World Building Series: Navigating the Power of Majick—The Importance of Limitations & Boundaries

World Building Series: Navigating the Power of Majick—The Importance of Limitations & Boundaries

IN the enchanting realms of fantasy literature and folklore, majick often reigns supreme as a force of limitless potential and wonder. From spells that defy gravity to incantations that summon mythical creatures, the allure of majick knows no bounds. However, within these fantastical worlds, a crucial element often overlooked is the concept of limitations and boundaries that govern majickal abilities. Today, let’s delve into the intricate balance between the awe-inspiring power of majick and the necessity of setting clear constraints to enrich storytelling and world-building.


MAJICK without limitations is akin to a river overflowing its banks—an uncontrolled force that can lead to narrative inconsistencies and diminished suspense. Limitations, whether imposed by inherent rules of magic or societal norms within a fictional world, add depth and realism to magical systems. They force characters to grapple with challenges, make strategic choices, and undergo personal growth, all of which drive the plot forward and engage readers on a deeper level.

Consider iconic examples such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, where majick is governed by strict rules and limitations. Wizards and witches must master spells through study and practice, wand movements must be precise, and certain magical feats require innate talent or knowledge of ancient incantations. These limitations not only ground the fantastical elements in a sense of believability but also create tension and excitement as characters navigate the boundaries of what is possible.


IN addition to limitations, the concept of boundaries in majick plays a crucial role in defining ethical and moral dilemmas within a narrative. Just as real-world societies establish laws and norms to regulate behavior, majickal societies or individuals in fiction must navigate ethical boundaries to prevent misuse or abuse of power. This thematic exploration adds layers of complexity to characters and storylines, exploring themes of temptation, redemption, and the consequences of unchecked ambition.

Take, for instance, the classic tale of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The One Ring symbolizes ultimate power, yet its corrupting influence highlights the dangers of unchecked majickal abilities and the importance of respecting boundaries—even when wielding immense power for noble purposes. Characters like Frodo and Gandalf exemplify the struggle to resist temptation and maintain integrity in the face of overwhelming majickal allure.

Balancing Wonder and Realism::

ULTIMATELY, the importance of limitations and boundaries in majick extends beyond narrative cohesion—it fosters a deeper connection between readers and fantastical worlds. By establishing rules and consequences for majickal actions, authors invite readers to suspend disbelief while maintaining a sense of wonder grounded in relatable challenges and dilemmas. This balance between the extraordinary and the plausible is what breathes life into majickal realms and keeps readers eagerly turning pages, eager to explore the next enchanting revelation or harrowing trial.

In conclusion, while majick in literature and storytelling dazzles us with its endless possibilities, it is the careful crafting of limitations and boundaries that elevates majickal narratives from mere escapism to enduring works of art. Whether traversing Hogwarts’ hallowed halls or embarking on epic quests across mythical lands, let us cherish the nuanced interplay between boundless imagination and the structured framework of majickal rules—a testament to the timeless allure of fantastical storytelling.

World Building Series: Settings—Part I (Introduction)

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on July 9, 2012.

World Building Series: Settings—Part I (Introduction)

AFTERNOON, Beardies!

When I started my blog back in February, I knew right away that I wanted to include a World Building Series to help other writers. The series is designed as a reference point, to seek help if you have questions, and sort of a guide of “tips” and “techniques” in various areas of the World Building process.

(Of course, I am always open to direct questions from my followers; if you have a question you can always ask it through our CONTACT FORM.)

I’ve been putting this area of World Building off for obvious reasons. It’s massive, and it is going to take several posts to cover such an extensive topic. Other than on my languages, I’ve spent the most amount of time on this area when the original story idea for The Chronicles of Aesiranyn kept—for the lack of a better word—haunting me.

Lets start with the starting point you should start with as a writer… Maps.

An Aerial View of Elizabeth's Dream Circulatory Desk 🙂

EVEN if you are writing an urban fantasy story set in a major city on Earth, your world should have a map. Of course, if that is the case, your map is already available, and you merely have to pull up Google Maps. By saving those maps (screen shots) as a quick reference guide, you will save yourself many headaches of wondering what is located on the cross-streets of say… 42nd and 5th in New York City, wherein lies a bibliophile’s own fantasy.

