Lessons Learned from Characters I Love

Writing Advice

Welcome back to ‘I really, really love these characters and really, really love talking about my really real love for them.’

If you haven’t ingested any of this delightful content, I cannot recommend anything more than these shows, movies, and books. There is also nothing I can do to keep from spoiling these properties.

So let’s jump right into some delightful dudes. 

Remus Lupin [Harry Potter] 

When I think of Remus Lupin, I think of compassion. 

He appears for the first time in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as the newest installment of the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. The first notable thing about Lupin is seen through the lens of contrast. Harry’s first year, the class was taught by Quirrel, a nervous man who happened to have the antagonist of the series growing out of the back of his head. Pretty standard. It’s fine. There are limited comments made about his actual class, lessons, or teaching style. Most of his notable interactions happen outside of the classroom. I see him as less of a teacher and more of another side character who is in it just enough to set up his villainy, hidden in the shadow of our goodest-bad-boy, Snape. The next year, Harry is introduced to the self-obsessed egomaniac and notorious best-smiler, Lockhart. In the book and — maybe even more so — the movie, Lockhart is a buffoon, existing as a source of comic relief as he bumbles through skill-related tasks. We see more of his lessons and his role as an instructor in the Dueling Club, but these are used mostly to set up his characterization. Again, the most focus is put on his role outside of class — showing off, talking big, bragging, and interacting with fans. 

Which leads us to Harry’s third year. Enter Lupin. We first meet him on the train to Hogwarts — the only instance I’m aware of a staff member traveling via the Hogwarts express. He’s described as a little unkempt in a way that implies he is poorer than most other wizards we’ve met so far. Despite this, the first action he takes proves him to be a powerful protector, as Harry is attacked by dementors. Throughout the year, Lupin’s classes are shown to be the highlight of student life — contrasted again on a few occasions as Snape steps in as the harsh and relentless substitute teacher. Lupin’s role as a teacher and mentor is highlighted considerably more than his predecessors, from engaging lessons to his mentorship over Harry. He is continuously shown to be intelligent, compassionate, talented, and humble. These four traits are not particularly present in either Quirrel or Lockhart. 

Lupin’s character is given more context and depth than any other professor this early in the story. We discover that he was friends with Harry’s father, the assumed villain (Sirius Black), and the real villain (Peter Petigrew); the three called themselves Marauders and were some of the brightest and most talented wizards of their time. Snape hates him, not out of a bad gut instinct or a disdain for false arrogance, but for Lupin’s association with Snape’s childhood bullies. And, the icing on the cake, we discover that Lupin is a werewolf while also learning how poorly werewolves are treated in the wizarding world. With this thorough understanding of Lupin, we get a clearer glimpse of his motivations, fears, beliefs, regrets. He sees himself as the last Marauder standing, and that is tragic. The Marauders are some of the only people in the world who ever accepted him. He feels alone in the world, outcast because of something he never asked for nor could he help. Lupin elicits a deep empathy that neither of his predecessors nor any of his successors. 

Let’s go over that lineup again. Quirrel was a snivelling puppet for Voldemort; he was killed. Lockhart was a pompous prick; his memory was wiped, landing him permanently in the psych ward of St Mungo’s Hospital. Mad-Eye Moody was kidnapped, ‘drugged,’ and portrayed by a Death Eater. Umbridge was a monster of a woman sent to oppress the truth of Voldemort’s return; she was abducted by centaurs before scurrying back to hide within the Ministry. Snape was a double-double agent who, though base intentions were good, tormented Harry for his father’s sins and murdered the Headmaster. Then last, we’re given glimpses of the sadistic Death Eater siblings whose names I never cared to retain. 

It’s safe to say Lupin stands out. Lupin comes in as a favor to Dumbledore and leaves because he is unjustly (more or less, as he takes multiple precautions for the safety of the school) labeled as a threat. Lupin is kind to his students, respectful to his staff — aside from Snape and his grudge — and one of the most relatable characters of the series. He feels abandoned and shunned. He feels betrayed. He is scared of himself. And because of all this, he displays a compassion that outshines almost any other character. Lupin is Harry’s first true father figure. It’s a truly fitting title. His return in the later books is one worth celebrating, and his death defending those he loves is one that broke me. But what good would Lupin be without the full context? Because of other adults around him, because of his history with Harry’s dad, because of the parallels with the main cast, and because of his roles in society, Lupin is a powerful character that stands out among a vast, seven-book-spanning cast. 

Shikamaru Nara [Naruto] 

I could write an entire post on Shikamaru alone. This sweet boy is a delight. But not at all in a way you’d expect. Shikamaru is shown early on to be intelligent and skilled. He is not particularly strong; instead his strength lies in his incredible ability to outthink his opponents. He will let you think that you have him cornered until it’s absolutely too late. But you know one of the greatest things about Shikamaru? When we first meet him in the series, he is one of the laziest characters in fiction. 

In the first major arc, we watch invaders attack an arena and put most everyone to sleep. Those who stayed awake were the people fast enough to ‘release’ themselves before going completely under. So we’re following a few of the conscious characters, one of which is going through to ‘release’ others to help. She makes it to my sweet boy, Shikamaru, at which point we find out that he was asleep, but not because of the attack. No. No, of course not. Instead of joining in the fight around him, Shikamaru opted to take a quick nap. As annoying as that sounds, the stakes are fairly low at this moment and it’s early enough in the series that comedy is still a primary focus. And the narrative timing makes this a very funny scene. 

This scene sets up his arc. We’re given time for this kid — maybe 13 years old — to grow up. And it’s wonderful. 

