Wonder Weapons: Release the Magic
August 28, 2014
WHEN WRITING PARANORMAL AND FANTASY FICTION, we writers can invent fantastic magical weapons. However, these weapons need to be interesting so they enrich the story, and believable so the readers can suspend their disbelief.
A weapon which can kill anyone, any time, is implausible and boring.
Here are some ideas how to create a magic weapon, inspired by real magic traditions from different cultures. Your weapon probably includes some, but not all, of these ideas. Have fun!
Material, Size and Shape
* The weapon is made from a solid, natural material: stone, wood, or bone. The bone could be from a ritually sacrificed animal, from a human ancestor, from a hero or saint, or from a slain enemy.
* It may contain a crystal, or a precious or semi-precious stone, because these are good at storing and intensifying magical energy.
* It has an elgongated shape, like a wand or a staff. Indeed, it may be disguised as an everyday elongated object, such as a pen or a walking stick. The magician points it at the target, similar to aiming a gun.
* The weapon can be of any size, from a tiny jewellery pendant to a tree trunk.Small items have the advantage that the magicians can carry them on their body or hide them in their garments. Large items may be stationary and everyone knows of their existence and location.
* There is probably a religious connection. For example, the weapon may be sacred to a goddess, blessed in a temple, manufactured by monks, invented by a god, given to the hero by a goddess.
* It is probably old, perhaps inherited through generations.
* It can only be given – for example, in gratitude by the craftsman who made it, or granted by a priestess on her death bed. It can not be bought with money.
* The manufacture of the weapon involved a ritual and a sacrifice. This may have been a human sacrifice. The weapon may have been dipped into the sacrifice’s blood.
How it Works
* Most magic works through the user’s mind. To activate the weapon, the magician needs to concentrate, perhaps think a certain sequence of thoughts. The use of a magical weapon is never purely physical (such as pulling the trigger on a gun). It’s the mental effort that counts. This can create interesting situations when the magician needs to concentrate to use the weapon, but can’t concentrate in the heat of the battle.
* The damage inflicted by a magical weapon may be invisible. It may kill without leaving visible wounds, baffling the doctors.
* Magical weapons may act slowly. A person may get hit by a magical weapon and not realise it until hours or days later, by which time it’s too late to seek help, and the person withers away.
* The weapon may affect the target’s mind rather than the body. For example, it may rob that person of the will to live, or of the courage to fight.
* Many magical weapons work on one of the elements (earth, air, fire, water). For example, the weapon may kill by shaking the earth on which the target stands, or by heating the air the target breathes.
* The weapon can hit targets which are hidden. Its energy can move through or around obstacles.
* The user needs training to wield the weapon. This probably involves training in magic (power raising, mental focus, directing energy), as well as training in the use of the specific weapon. In the hands of an untrained person, the weapon may be ineffective, or may kill the user.
Charging and Cleansing
* Before use, the weapon needs to be magically fuelled (the usual term for this is ‘charged’). This may be done in a certain place (at a spring, in a temple, at a crossroads) or by a certain person (a senior magician, a crone, a priestess). The charge involves a ritual, which may be simple or complex, and is often religious in nature. Sometimes, a weapon can be charged by leaving it lying in running water, or exposed to bright sunlight, or to the light of the full moon. If the weapon contains a crystal, it’s the crystal that gets charged.
* After use, the weapon needs to be ritually cleansed. This may be a simple act such as rinsing in running water, or it may need a prayer, or a complex ritual at the temple. The cleansing and the re-charging are often done in the same ritual.
* To be interesting, the weapon needs to have at least one weakness which causes difficulties for its user.
* After being ritually charged, the weapon works only for a specific period – perhaps for seven hours, or until the next new moon. After that period has passed, it may become inaccurate or less powerful, or stop working altogether.
* The weapon may only work in the hands of certain people: initiates of the order, male virgins, or post-menopausal crones. This can create interesting situations, for example, if it works only in the hands of a male virgin, the enemy may send a seductress.
* The weapon depends on the user’s attitudes and beliefs. What if the weapon works only for a user whose religious faith is unshaken? What if it only works for someone who is free from fear?
* In many magic traditions, the knowledge of names plays an important role. Perhaps the weapon works only if the user knows the target’s true name.
* In some magic traditions, especially modern ones, visualisation is important. Perhaps the weapon works only if the user can visualise the target’s face.
* The weapon may work only if the user is in a state of altered consciousness (i.e. in a trance); this can be tricky in a battle.
* Magic spells often take time. The user needs time to raise magical energy and to direct her will at the desired outcome. In an urgent fight situation, time may be short.
* Magic requires intense concentration. Perhaps this weapon needs several seconds of total concentration before every shot, and this concentration can be hard to come by in the heat of a fight.
* The weapon may work only in the presence of a certain element (earth, air, fire, water). For example, the user must stand near an open fire, or the target must be close to running water, otherwise it won’t work.
Enjoy inventing a magical weapon. I’d love to see what you come up with, and I hope you’ll post your ideas here. I look forward to helping you refine your fictional weapon.
If you have questions about writing fight scenes or about magical weapons, feel free to ask. Just leave a comment. I’ll be around for the next couple of days and will respond.
Please click the book cover image to read more about author/editor Rayne Hall and her books.