For the purposes of this introduction, however, let’s assume you are building your own world.


HAVING a map is crucial to World Building because it helps you, the writer, view your world so that you may keep facts and settings consistent. It also provides you with a somewhat haphazard but helpful scale of your world so that you may know the distance between two places (how long does it take to travel from Point A to Point B). However, if you decide to include a map in your final product, having a realistic and thought-out map—with a humble regard to how geology forms things such as coastlines, mountains, rivers, et cetera—will greatly benefit you. There have been a few occasions in which I have opened a book and found a map that didn’t seem realistic or thoroughly researched, and so, without even a look at the text, I closed the book and placed it back on the shelf. On that note, however, there have been a couple of books in which I have ONLY glanced at the included map and decided to buy it.

Let’s touch on a few of those geological formations for this blog post.


COASTLINES are irregular. If your coastline looks like a circular or rectangular blob, your doing it wrong. Coastlines are created by the shifting of tectonic plates–plates pulling away from one another resulting in oceanic trenches, which are never clean lines. Nothing in nature is ever a clean line. Coastlines are then continually changed by the constant erosion of landmass by the waves, which is completely dependent upon the geological make-up along the coast. (Softer materials erode quicker, leaving the harder, more resolute material behind). On the other hand, if your fantasy world is made up of man-made landmasses, then by all means, draw in straight, clean lines.

An excellent place to look at how coastlines appear is an atlas. Or, in this day’s technology, Google Maps. You can take any island, any coastline of any continent (or, for that matter, just a section of it), or any ocean (or sea, gulf, or bay) as inspiration. Or, if that doesn’t inspire you, maybe its inverse will be appealing to your creative spirit.

Another great place of inspiration for the coastlines of your world can be found in nature–or even those elementally frustrating situations around the house. Have a water stain on a wall or ceiling? Trace its outline as a start and then embellish.


LIKE coastlines, mountains are also caused by the shifting of tectonic plates–but their convergence and deformation. Orogenesis–or the creation of mountains–happens along the lines of tectonic plates, which is the reason for extensive mountain ranges as opposed to singular peaks. Sometimes the subduction of one plate under the other occurs, but more often the convergence of the tectonic plates pushes both plates upward, causing crumpling on either side.

There are always exceptions to the rule, but taller, rigidly-peaked mountains are usually the youngest, while smooth, rolling peaks signify an older range. Take the Appalachian Mountains, for example; they are the oldest on Earth–and are one of the most visually appealing mountains because of their gently rolling peaks and valleys.

Take heed when drawing your own mountains. Get to know your land. What did it look like in its most primitive stages? Or is it still in said stage? Have its plates shifted and moved away from one another creating a drastically different landscape? Mountains should occur along where the plates collide.


RIVERS flow down from higher elevations toward lower elevations. So, in simple terms, from mountains toward coastlines. They take the most direct route, so long as there is nothing impeding that route. In other words, rivers will not often change directions, unless there is, say, another mountain range blocking its route to the coast. I am in no way saying they travel in a clean, straight line (remember that nothing in nature is ever a clean line), just that they their routes are downhill.

Rivers converge; smaller tributaries flow into larger rivers. Rivers do not split, unless there are sound geological reasons for its divergence, and in this instance, the divergence happens for short distances, eventually re-converging.

If a river flows into another body of water, such as a lake, it will continue. A lake will empty at the lowest side of the lake, wherever that may be, so pay attention to the altitude in the different areas of your world.


I am sure you all have heard the saying “If you want to be a great writer, then read, read, read,” but the same is true for world building. If you want to create great maps for your world, pick up an atlas. Look at the intricacies of the coastlines of several different bodies of land. Study the layouts, paying close attention to the three areas mentioned above.

Another great place to visit for help and questions related to World Building, specifically map creation is The Cartographers’ Guild, a forum on which you read and even participate in related threads.

World Building Series: Language Construction—Part 1

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on March 30, 2012; post has been edited and updated.

World Building Series: Language Construction—Part 1

HELLO, Beardies!

I decided to do yet another post within my World Building Series, this time focusing on language construction. Being a lover of language, especially in Fantasy, I believe this is one of the many elements that sets the genre apart from the rest.

