I’m not even sure anymore and I believe I’m not ever meant to know. What started out as a project nigh on two years ago has grown and evolved again and again, often as I was in the process of penning. I cast out the old, tiresome magical system and instead left it open and mysterious. To me, the very concept of magic is that it is a belief; it changes, it is vivacious and precarious. Magic isn’t the ability to cast a fireball so that is hurls into space, it is the power that wiggles its fingers through the pages of a story, through a character’s machinations and small snippets of verisimilitude. It works flawlessly behind the scenes; often unnoticed until it is no longer there.