Friday, September 6, 2013

Storyworld Building: Types of Magic

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

This post now part of the book Storyworld First: Creating A Unique Fantasy World For Your Novel by Jill Williamson.

No, I'm not referring to stage magic here, where the magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat or makes his lovely assistant disappear. I'm talking about different types of fantasy magic or abilities that have become popular through ancient stories, novels, comic books, movies, or games. I'm no expert here. I've cobbled this list together through various sources, including my own movie shelf and my husband's brainstorming help.

The idea in giving you this list is not for you to pluck a magic from the list and use it as it's been used before. My hope is that this list might inspire you toward something fresh in your own books. For example, the magic in my Blood of Kings books is basically telepathy. But I took that that generic ability, combined it with my storyworld's "Veil" (a spiritual realm of sorts), and brainstormed ways that soldiers might use the magic to fight during times of war, and the magic took on a life of its own.

So take a look at this list and see what you think. I tried to organize it, but it's still pretty complex. Let me know in the comments if I missed something major.

Alchemy - The ability to change chemical elements from one substance to another, usually changing something of little value to one of great value.

Animation - The ability to bring inanimate objects to life.

Conjuror - A person who conjures spirits.

Disintegration - The ability to disintegrate matter.

Elemental - The ability to control or manipulate the elements of nature (water, fire, wind, earth.)

ENERGY - The following are abilities that have to do with energy.
       Absorption - The ability to absorb energy and convert into something else, like physical strength.
       Augmentation - The ability to enhance or weaken someone else's powers.
       Bestowal - The ability to bestow powers on another or to bring one's latent powers to life.
       Conversion - Ability to absorb one form of energy and convert it into another form of energy.
       Electrical transportation - The ability to travel through electrical conduits such as: cell phones, computers, power lines, telephone lines, television sets, etc.
       Energy manipulation - The ability to manipulate another person's powers into something else.
       Force field generation - Ability to project powerful fields of manipulated energy that often act as shields.       
       Negation- The ability to mute the powers of another person.
       Sensing - The ability to sense or recognize magical powers.
       Sourcing - The ability to draw power from energy sources.

Flight - The ability to to fly.

Healing - The ability to heal from any injury.

Illusion - The ability to create illusions.

Immortality - The ability to live forever.

INTELLIGENCE - The following are abilities that have to do with intelligence.
       Intelligence - Being a genius, sometimes having the ability to learn new things quickly.
       Linguist, polyglot - The ability to understand any language.
       Probability - The ability to predict future possibilities, or to alter or change future outcomes.

Invisibility - The ability to make oneself invisible.

Invulnerability - To be invincible or immune to injury.

Mage, magician, sorcerer, wizard - a person who is skilled in magic.

MANIPULATION - The following are abilities that have to do with manipulating physical things.
       Biology, Metamorphosis - The ability to manipulate any aspect of biology: limbs, bones, hair, gender. One could change their size, make their bones stab out like spears, stretch their body, or change arms into legs.
       Duplication - The ability to create physical duplicates of oneself.
       Gravity - The ability to manipulate gravity.
       Light - The ability to create, manipulate, or absorb particles of light.
       Magnetism - The ability to generate, control, or manipulate metal or magnetic fields.
       Mass - The ability to increase or decrease mass in an object or person.
       Merge - The ability to merge two beings into one.
       Quantum tunneling - The ability to travel through solid matter without harm, walking through a wall, for example.
       Regeneration - The ability to regenerate.
       Shapeshifting - The ability to assume a different physical form. There are many different types of shapeshifting. One could take on the form of an animal or plant, turn to liquid or gas, or turn into the substance they are touching.
       Technopath - The ability to manipulate technology.

Matter ingestion - The ability to consume any sort of matter without harm.

Medium - The ability to see and communicate with the dead.

Mimicry - The ability to mimic, absorb, or steal the abilities of people, plants, or animals and even another person's powers.

Necromancer - One who can bring the dead to life and control them.

Omnipresent - The ability to be present everywhere at the same time.

Omniscient - The ability to have unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding.

Poison - The ability to poison another.

Possession - The ability to occupy, dominate, or control another person from within.