I mean… How exciting is it to open up a new book and find a glossary?!? I love the challenge and the ‘secret’ invitation to get inside the head of the author. How the author forms the language, how it is used by the characters, and how the author incorporates it into the book are all things that make for a stimulating read. At least for me.

I spent years trying to perfect my first language. At first I got in my own way. I was just creating words—with truly no fluidity or method of organization. I even complicated things by trying to incorporate too much complexity into the language. I was my own worse enemy.

I finally had a breakthrough when I realized I needed to simplify. A lot. It was overhaul time, but where to begin? Sure, the words I created were wicked neat (as we say in New England) and evocative of their true meanings, but there was no cohesiveness to their styles or potential etymology. I almost scrapped it completely, but I ran across something that changed my outlook on Tolkien’s genius and fantasy languages altogether.

One chilly winter’s afternoon, I took a sojourn to Lansing, Michigan and my path led me to a newly-finished, outdoor mall. I can’t recall if I went there specifically or happened to stumble upon it, but at any rate, they had one of the largest bookstores I had ever seen (I’ve seen much larger ones since, but this was a great find for us at the time). While browsing the shelves, my eyes were drawn to the bright red binding and the title of the book pictured below: The Languages of Tolkien’s Middle-earth by Ruth S. Noel.

THE image is perhaps too small to read the block of text under the title, so I will oblige all of you with a transcription: A complete guide to all fourteen of the languages Tolkien invented.

Yes. You read it correctly. Fourteen! I figured if it gives me even the slightest inclination as to how he did it with fourteen, then surely I should be able to create at least one!

I read that thing from cover to cover. Twice.

And then I re-read it with a journal and pen to take notes on all the helpful information it contained. It is in no way a reference guide to how Tolkien did it, but it contained enough clues for me to discern a pattern and methodology. And with my journal now full of notes, hints, and questions for me to ask myself about my own language, I decided to jump in head first.

I also discovered something important. Tolkien didn’t create his languages from scratch, he had a little help. I am not saying that Tolkien wasn’t a genius because he didn’t create his language from scratch—because he absolutely was one; I am saying that perhaps the fact that he decided to use an existing language for guidance proved his very genius. Why not borrow parts of a language that already has all of the ‘kinks’ worked out? It made perfect sense to me, so that’s what I decided to do.

As Tolkien based his language upon Finnish (whether it was just one—or perhaps all fourteen—I am not certain), I, too, decided to structure [at least parts of] my language on an existing one…. well, many, actually. Parts of my language are derived from Gaelic, parts from French, parts from Latin, parts from Finnish, parts from Hebrew (the list actually goes on, but I will spare you from its entirety).

Also, like Tolkien, I decided to use combination forms of words so that I could create better-formed proper nouns—names of characters and places and important things.

This post is getting rather long, so I will end it and continue where I left off in a future post. Keep your eye out for it! 🙂

Since this post was first published in 2012, I've actually dissected my languages and have decided to simplify even more, so I removed the section of this post that contained the older language references.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series,

Picture of Joshua A. Mercier

Joshua A. Mercier

World Building Questions: The Rules of Majick

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on March 24, 2012.

