Writing Magic: Permanence

When you’re creating the rules of the fantasy or supernatural world in which you intend to write, don’t forget to examine permanence.

Permanence (n): The state or quality of lasting or remaining unchanged indefinitely.

When we talk about permanence in regard to magic, we mean how long magic lasts. The permanence of a bit of magic (especially a spell) has a huge impact on the norms of magic-users in your story. Questions to ask yourself:

  • If my character casts a spell, how long can he or she reasonably expect that spell to last?
  • Can he or she limit the permanence of the spell, or maybe lengthen it at some extra “cost”? If so, what is the “cost” of lengthening and limiting magic in my story?
  • Are there some types of magic that are more permanent than others? For example, is death permanent if the death is inflicted by magical means? Do objects that have changed form change back after a certain length of time, while memory spells can last forever?
  • Can a character or some other outside force limit or lengthen the permanence of a spell cast by another? Can another magic-user end a spell, or is a spell, once cast, permanent? Are there exceptions?
  • Does location matter?
  • Does the time of day or the day of the year affect a magic’s permanence? Do planets? Stars? Clothing colors?
  • Is the permanence of magic affected by the skill of the magic-user?
  • Does the potency of a spell thin out the longer a spell is in effect? Is there anything a character can do to discourage this in his or her magic?
  • What effect does magic permanence have on my plot? How can my characters grow from the rules placed on magic regarding permanence?

There are plenty of questions about permanence to ask yourself when you’re writing magic for your story. We haven’t listed them all, and some will most certainly be unique to your genre or even to your story. Be sure to cover this nuance of magic as you create.

We’ll be writing more on magic in the future. For now, check out our article on Magic-Speak and worldweaving’s post, Worldbuilding Basics: Magic! for more on writing magic into your story.