Magic Monday Dispatches No 1: Worldbuilding

Welcome to Monica’s Magic Monday Dispatches where I dive into magic, magic systems, and worldbuilding! Behold, the first dispatch.

What is magic, anyway? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it’s “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces” (1). That power, then, is wielded by a practitioner–witch, wizard, sorcerer, mage, etc.–to affect themselves, other people, or the organic and inorganic in their environment.

Science, on the other hand, is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment” (2).

Magic and science have been entwined for millennia because the universal system–the scientific method–wasn’t commonly applied to study, observe, experiment, and record findings until the late 19th century. This proven method is the best way to separate magic from science in our world and is still being used today. There’s a longer history of the scientific method and its deployment, spanning multiple countries and centuries, so if your interest is piqued? This is a fun rabbit hole to fall into… *evil grin*

The process of separating magic from science is recent (within the past 150 years or so) and slow; many scientists are still dealing with this today. Despite this, its impact cannot be overstated. The term pseudo-science, “a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method” (3), was popularized as a result of this process. Other words, like witch, have since been rebranded as well. More on terms in a future post!

Questions for Worldbuilding

Applying our basic definition of magic to a fantasy setting, it’s clear you’ll need three components to form a magic system: source of mysterious power, practitioner(s), and one or more vehicles (such as a wand, potion, rune, spell, etc.) to access, store, and wield that power.

With this in mind, here’s twenty basic questions to help you worldbuild and troubleshoot different areas. Please keep in mind your answers are to help you brainstorm the components of a magical system and will spawn other worldbuilding elements. Ultimately, what the reader interprets about magic in your story isn’t linked to your notes, it’s connected to your characters. Before you can figure out how your characters view and treat magic, though, it’s helpful to understand what it means to you.

1) What is the source of your world’s power? Is it unlimited or finite?
2) What effects does your power have on your world?
3) Who has access to that power?
4) Who has the ability to use that power?
5) Can that power be stored? If so, how long does it last?
6) Is your magical source perishable or no?
7) If magic can be stored, how are those objects distributed?
8) Are there any side effects or chance of failure?
9) How is magic taught?
10) How does society view magic? Its practitioners?
11) Is there more than one source of power?
12) Is there more than one way to access that power?
13) What “in universe” nomenclature will you use to describe your practitioners?
14) Is gender a factor? Why or why not?
15) Must a practitioner be literate to perform magic?
16) Is there a moral attribute (good versus evil) to that power?
17) How does faith and religion intersect with its use? Study?
18) Does your world have scientific disciplines? If so, how are they impacted by the presence of magic?
19) Is disability a factor for your practitioners? If so, why?
20) Does class affect the use and distribution of magic? If so, how? Why?

Hope you have fun with this exercise. Until next Monday, my lovelies. Have a magical week!

Enjoy a Two-Part Deep Dive about Magic and Motherhood in The Witcher

Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher debuted in December 2019 and has been met with both criticism and accolades. If you’re not already aware, the events in The Witcher Season One are presented as a time-hopping origin story, or braided narrative, for three characters: Yennefer of Vengerberg, Geralt of Rivia, and Ciri of Cintra. The character arcs and setting material were drawn from short stories published in two collections written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski “Sword of Destiny” (1992) and “The Last Wish” (1993), which predate the video games.

I had a lot of fun with Geralt of Rivia and monster hunting as a fan, but wanted to dive deeply into an aspect of the worldbuilding and narrative from a creator’s and setting adaptor’s POV. In Magic and Motherhood in The Witcher: Part One now available on, I examined the magic and magical systems present in The Witcher. In Magic and Motherhood in The Witcher: Part Two, I dove into motherhood and fertility which serve as examples of how magic is implemented and commented upon in this setting.

Enjoy this deep dive into a pop culture phenomenon!

Join My Worldbuilding Panel at Midwinter!


I will be neck-deep in meetings this week and will be slow to respond. I’ll also be presenting a panel about worldbuilding at the Midwinter Gaming Convention 2020 that will be filled with fun group exercises!

Click here to register for my Worldbuilding Panel on Thursday, January 9th.

If you can’t attend (or have to miss it) but still want in on the fun? Contact Me and I’ll be happy to answer a question about worldbuilding for you!


Announcing I’m a Guest Lecturer for Shared Worlds

Shared Worlds 2017

Hello! I am pleased to announce that I have accepted a position as a guest lecturer for Shared Worlds this July. I will be dropping in via Skype to answer the student’s questions about worldbuilding.

Shared Worlds is an annual summer program designed for teen writers interested in speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, etc.). The students work in groups with an experienced “world-building coordinator” to design and build a world. They also attend sessions on particular aspects of world-building with historians, scientists, authors and philosophers. Within a few days, the students have produced a world complete with its own life forms, languages, laws, and cultures. The students then write stories set in the worlds they have built. –SOURCE:

I can’t tell you what an honor it is to be invited to this. The camp has a stellar staff, including writers like Jeff VanderMeer and Will Hindmarch, and features a long list of really wonderful authors like Tobias Buckell, Ann VanderMeer, Sofia Samatar, N.K. Jemisin and many others.

The information to register for the Shared Worlds Camp is on the website, and I encourage you to check out the amazing works produced by these fine guest and staff instructors.

Seeking Publisher Sponsorships for Charity Event

Instead of e-mailing folks personally, I wanted to post this publicly in an effort to gather interest. I am running an event at World Con in Kansas City (Build-a-World) this year, and I am hoping to find publishers willing to chip in a small amount for charity. Because this is for World Con, I would prefer publishers who offer fiction. (Please note as a separate item, that if you are an RPG publisher, I am in an advisory position for the RPG Creator Relief Fund, and they can always use donations.)

The Build-a-World event pits two teams of writers against one another, and I do have some small prizes for them already. However, I was also hoping to give the winning team the option of selecting a charity of their choice, and their “winnings”, which would be donated by a publisher, would go to that organization.

Here’s where the publisher’s involvement would come in:

(1) I’d mention the sponsor during the event
(2) The winning team would identify where those funds would go
(3) I’d communicate with the publisher what charity was chosen
(4) Publisher would handle the money and donate on behalf of the winners (e.g. no money would change hands; publisher would control all of that)

If you’re interested, please let me know. In past years, the amount was small ($50). It may not seem like much, but participants and audience members really do enjoy that little bit extra to make the world a better place.

I haven’t gotten multiple publishers interested before, in part because I didn’t do the leg work of asking, but if we do the process is the same. However, I will do something a little different and splashier if we get multiple folks; there’s room to add some cool bits to share surprises and whatnot.

You can either reach me via my contact page or through monica AT mlvwrites DOT com.

Thanks for listening.

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Monica Valentinelli >

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