World Building Questions: The Rules of Majick


  • Where does majick come from: divine source, a tangible energy or resource, the personal will-power of the caster, et cetera?
  • Is the source exhaustible?
  • How does a caster tap into majickal energy?
  • Does it require some rite of passage (investing one’s own energy or lifeforce into an object; divine selection or selection of some other kind; specific knowledge/education; creating, being given, or inheriting a permanent connection to the source/energy; successfully summoning a demon/angel/spirit/divine being/et cetera)? —OR— Does it just happen naturally because of study or as a part of growing up?
  • What things can majick do? What can it not do? (i.e., what, if any, are the limitations?)
  • How much is known about the laws of majick? How much of what is “known” is wrong?
  • What does one need to do to cast a spell (an elaborate ritual, recite spell/poetry, combining the correct ingredients)?
  • Are there objects like a staff, a wand, a familiar, or a crystal ball that are necessary or useful to have before casting spells?
  • If so, where and how does obtain these objects?
  • Can any wand be used by any wizard or are they wizard-specific?
  • How long does it take to cast a spell? Can the spells be stored for later, instant use? Do spells take lots of long ritual, or is majick a “point and shoot” kind of thing?
  • Can two or more wizards combine their power to cast a stronger spell, or is majick done only by individuals? What makes one wizard more powerful than another—knowledge of more spells, ability to handle greater quantities of energy, having a more powerful divine being as a patron, etc.?
  • Does practicing majick have any detrimental effects on the wizard (such as being addictive, crippling/injuring, slowly driving the wizard insane, or shortening the wizard’s life-span)?
  • If so, is there any way to prevent these effects? Are the effects inevitable in all wizards, or do they affect only those with some sort of predisposition? Do the effects progress at the same rate in everyone?
  • What general varieties of majick are practiced (e.g., herbal potions, ritual majick, alchemical majick, demonology, necromancy, etc.)? Do any work better than others, or does only one variety actually work?
  • Are certain kinds of majick practiced solely or chiefly by one sex or another? By one race or culture or another?
  • Does a wizard’s majickal ability or power change over time—e.g., growing stronger or weaker during puberty, or with increasing age? Can a wizard deplete all of his/her majick, thus ceasing to be a wizard?
  • Can the ability to do majick be lost? If so, how—overdoing it, majickal attack, depletion, et cetera?
  • Can the ability to do majick be forcibly taken away? If so, how and by whom?
  • What is the price wizards pay in order to be wizards—years of study, permanent celibacy, using up bits of their life or memory with each spell, a personal sacrifice (killing a family member—perhaps to absorb their majickal energy), a required daily or periodic sacrifice (say, to a demon), sacrifice/loss/depletion of beauty/looks, et cetera?

World Building Series: The Rules of Majick

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on March 24, 2012.

World Building Series: The Rules of Majick

HELLO Again Everyone,

Welcome to the third installment of my World Building Series of posts—The Rules of Majick. There have been many fantasy books out there that include their own majickal system—rules, principles, limitations, et cetera—that govern the usage of majick and its consequences… and each with unique answers to specific questions their authors were forced to ask in order to set the basic building blocks for the systems.




SOME books that come to mind, just to name a few, are J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series (of course), Larry Niven‘s Warlock series, and Ursula K. Le Guin‘s Earthsea series. In the first and third series, the majick is driven by language: Harry Potter by a Latinesque (if only that were a real word) language–specific words spoken to evoke specific purpose (Rowling also requires the use of a wand or staff in order to produce the spells); and in Earthsea, Le Guin uses the concept of an original, primordial language by which the creators of the world originally named things. People who learn these names are able to control the things named, an ability shared by both the wizards who study the language, and the dragons whose native tongue it is. And in the second series mentioned above, the majick is derived from mana–an exhaustible resource in the environment surrounding the caster which can be depleted.

In creating the majickal system for my first series, The Chronicles of Aesiranyn, I asked myself question after question in order to narrow down how my characters would use and manipulate majick and also what the results and consequences of that usage would be. Like Rowling and Le Guin, I decided to use language (perhaps for the mere fact that I am a self-confessed linguaphile). I also, like Rowling, decided to require a wand or staff in order to produce a spell (more on that later), and like in Earthsea, the spells are derived from an Ancient (even protected) language that must be learned in order to produce the proper spells. There are limitations (as there should be), though if the character is a member of the Imperial family, then their limitations are less–and even more so if they are the ruler because their majick is derived from the throne upon which they [figuratively] sit.

My majick system is simple, yet it is complex in all of its different parts. It is elemental majick, of sorts, and it is also broken down into general color categories and then more specific types within the category. As I mentioned before, the majick in Aesiranyn requires a wand or staff, which is crafted by a wandmaker. The intended recipient of the wand/staff must make a blood sacrifice, and then the majick within his/her blood chooses elements, which also hold their own majickal properties. Aside from wands being required, there are other specific spells as well that require other majickal artifacts in order for them to work. I’ve probably given away too much… but hopefully it was a teaser for the future readers of the books!

