Writing mechanics

So I was wondering how people who write works with stuff like magic and all that keep it stable without plot holes?

I've been winging it but I had a story where I've written out all the rules before hand. Any thoughts?

Oh, boy. For me, anything that follows any kind of mechanics(I do game-related stories a lot for fanfiction), I make sure either to have a deep plan for really complex systems and simple ones for more simple systems. In fact, need to do a simpler one for the web serial I got on the back burner since I realized where I want to go with it. Though, you could always go the fun route like I am doing in one fanfiction and go crazy with seemingly plot holes in the beginning and actually make part of the story about patching those holes up as the world(literally with my story) figures out how to deal with them. Hence I am working with someone who goes from somewhat OP in the beginning to nerfed over the story when I hit a certain point and he is forced to adapt.

Sometimes you don't have to keep it stable; if you've got a lovecraftian feel to your story, then it's a selling point if magic is dangerous, fickle, unknowable stuff that spirals out of control. Otherwise, I suggest trying to come up with rules. In my opinion, think of what your magic can't do, first of all; that's an easy way to start and keep it consistent. The limitations are the parts of magic I notice first.

I write best when I'm flying by the seat of my pants, so I find it's REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT to keep a little notepad of everything I've said about my magic system thus far. Thus, I can make things up as I go while still maintaining the internal consistency that is the most important thing when dealing with a magic system.

I should also note that for all intents and purposes, superhero and cape fiction count as "magic systems" in the context of writing. My current serial is closer to cape fiction than it is to magic, but I keep to the same rules for myself and it's worked out pretty well so far.

You could always go rowling and just make up random crap, and then spend the rest of a series explaining why literally everything in the first book (seriously in the first Harry Potter, she was basically like "hey let's do literally anything we want!" And then starting in the second book everything in the first was explained over the next seven books).

If you are going to make a magic system that is meant to be internally consistent, you should probably write out the rules ahead of time. Limitations and costs are the most important things to make clear not only for the reader, but also yourself. How much you end up actually revealing about how the system works will, often, depend on the type of story you are writing and the perspective you choose.

Suspension of disbelief can go a long way toward making a loose system seem tighter. "It works that way because it's magic" is something readers are often asked to just accept. To use Harry Potter, for example, wizards who are underage and without control of their magic can do all kinds of magic by accident without a wand, but older wizards who have full control of their magic mostly need wands to perform magic (otherwise, why would anyone bother with the disarming charm?). Does this make sense, and if so, why? Because the author tells us this is the way things are. Another example from Harry Potter: magic interferes with the workings of electronics -- why? It just does.

Because readers are generally willing to go along with whatever the author tells them about HOW magic works, even more than the magic system, itself, it is important to have a clear picture of how magic impacts your world -- ecology, society (religion, economics, government, etc.), technology, and so on. Writing an outline for all of this can be helpful to keep everything sorted and ensure that the magic feels real.

I totally winged mine. Its a headache but it helped with the actual writing. If you have enough of a buffer built up you can retroactively edit as ideas come to you. Some people just can't outline.

I sooo envy the ability to retroactively edit. For a brief period of about a month I was once able to build a backlog, and by far the best part of it was the ability to go back and add foreshadowing, or change things around as a new idea came to me. I realize it's a bit hypocritical of me to say since I've only once been able to maintain one, but if you can manage a backlog, just do it. There are SO many benefits, and what Tempest said is a very big one.

I like thinking about it like Vampire the masquerade, and the Lore ability. VTM is a role playing game, and things in different books argue with each other. On purpose. You can as a character learn Lore abilities which tell you how much of the "real world" you know. but its stated, even having top lore, you may KNOW a lot of things, but they aren't all TRUE. and the books have viewpoints of characters who may have high lore, but still, they don't know everything for sure. No one CAN. The same is true with magic. You don't have to be completely internally consistent, because no matter how smart any character is, they don't know it all.

What Alexander said is true for Anathema, pretty much. No one has figured the entire system behind powers out, and some assumptions and classifications are plain wrong. Over the course of the story, more 'truths' will be revealed.

There's also characters who spread false information on purpose.

Chrusalis, I JUST finally started and caught up on Anathema yesterday and this morning. PHEW! I very much get that feeling, that there is a lot going on behind the scenes, lots of people have pieces, a couple people have a LOT more info than they are letting on, and even they might be wrong. It's just the kind of chaos and misinformation that makes me think of VTM, and I am LOVING it so far. (also, depending on the timing, it seems like you're basically saying that Shanti's death is what caused Dancer to transition, but no one has flat out SAID it yet. I'm just waiting for someone to suggest that to Dancer, and how that will cause her to react, bwahahahahaah)

I'm glad to see not everyone reads over all those little hits and misses them! Most people I ask like... what, there were hints?

You're going to enjoy the arc 3 ending reveal, I think. There's also more incoming with the next chapter.

Well, I'm a murder mystery buff, so I'm used to looking for the evidence. I can't read most modern murder mysteries, I figure it out by the second chapter! Looking forward to it, and learning more about how powers work.

Murder mystery? Heh. You'll like the fourth arc as well, then. XD

For things like this, I actually would highly advise some thought put into it in advance. Yes, you can "wing" it, and indeed some folks get good results that way, but that works better with action, dialogue and to a lesser extent plotting.

I view worldbuilding in another light. Did you ever watch the special features on the Lord of the Rings extended DVDs? One thing from those that stuck in my mind is the effects team's philosophy that they were making a documentary, that what they were filming existed, had happened, was fully formed, and they were just bringing it to life. I take that approach with fantasy and anything I'm writing where I have to explain how things work.

Think of yourself not as the creator, but as a tour guide. If you're not yet familiar enough with the world you are escorting people through, perhaps you should deepen your knowledge (i.e.: do more worldbuilding in your head) before conducting tours.

I mean this simply as an answer to your question and not as a criticism of your work, which I haven't yet read. Actually Anathema is next on my list! I look forward to being able to give you more specific feedback. Hopefully my ideas were in some way helpful. If not, you have my permission to throw a shoe at me. Everyone does. ;)

Glad to hear it's next on your list. Maybe wait until the first arc edit, which I'll start working on after the Wednesday update next week. In its current state, I don't recommend getting started just yet - unless you can stomach a very flawed start with the promise that it gets a lot better.

I think I did try something of a documentary approach. It's one reason why my world doesn't accept villains as a reality, they get killed right away. Of course, the heroes might not be able to pull that off much longer - some things are about to change dramatically.

I'd be very interested to hear if I was somewhat successful with the documentary method.

As others have touched on a big part of it is in the kind of magic you have.

I've got a bit of semi-unhelpful advice though. No matter how hard you try, you will probably have plot holes anyway. The key is to have a metaphorical carpet over some, keep the numbers of others down and any that you miss after your vigilance, well others are possibly going to miss it too.

But yeah, having a mystical folklore or lovecraftian magic is a bit of a shield, though not an absolute one. As for having an actual system of magic? That is technically way harder, because you need to remember when the magic would be used and the applications that non-smart people would get the general idea of.

Nothing is quite as embarrassing as having characters blocked by an something they could have actually dealt with.

Main thing though to my mind, it is more important that people don't think about plotholes or go looking for them. If you entertain people enough you can sneak a certain amount of stuff past, people will pick a thing to pieces if it isn't engaging them though, and anything can be torn into its requisite parts.

Either way you will get them picking it apart. Some people just do it no matter how engaging you are. There are plot holes in most books. You, as the author, can not think of everything. Just try to spackle the biggest and most obvious.