PSIONIC - The following abilities involve communication or perception beyond the five physical senses.
       Abuse - The ability to enter another mind and cause pain, loss of consciousness, and eventually death.
       Empathy - The ability to read or sense another person's emotions and/or control another person's emotions or feelings.
       Foresight - The ability to look into the past, present, or future.
       Memory manipulation - The ability to erase or change the memories of another person.
       Mind control - The ability to control another person's actions or reasoning.
       Psychic, Precognition, Clairvoyance "clear seeing" Clairaudience "clear hearing" - The ability to perceive the future. This could happen in dreams during sleep or visions while awake.
       Psychometry - The ability to gain foresight by touching objects.
       Telekinesis - The ability to control, manipulate, or move objects with the mind.
       Telepathy - The ability to read another person's thoughts or communicate with another person's mind.

Scrying - The ability to use a magical item to view future events.

Self-detonation - The ability to explode one's body and reform.

Shamans - An intermediary between the natural and supernatural world. One who uses magic to cure illness, tell the future, control spiritual forces by using bones, totems, and sometimes by sharing an animal's senses.

SOUND - The following abilities involve sound.
       Sonar sense - The ability to use sound waves to locate items.
       Sonic scream - The ability to make sounds that are in higher amplitudes than the human voice.
       Sound manipulation - The ability to manipulate sound waves.

Summoning - The ability to call for the presence of another, message them, or signal them by command. Most often involves demons or spirits from other realms

SUPERHUMAN - The following abilities involve amplification of normal human abilities.
       Durability - The ability to have a higher resistance to injury than a normal person.
       Reflexes - The ability to react faster than a normal person.
       Senses - Having magnified abilities to see, hear, feel, smell, and/or taste.
       Speed - The ability to move faster than a normal person.
       Strength - The ability to have more strength that a normal person.
       Vision - The ability to have power though one's vision, which could include heat vision, magnified vision, night vision, and/or x-ray vision.

TIME - The following abilities involve manipulation of time.
       Time mages - The ability to slow, accelerate, reverse, and/or stop time.
       Time travel - The ability to travel back and forth through time or to manipulate time.

TRANSPORTATION - The following abilities involve transportation.
       Dimensional transportation - The ability to create portals or wormholes between places.
       Teleportation - The ability to move from one place to another instantly without actually traveling over the space between.

Wall climbing- The ability to climb any surface, even vertical ones just like Spiderman.

Water breathing - Ability to breathe under water.

Witch or Warlock - A person who practices magic, especially black magic or black arts.


  1. I never thought about magic really, but since I'm writing a fantasy, I guess I have got to have it ***shrugs*** my favs. Were the transportation :) its really cool. Don't really know if you're missing any. (I have really got to learn more about fantasy) ~Tw

    1. There are plenty of fantasy novels that have no magic. They're more the heroic fantasy novels. Picture Three Musketeers in a fantasy world. Or read Lloyd Alexander's Westmark trilogy.

      But you can add some if you want to. ;-)

  2. This post has given so many possible ideas for my WIP, which is exactly what I need right now! Thanks a lot, Jill!


  3. Thanks Jill!
    These will go great with a book I'm working on with another teen writer.

    (Wow! I had no idea there was so much magic!)

    1. Yeah... and I left lots of weird things off that I felt fit into other categories too. But I'm sure there are things I could add to this too.

    2. You work with a teen writer? I am a teen writer, and I was wondering if you knew any editors...?

  4. This is super helpful. :) I tend to revert to the same boring kinds of magic, but this has given me all sorts of ideas! The biggest problem for me is creating costs for magic. I tend to make my magic a little unfair, but then I forget about the cost. I'd love to see a post on that sometime. :)

    1. I'm glad it sparked some ideas!

      I don't think it would help to write a post on the costs of magic because all it would be is me researching what a bunch of authors did that was different. And the point of making the cost not cliche is to make it something unique, which means you need to brainstorm that for yourself. It's challenging. But you can do it! Think of ways you can tie it to your cool storyworld elements in nature or astronomy or cultural things.

    2. Hey Jill, I was also wondering what kind of ways there are to, say, communicate powers? I've read book where it's wands, spells, runes or potions but if feels cliche to use those again. Any suggestions? Thanks

  5. I didn't realize just how many types of magic there were! Now I need to go back and make sure the magic in my story is done properly. Expect me back in several days. :P

    1. LOL!

      Don't think of this list as any kind of a rule. The magic only needs to be done "properly" in reference to your own storyworld and the rules you make.

  6. Been waiting for this all week :). The great thing about magic is you can pick and choose what you want but you can also combine various magical abilities to create your own unique magic. Thanks for the list!