ABOVE is a link to the list of questions I asked myself (a page that will remain a permanent resource on this blog), which I am offering to all of you in your own quests for the ever-illusive realm of majick. The greatest advantage a writer can have is to know their own world inside and out (without overbuilding, of course), and in order to do that, they must constantly ask questions before beginning to write their stories–and just as importantly, while they are writing it!

Good Luck in this and all of your questions,

Picture of Joshua A. Mercier

Joshua A. Mercier

World Building Series: Overbuilding

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on March 20, 2012.

World Building Series: Overbuilding


Here is the second installment of my World Building Series of blog posts, as promised, which has to do with the dreaded dilemma of OVERBUILDING.

Overbuilding can cause serious procrastination for a writer, and I can attest that I am perhaps the worst culprit of this—or at least I used to be. Attempting to perfect my languages was the biggest distraction for me, and in doing so, I never actually got much writing done.

I had created three separate languages for my first series (a separate languages for two of my races, and an Ancient dialect used for majick), and I was never completely happy with the first two of them. I kept going back to ‘tweak’ the languages, at first trying to make what I already had work, and then trying to reconstruct them altogether. But it was when I finally decided to simplify that I chose to scrap the weaker parts of both, combining the stronger parts of each and forming a universal language for the world instead of separate ones for the two races. Honestly, a lot of this was decided when I realized that I needed more than two races in my series, which meant possibly creating a separate language for each; and just like that I realized how daunting the task at hand would be and opted to create a unifying language for all the races. It seems like an easy way out–but I had to ask myself the important question: how much of each language would honestly go into the various books in the series? Which meant also asking: shouldn’t I be spending more time on the actual plot?

I can tell you from experience: just as there are flaws in the world we live in, the world you create for your story will never be perfect or to your liking until you actually write the plot. Writing the plot irons out the flaws and answers the questions that are left unanswered while you are in the initial building stages.

Or maybe there are not flaws, per se, but minor issues that arise while writing. For instance: whereas I was happy with my Ancient dialect used for the majickal system in the series, I realized while writing one of the chapters (where the majick system is the most prevalent), that I actually need to ‘tweak’ and define the language a little further to fit the rules and limitations of the majick. This type of building where you build it once it’s needed—as opposed to overbuilding and never using some of the material in the actual writing—is highly encouraged. I feel the choice made my majick system more believable and understandable (not only to my readers, but to me as well).

Stay tuned for the next post in this series,

Picture of Joshua A. Mercier

Joshua A. Mercier

World Building Series: Introduction and Fundamentals

***Originally posted on The Bearded Scribe on February 29, 2012.

World Building Series: Introduction and Fundamentals


While writing on my current project, Valkyrie, the other day, an idea for a post started to formulate in my mind.

World Building.

FANTASY and Speculative Fiction or not, every book (and movie/screenplay) has it. Even non-fiction has a bit of world building involved. An author must know the limits and facts about the world in which he/she is writing before he/she can construct a believable, fully-formed story. If an author’s facts have inconsistencies or flaws, he/she can discredit his/her knowledge of the craft, and by doing so, quickly lose readership. Simply put: if you don’t know the world in which your story takes place, how are you supposed to describe it to your readers in its fullest capacity?

I have been pondering at how to go about writing on such an extensive topic–or even how to begin doing so, for that matter. After much deliberation, I decided that breaking it down into several posts would be the most practical option, not only for my personal choice to put constraints on post lengths, but also to get more detailed and concise, content-related posts for you, my readers.

This first post will focus on the initial steps to world building, intertwined with my own anecdotes of trial & error with my own writing, and will also introduce the next post in this specific series.

BEFORE I ever knew what world building was, I was unknowingly creating my own worlds. After reading books like The Egypt Game, The Bridge to Terabithia, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, I became obsessed with creating worlds of my very own. I sketched maps galore, created languages (minor undertakings back then), secret codices with which I could write notes to my friends, and planned out entire cities in which to create my stories.

Of course, those worlds failed me; more correctly, I failed them because I didn’t know enough about my creations. Sometimes I would sketch pages and pages of maps with great detail, but I neglected to populate it with creatures and characters that were believable for the setting. Sometimes, vice versa. Other times, I forgot to ask myself important questions whose answers would have provided me with a connection between the different aspects of my worlds. I constantly wrote myself into corners—or worse, circles. My writing was all jumbled—mismatched additions, not all too dissimilar from the Winchester House—without any coherence whatsoever. I neglected to make the full blueprint before building the house; but fortunately, with training and practice, I realized the errors and remedied them.

