It's officially on Thursdays, but I really do need to come up with a better name (hur hur, writer can't write!). Anyway, this Thursdays topic is MAGIC! How it fits into the novels and Aeria, why I went about it the way I did, and some inspirations.
Magic is prevalent in almost all fantasy fiction, but it's been presented in just as many ways as there are names for those who practice it. One of my earliest memories of magic in fantasy was Gandalf in The Hobbit. He used it sparingly but when he did it was to great effect, always dazzling and mysterious. I vividly remember reading the part where he cast down a starfall-like spell, thinking just how cool that was. There's common magic in books as well, such as the Harry Potter series where everyone and their uncles slings around spells with magic words and wands, and very rare and unexplained magic like in the Conan books where mostly antagonists wield it thanks to dark pacts or maddeningly long rituals lost from ages ago.
One thing I wanted to make clear at first in the books was the source of magic. I didn't care for the Vancian method, where magicians and wizards basically locked the specifics rotes of the spells in their minds, compartmentalizing them until a final uttered word or ritual unlocked it, making the spell spent until a time of memorization. I also wanted magic to be accessible but not common, so it couldn't be on the opposite ends of the spectrum like Harry Potter or Conan. Instead I went with the source being from the very fabric of reality, a sort of seeping power that was in everything. Think of the Gaia model, where everything is intertwined and energy is shared. In that respect the power of the one practicing magic comes from their willpower, their innate abilities to control the essence of magic, and their own personal strength in the form of endurance. In a way, the source of magic comes from something's essence as Aldron explained to Talin in Rogue's Bane, and all of that essence came from a wellspring of magic, a place not of our reality but alongside it and part of it. Thus, someone with an affinity for the essence of fire is able to better seek out, control, and cast spells when near actual fire, since the essence is present; if no fire exists, there's no essence to draw on and cast the spell no matter how powerful they are. I played around with a few source names, one of which was Ether all the way until a few weeks before the beginning of the Kindle run, but I felt the term was too played out, so I played further with the idea of essence and settled on Essentia, the term for the place where everything's essence came from.
The other clear design goal I had was that both the protagonist and the antagonists should have access to magic, so the clear distinction that some people are better able to feel out the essence of things determined their ability to be a magic person was there. It also tapped into the point that to wield magic in Aeria one had to have lots of practice for better control and ability, as well as a solid fortitude as it took effort and focus. I wanted that to be a core point, because if there is no drawback to magic why not have the protagonist use it all the time? Magic works great, but if you're beat up, cut down, without sleep and in the midst of battle the character has to fall back on old tricks, quick wit, or other abilities or allies to help solve the problem at hand. There's nothing worse than a setting where magic exists and there's no clear explanation for why it just doesn't rule over everything. In Aeria there's that drawback of physical exertion to go along with limited essence. Translating it to the books it still allows tension and challenge despite the protagonist learning magic along the way, and I think it made for a good mix of what I was looking for in the end.