It is November and the annual madness has officially taken hold. It is five days into NaNoWriMo and my official word count is at just over 15,000. For the sake of expedience as I didn’t have the time or energy to world-build for a new novel this year, I have resorted to my last writing resort, fan fiction.
Spinning my own tales using existing characters and world is how I became interested in writing fiction. This is the first time, however, I’ve ever taken the time to write down one of those spin-off stories. Usually the tales remain strictly in my head, the stuff of daydreams in idle moments. I’ve decided that I would write a story about Hogwarts ten years after Voldemort’s final defeat. At its core, it’s a story about characters who were marginalized, broken, and ruined by the Ministry in the years after the war. As I said, it was a last resort, a desperate attempt to get something resembling a story on paper.
In the process of writing this draft, I spent an hour yesterday on a conversation about one character’s view of spell work. He differentiates it into two types – 1). spells that are effective because the person on whom it is used believes that magic has power and 2). spells whose power lies in the spell caster’s ability to shape the nature of reality (requiring no belief whatsoever). An argument then ensues about whether the former is truly magic or simply form of psychological manipulation and whether or not someone who performs that kind of magic can truly call themselves a witch.
After I’d finished writing that section, I thought “Hmm, that’s interesting. Where in Hades did that come from?” I haven’t given a lot of thought to the nature of what makes spells stick, because I rarely do spell work aimed at anyone else (the liminal work that constitutes much of what I do is very different beast than conventional spell work). I realize that the theory above has loopholes that a truck could drive through and simplifies the issue too much, but it does have me thinking about where the power of spell work does lie. Is a curse effective simply because the person on whom it is cast believes, in however small a way, that curses have power? Or does a curse’s efficacy lie solely with the caster and their ability to affect the circumstances of another person’s life?
For now, I’m just going to agree with the response that was given by another character: “Magic just is. It doesn’t need a theory or a philosophy. Must you overthink everything?” Ah, the joys of having philosophical debates in one’s own head.