The Winchester House - Santa Clara Valley, California

MOST ideas for stories usually develop long before a writer even thinks about world building. Unfortunately, I feel that this leads to weaker stories in the end. I am saying this from experience because the first few starts at my now-finished manuscript were torturous. My characters and my world felt disconnected and, to be honest, a bit contrived. In my opinion, it is much easier to build believable characters inside of a defined world than to a build a foreign world around a cluster of characters.

Asking yourself fundamental questions will help guide you in creating the blueprint; and creating a basic blueprint for your world before you go any further will save you a lot of headache.

THE first set of questions we will discuss have to do with Earth settings and their variations/possibilities:

  • If this story takes place on Earth, does it occur in the Past?
  • Present?
  • Future?
  • Some alternate version/history of Earth? [for instance, an Earth that has been decimated by a nuclear war or asteroid? A post WWII Earth in which Hitler had won?]

EACH answer should and will produce more questions for you to consider, and each answer will also narrow down the genre/category of your manuscript. Let’s take our two examples from above, starting first with a post-asteroid collision.

  • When, where, and how did the collision happen?
  • How did it change the landscape/structure/rotation/orbit/population/technology of the Earth?
  • Were there any alien life forms or microbes on the asteroid?Or maybe some advanced technology?
  • If yes, how did that change the landscape, environment, or population? Did it change the genetic makeup of humans/animals/plants? On the negative side, did it bring disease or famine? On the positive side, did the asteroid’s introduction create a superior human/animal/plant?

AS you can see, each answer spawns a whole set of additional questions, which then defines the conflicts and plots. Placing characters within this constructed world is now a breeze.

The questions for our second example might look a little like this…

  • How had Hitler and the Axis forces defeated the Allied?
  • Did Hitler continue his mass genocide? And if so, how has this affected the population of Earth? Did Hitler succeed in creating an Aryan race? Does everyone speak German?
  • How long after the defeat does the story take place? Within Hitler’s lifetime? Twenty years later?
  • Are there secret Allied forces still hiding out from the Nazi Regime? Are they physically hiding out (in, say, underground caves) or pretending to blend in with society while maintaining their Allied lifestyles in secret? Are there plans to overthrow the government?

LITERALLY dozens of scenarios with an exponential amount of questions can arise from the first 4 questions above, and that is only dealing with Earth or Alternate Earth settings and plots. The second part of this post will deal with all other settings.

    • If the story does not take place on Earth [or any variation], is the setting a known one (i.e., Mars, the Moon, or the Andromeda Galaxy) or some distant or unknown planet/moon/galaxy? Is it even part of our known universe?
    • If unknown setting, how was the setting formed? Evolutionary (like the Big Bang Theory)? Or Mythologically (created by omnipotent beings)? Or a combination of the two?
    • How does the setting differ from Earth? How is it similar? Landscape/flora/fauna differences and similarities? Does it still have earthly forces (like gravity)? Does it have unearthly forces, i.e., majick (more on this later)?
    • Is it populated by more than one race/species? Are they humanoid? Are all of them intelligent?
    • Are there areas with concentrations of certain races, or do all the races live together?
    • If there is majick, where is it derived from (sun, moon, water, earth, air, blood, artifacts, etc)? Are all the races majickal? Only a few? One?
    • Are the majickal races exalted or suppressed? Is a majickal race the ruling race? Does it view the other races as unequal because of its lack of majick? Or vice versa?

The questions are endless, and so are the answers. And each answer lends itself to a different aspect of your world–from character races, history, politics (power struggles, classes), mythology (creation myths, deity current involvement and interaction), languages (spoken, written, ancient), majick (source, limitations, how it’s produced and used), et cetera.

The list is infinite, and I know I barely touched the surface when it comes to introducing World Building, which kind of brings me to introducing the topic of the next series in this post: Overdoing it!

Stay tuned for the next post in this series,

Picture of Joshua A. Mercier

Joshua A. Mercier