Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Nature of Magic


My fellow crusaders Laura Diamond and Tessa Conte are hosting the Nature of Magic blogfest today and tomorrow. A chance to share what magic means to our characters. They are also offering chapter critiques to three finalists.

And hey, just so you know, there's also a chance to win critiques over at Oasis for YA until April 1st.

This 465-word excerpt is from my YA historical fantasy, A Handful of Scars. The scene is where sixteen year-old Sidain learns a little about the magic she's about to inherit.


“Sidain,” Ehrulen said, startling me out of a wind-induced reverie. I’d almost forgotten he was sitting behind me. “Tell me your first impression.”

I hesitated. My first time ever out on a boat - I felt a little queasy, and a little thrilled. I thought about how my mother had loved the sea, and my face tightened. I did not want to tell him any of this.

The wind shifted, making the sail snap and shudder. The rope-man adjusted the sail until it caught the wind again. I staggered, trying to keep my balance as the boat heeled over.

"Tension," I said.

Ehrulen lifted his shaggy eyebrows almost high enough for me to see his eyes.

“Go on,” he said.

“Um, the wind is moving us, but it’s a tense kind of movement. Not relaxing and mindless like walking. It’s like riding a half-broke horse, about to take off running without warning.”

“Unpredictable.”

“And far more powerful,” I said. “I feel so – exposed out here.” Especially since I couldn't see the shore now. Why couldn't we sail parallel to the shore, instead of away from it? We were surrounded by wind and water, with only some planks of wood and a square of sailcloth between us and those two dominant elements.

“Which is more powerful, the wind or the waves?” Ehrulen asked.

He was testing me. I thought about how the wind stirred up the waves, making it seem the more powerful of the two. The sky had greater breadth, spreading out across both land and sea. And it had unmeasurable height, probably even higher than the sea’s depth. But the water – it had weight. The wind could ruffle its surface, but the surface only. The waves were a meaningless movement compared to the great currents underneath, and beneath those the depths where only the sea monsters could possibly live.

“The wind is greater than the waves,” I finally answered. “But the depths are more powerful than both.”

Ehrulen stared at me. I ran my tongue over my lips, and the wind immediately dried them.

“We can harness the wind and ride the waves in this boat,” he said, with a nod. “We can choose our direction and travel across the world faster than by any other means. But.” He stopped, and I knew he was waiting for me to answer.

“But… we don’t really control the elements.”

He nodded again. Then he stood up beside me. He had perfect sea legs, like the rope-man. We both stood facing into the wind, and when he spoke, his words barely reached me before the wind snatched them away.

“So it is with the power of Lassil, Sidain. We harness its power like the sail harnesses the wind. But we never truly control it.”
So there you have it. I'm traveling on Sunday March 27, but I promise to visit more folks in the blogfest on Monday!

30 comments:

  1. Oooooo. Nice analogy. And it sounds like the way a practical magic worker would explain how it works. I like that.

    My offering is here.

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  2. I like the balance of observation, thought and dialogue here, there's a good flow so it never feels like she's jumping to conclusions or holding out on answering too long. The observations/thoughts take just long enough to read that we can hear the pause in conversation without needing to be refreshed on the question she goes on to answer.
    - Sophia.

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  3. A fantastic explanation of magic in classic fantasy teacher style - Love it!! And very well written, too - I agree totally with Sophia up there.

    Thank you for joining our blogfest! Don't forget to tune in on the 30th March to see the list of finalists...

    T.x

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  4. Ooooh!!!! I like this very much!!!!! It's so atmospheric with a really lovely interplay between the older wiser and ever so enigmatic Ehrulen and the young and still very raw but smart Sidain!!! I can feel the wind and smell the sea air and hear the creak of the sails!!

    Thanks for sharing!! Take care
    x

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  5. This is great, Margo. Your images are powerful, and I love the way you've compared the wind and water.

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  6. nice description, and i like the last line. great entry.

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  7. What a beautiful way to explain your magic. I loved the comparison and the thought behind it-- I could see you really thought about how to explain, yet it read effortlessly. Great job.

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  8. Great entry.
    I love the way your characters acknowledge that they are ultimately powerless against the elements, but that if they understand them they can use them to their advantage.

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  9. Ooh, the magic in nature. Great twist on the theme.

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  10. Fantastic excerpt. I'm wondering what's in store for Sidain. I found your writing easy to read and the setting a perfect example to show how magic works for your characters.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Very cool. I like the lesson aspect of it. The feeling of being exposed in the open of the sea also rang true. Nice post.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

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  12. My favorite line has nothing to do with the magic: Ehrulen lifted his shaggy eyebrows almost high enough for me to see his eyes.

    Even though I'm not deep into YA, I liked this a lot!

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  13. Awesome! I'm really enjoying this blogfest! :)

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  14. An interesting lesson, and one that teaches the reader a lot about your world's magic, even as the character learns it.

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  15. This is well done, I enjoyed the comparison from the wind to the magic I assume the characters use.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

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  16. Harnessing the powers of the elements; sounds like your characters are sorceres.

    Cool lesson.

    .....dhole

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  17. This is my first visit to your blog. I clicked on your link from The Writing Nut's post. I love this excerpt. Pulled me right in. Such wisdom -- contrasting the wind and the sea, and then tying the anaolgy of the magical powers in to both! Very, very cool!

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  18. I liked this a lot - I could feel the movement of the wind, and the tension moving the boat, and you did it with so few words! I like writing that gets into my bones, and this did. I'd definitely want to read the rest of this book.

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  19. Well done. I like that the one is just called "rope-man", hehe. And the sensing of the wind, comparing to the waves and depth of sea were well thought out. Nice job.

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  20. Magic in the elements of nature. I see a lot of wisdom in here, and I agree with everyone else, it is well written.

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  21. Nice job, Margo! I love seeing the elements come into play in fiction. I also loved the atmosphere.

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  22. Great analogy. But I also wonder if the water and the wind are part of the magic. I'm interested to know more.

    Love the last line. Fits with so many things beyond magic too.

    “So it is with the power of Lassil, Sidain. We harness its power like the sail harnesses the wind. But we never truly control it.”

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  23. Great excerpt - I love your description! :)

    And you captured perfectly the might and power of the elements.

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  24. Bravo! That was terrific! You really explained it well, I love the analogy with the waves and the wind and the depths being more powerful than both.

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  25. Ooh that was a very cool way to make that point not just to your character but to us too!! :D

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  26. I really like this "lesson!" Thanks for participating! :D

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  27. Really loved it! I'm enjoying (although not participating) all of these 'Nature of Magic' entries. Incredibly imaginative stuff going down!

    EJ

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  28. Holy @#$%, Margo! That was awesome. Such beautiful writing. And the details, gorgeous in delivery. Like this: "Ehrulen lifted his shaggy eyebrows almost high enough for me to see his eyes." So vivid! I'm a sucker for any story that deals with magic, but especially if the writing is lovely. Well done, Margo!

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  29. Oh, this was lovely! It's a great, quiet little scene, with so much going on in the background, and just a lovely line at the end. Thanks for sharing this!

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  30. Oh awesome! I love characters who are taught to truly respect the power/magic/ect they wield. Lovely selection :)

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