Vision: A Resource for Writers
Holly Lisle's Vision
When Magic Goes Wrong
©2001, Jim Francis
of the fun things about magic stories is, well, the fun. Take a look at the
magic your characters can work. They
might use magic so they can fly without the aid of an aircraft, though at times
they may need a battery powered electric broom; they can temporarily freeze
people while forgotten things are fixed; or, when pushed for time, whop up a
banquet from the fixings at a moment's notice. Whatever needs doing, it can be
done with magic. There is, however, one small problem; much like the rest of the
universe, magic is prone to error.
might go wrong when your average magic-practicing and harassed housewife needs
to go to the supermarket, or mall? Naturally, the first thing she does is to
open the requisite program on her computer. If she presses enter the exit portal
will appear and everybody at her destination will be momentarily frozen to avoid
shocking them when she suddenly steps into their midst. But before she does
this, she realizes that she has forgotten her Palm computer. The last time she
did that, being unable to re-open the portal, she had the annoyance and expense
of a taxi home.
keeps her Palm locked away because her husband tends to play with things. One
cold night last winter he played with it and the kitchen window panes vanished.
While she's getting the Palm, her kitten jumps up to the keyboard and touches a
key. The computer beeps, the monitor screen flashes, and the kitten jumps down.
This is hint #1 to your reader that a problem is in the offing.
comes back ,hits enter, and the computer speakers intone the spell. After all,
there is no rule that says magic spells need a human voice. The portal takes
marginally longer than normal to open. This is hint #2 that things will go
wrong. In the supermarket she passes an obviously impoverished, pregnant woman
with two very young children. The woman gives her a puzzled glance and, after a
moment of puzzlement herself, she realizes that the two of them look very much
alike. This is hint #3 that the unsuspecting housewife is running into trouble.
the check out her debit card is rejected, and the cashier hits a key. Two
security guards dressed like Turkish harem eunuchs materialize from thin air.
They have huge scimitars hanging from tightly cinched cummerbunds. This is
beyond a hint. She has landed somewhere strange, and probably dangerous. Her
debit card rejected, she is dragged off, and her Palm is seized. All the police
are dressed like eunuchs. Locked in a cell, she eventually manages to remember
an oral spell, escapes and re-gains her Palm. There's an exciting chase, but
eventually the Palm computer opens a portal into the kitchen. Home at last, she
collapses into a chair, closes her eyes, and breathes a sigh of relief as the
portal closes on her pursuers.
The adventure, however, is not yet over. She hears a gasp and opens her eyes to see that another version of herself has entered the room. This is not her world either. Oh well, in magic, as in the rest of the world, nothing's perfect. That's kind of adventure that can happen "When Magic Goes Wrong." Enjoy your writing. Have fun.