Sanderson's First Law of Magic

90 Human Paladin
9475
Recently I was looking through Brandon Sanderson's First Law of Magic, seen at http://brandonsanderson.com/article/40/Sandersons-First-Law. He describes it thus:

An author's ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.


So basically if a story is going to solve a problem using magic or some other kind of power, the rules of that magic need to first be understood. So for example if Harry Potter is going to use time travel to save the day, Rowling needs to establish the existence of a time-travel device before it's used as a plot device. Otherwise if you just make up magic or powers on the go when they're needed, it comes across as Dues Ex Machina.

he then goes on to describe various types of magic systems, mainly hard magic(There's set rules to how the magic works, and you understand the capabilities), soft magic(You don't know the rules of magic, but likely it won't be used often to solve main conflicts), and a sort of in-between.

What do you guys think, do you prefer magic systems to have hard guidelines, or to be more open? Are there any particular books or series where you thought the authors used magic or special powers effectively? Any examples where the use of magics didn't work as well?
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90 Draenei Shaman
7110
I don't mean to sidetrack your thread, but since you mentioned Sanderson, I was wondering if you've read the Mistborn trilogy. If so, can you give me any feedback on it? I just heard about it for the first time a couple of days ago and it seems pretty interesting.
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90 Human Paladin
9475
01/08/2013 03:05 PMPosted by Vaelok
I don't mean to sidetrack your thread, but since you mentioned Sanderson, I was wondering if you've read the Mistborn trilogy. If so, can you give me any feedback on it? I just heard about it for the first time a couple of days ago and it seems pretty interesting.


Good series all around. I thought the last book wrapped up a bit quickly, but Sanderson keeps things at a good pace and overall I really enjoyed the series. Not as good as his Stormlight book, though.
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90 Goblin Rogue
14300
His stormlight book was amazing. That world building, those awesome scenes like Dalinar catching the claw of the giant crab thing.

Shallan's story was boring as heck, but i assume it'll get a lot better in future volumes.

Sanderson has some of the most inventive magic systems, mistborn especially. He's absolutely right. If there aren't strict rules to your magic system that the reader can understand logically, and you still use it to solve problems, it just ends up being a deus ex machina bum pull
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90 Human Paladin
9475
Sanderson has some of the most inventive magic systems, mistborn especially. He's absolutely right. If there aren't strict rules to your magic system that the reader can understand logically, and you still use it to solve problems, it just ends up being a deus ex machina bum pull


Star Trek seems one of the worst offenders of the dues ex bum pull, frequently in episodes you'll see

1. Made up problem(caught in a Nebula, the Romulans are using some new tech, etc)
2. Geordi or Data or someone makes up a solution on the spot(If we polarize the ion trail using the deflector array, we might be able to cause a cascade effect)

I think Sanderson specifically addressed the whole "Vulcans have two hearts" thing, because they didn't reveal he had two hearts until he was already dying, and it seemed like they just made up that plot device on the spot.
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