A while back I wrote about setting limits in magic to make the magic more believable. Though magic can be put into many different classifications, I like to think of everything as either something you learn (spells) or something that is innate (a power you were born with). (Hmm…that totally leaves out magical items but well that will have to be a different post.)
In my trilogy, The Elemental, there are two types of magic – one performed through spells by wizards called Learners. The other is an innate form in which the user draws energy from their surroundings to control the elements – fire, air, water and land. These people are known as Elementals.
Lina stood by Tosh not sure what to do. She wanted to help but had no weapon beside her Elemental power. But she was unsure if she was skilled enough to use that power in battle. Then again, she had to do something. She began gathering the power. Her body began to tingle as it pulsed through her. She waited until neither Coy nor Val was attacking, and then she slowly unleashed the power, all the while thinking of a deep hot blaze. The bluish blaze seemed to spring up from the ground itself. Flames quickly engulfed the beast. It twisted and howled. The beast turned toward her. It’s loud cry pierced the air. – from Summoned
I chose to use an innate power because I wanted my heroine, Lina, to have a type of power that was not something she chose. This was part of who she was. It was as natural as breathing, and it was something she couldn’t avoid using.
In the first book, Summoned, Lina is pulled into the adventure because of this power she possesses though she doesn’t know that is the reason. As she travels and her magic grows, it really directs the story and creates an internal battle after she kills someone while using her magic.
Had I made her magic based on something she learned, she could easily have chosen to quit her travels when things got hard or simply stopped learning magic. Of course if I had chosen her to have a learned type of magic, I could have developed other factors that keep her in the story, but it would have been a totally different tale than the one I wrote.
In the case of innate magic, the antagonist of the story can be the magic itself. The character’s struggle to understand and/or control their magic can be more than just an integral part of the story but really the whole story.
However, that was not the focus in The Elemental trilogy and won’t be in my next novel. Though I have only begun to work on it, in my next novel, the main character will possess an innate magic that will again play a huge part in her journey. And part of that journey will be learning about her innate ability.