    1. Exactly! Do that! It's awesome when you do. You're welcome, Dogwalker!

  7. Thanks for the list of magics! :o D *fascinating* really. :o )

  8. Eh . . . That's a pretty boss list of magic.

  9. I'm so excited right now, in my fictional universe a lot of these types of magic is used. I really should work on making my magic unique, but basically they have what I called 'basic magic' where everybody shares common types as in teleportation, invisibility, healing, force fields and the like. While everyone has something that sets them apart, in what I just called their 'abilities,' like fire, electricity or duplicates.
    I've invented this idea when I was a kid with the help of my sister. You see, we came up with these stories and now I'm finally putting it down on word document. I believe that the fact my story involves almost all of the magic types would set it apart from others, although I do see how to make it even more unique.
    Thanks, for all the awesome posts on magic!!


    1. Cool, MJ! I'm glad the post was helpful and that you're working on ways to make the magic unique in your book. :-)

  10. That's an awesome list!
    I've also heard of Death Warning (seeing the date/situation of people's deaths), Aura reading (perception of energy fields), and astral projection (astral body/mind/spirit separating from body).

  11. This really does help a ton! I am an aspiring young author but another hobby is roleplaying games (like Dungeons and Dragons). This list of magic helps me with the planning of spells : )

  12. I find it odd how there are not many horror fantasy novels. I would love to make one. One where it is in the pesent and has magic and swords and everything mordern too but not all innocent. Like watchmen of the fantasy. Where human flaws and qualilties are shown and problems like war and famine and injustice are shown. I want my book to explain how we may use books as an exscape but you can never truely exscape what makes us human

    1. I'm trying to write a book that literally tackles ALL of these things. I am very watchmen inspired and wanted character development and real struggles but in a sci fi fantasy setting. I hope to accomplish exactly what you are looking for, it's been my goal since the start.

  13. My FMC has healing. she cant heal herself, but she can heal others. But the drawback is- it makes her weaker every time she tries to heal someone.

  14. Thanks Jill! Im writing a fantasy novel and this was so helpful!!

  15. I'm looking for a power that a large amount of people can possess while all being different and not causing a catastrophe. You forgot possession on your list

  16. All of my problems have been solved...

  17. Because of lord of the rings, I can't read conjurer any more without thinking of Gandalf saying "do not think I am a conjurer of cheap tricks." *sigh* :)

  18. This is so awesome!!! Perfect!!! Just what I've been looking for!!! Thanks so much for posting this!!! I've been writing on this extremely intricate book for 7 years now and the more i get into it, the more i realize i need to find and make up. Mind you, i don't consistently work on this book because i often times run out of an idea or lack the knowledge of a certain subject to continue on. Its a combination of a sci-fi, fantasy, post apocalypse, symbolic struggle. Its a bit of everything and i have put my heart and soul into it because i have dedicated so much of my life to it. Sorry for the rambling, but this article is AMAZING!!!! :-) :-) :-)

  19. this is SO fantastic <3 thank you for this. Brilliant post!


  21. Thank you so much for this great list :).

  22. Tackles a lot of magic. Could probably use it sometime

  23. Rahhhh you just literally saved my life!!! Goshdarnit I thought I was going to die. The book I'm writing has a ton of different people with different powers, and even if some of these are more general, it gives me a ton of new ideas for powers. Thanks so much!

  24. This was so useful thank you so much! xx

  25. I'm just started thinking about doing a book and this helped me a lot, so THANKS.

  26. This was very helpful. Thank you

  27. I love how you did this and how as a established author you have made a source for young writers to use.
    so thank you

  28. I love this list especially since it has some more not-so-common powers. I'm writing a story and this has helped me a lot

  29. So helpful im writing a original anime and was looking for different magics to include thanks

  30. Wow! As in WOW!! These are very amazing! I never knew that powers in fantasy are so many. I thought before, powers are just about the elements. Wow! Thanks for this.

  31. This post was how I first discovered this blog. I needed a list of different sorts of magic for my fantasy world, so turned to Google. Even thugh the link to this was the fifth one down, it was the one I clicked on. After reading this, I read a few other posts, and now have read pretty much every post, thinking about how I can make my wrting better!

  32. You have no idea how grateful I am to you. Lol I write romance but I've been toying around with an idea for a fantasy novel but just couldn't think of what exactly I wanted it to surround. Vampires and werewolves are so overused. Thanks​ much!

  33. These will be really helpful for working on the magic system of a new storyworld I'm building. Thanks!

  34. I have been researching my first book, which has become at the very least a trilogy. For powers I am using light manipulations and genetics (i.e. chimeras. My problem is I feel like I must explain EVERYTHING, which cannot be a good YA fiction. Help!

  35. Excellent post. I'm experiencing some of these issues as well..