After the attack is handled, we discover that Shikamaru is the first and only member of his class to be promoted that year. This is because of his carefully planned and logical assessment during his examination shown earlier in the show. Because of this promotion, he is called on to lead a rescue mission, where things go wrong. It’s at this point the writers show his fear of failure. After the mission, we’re led to the hospital where he has completely shut down emotionally. His father challenges him, asking him if he’s going to abandon his rank and to squander his abilities or if he’s going to push forward and grow into a leader that their village can rely on. Of course, he’d be a pretty terrible character if he’d chosen to give up. Over the next million-or-so episodes, he is given ample time to grow. We watch his teacher, Asuma, introducing him to a logic game. Shikamaru reads the handbook and immediately destroys Asuma in their first game, commenting on how Asuma ‘didn’t have to go easy,’ though that’s obviously not the case. We’re also shown more of Shikamaru’s father — an older, more mature version of essentially the same character — and imagine how Shikamaru might grow up. We watch him hide a strong love for his comrades behind a can’t-be-bothered facade. 

*Major Spoilers for Naruto: Shippuden* After a time skip, Shikamaru is an older teen embracing his role as a successful tactical leader. And again, things go wrong. Shikamaru gets in over his head, at which point, his old mentor, Asuma, swoops in to save the day… and dies. All the playfulness of childhood is gone. The writers masterfully spend the time necessary to let the audience feel the pain and anguish that he’s trying to hide. And he does hide it. He goes for a while before his father — remember, a very stoic, logical figure — sits down with Shikamaru one evening to play that same logic game Asuma taught him. They play in near silence. His father occasionally comments on things like Shikamaru’s uncharacteristically bad gameplay. They really allow this scene time to emphasize the mood. A few minutes in, his father mentions how proud he is. Later, he says that it would be a tragedy to go to his own son’s funeral because of something vengeful and reckless. Finally, full of rage for possibly the first time on screen, Shikamaru flips the game over, and the warm candle light is blown out. The two are left in a solemn blue darkness. His father gets in his face and, in a deadly serious tone, tells him to let it all out. All the anger and sadness. There is an immense understanding in his father’s eyes. A sense that the older man had experienced the same loss and bottled it up the same way. His father leaves him in the room alone, and after the door closes, Shikamaru lets out a soul-rattling sob. *okay, spoilers done*

That is character development. That takes a trope of the ‘smart man who is too logical to have emotions’ and gives it so much room to breathe. Shikamaru feels like someone I could know. He feels like someone I want to meet personally. I’d go get coffee with this person. That way, as we keep following his arc, we celebrate his victories, and we crush under the pain of his losses. 

Ling Yao [Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood]  

If ever there was a character I love as much as I love Shikamaru, it is the heir to Xing himself. Ling is introduced as an absolute goof. He shows up fairly early in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (though excluded from the 2003 series) and, before we know he is royalty, he tricks our protagonist into paying for his meal. Over the next couple episodes, he pops up as what is probably best described as comic relief and a bit of well-timed exposition. He seems likable, but I wrote him off as a throw-away background character. As we get to know him, we find out that he’s on a mission to discover immortality so that he will become the next emperor. It’s introduced as a very neutral action. Political gain is fine, and this motive puts him on the same track as our heroes — they’re looking for a powerful stone, a philosopher’s stone, in hopes that it can solve each man’s problems. 

The longer he’s around, the deeper his character goes. Ling is a beautiful example of a trope called “Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass.” In a nutshell, this is a character who, in one way or another, seems harmless, useless, or just plain silly. However, when the time comes, they are not to be messed with. 

Ling is introduced with two faithful bodyguards who he frequently ditches. While it’s clear they care deeply for Ling, he at first seems a bit dismissive of them. Until we see his first fight. Ling has the great displeasure of battling two very strong homunculi early on and really showcasing his skills. He comments at some point that, as one of fifty heirs vying for the throne, he had to become skilled enough to — well — not get assassinated. He and one of his bodyguards, Lan Fan, hold their own for a while, but when Lan Fan is hit, the prince chooses to retreat. However, he doesn’t just flee, he runs with her on his back. It’s a tense scene, as the two are followed by inhumanly fast creatures skilled at tracking, and Lan Fan is losing blood fast. Despite her protests, Ling adamantly refuses to leave her and save himself. This sets up his most defining belief: a King is a servant to his people. As committed as his bodyguards are to him, he is committed to them, even if he enjoys joking around by running off.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m not going to talk about the character fusion that happens around the midpoint. But even considering that, Ling’s priorities never change. He will become the next emperor because that’s the position from which he can best protect as many of his people as possible. It is that unwavering resolve that makes him so interesting because, unlike our protagonists, Ling does not care about the cost. He sees no moral dilemma using an item made from human sacrifice. I think it’s unlikely he’d make one, but if one exists, he has no qualms about it because it is the means that leads to an end that he is passionate about. That end is something I think we can all empathize with. When Ling loses people close to him, he feels more than sorrow; he feels responsibility. Ling bears the injuries, death, and sacrifices of his friends as his personal burden, as if they’re his fault and his alone. He frequently questions his abilities to rule with the logic ‘what kind of a king am I if I can’t even save one subject?’ It’s flawed logic and puts an immense amount of pressure on him, but it’s a noble cause. It hurts so much more to watch Ling react to the sacrifices of his people because we as the audience have seen how personally he takes these matters.

I could keep going about these characters pretty much indefinitely, but I think it’s better to stop here. Next week, I think I’ll talk about some of my favorite villains! See you then!


Stay Safe

Rena Grace

Group Dynamics in Fiction

Writing Advice

In an era of self-isolation and social distancing, I want to talk about some of my favorite teams in fiction. One of the fastest ways to get me personally hooked is by setting up a group of characters that I love to see interacting. 

As with all elements of fiction, a number of tropes and trends have arisen over the years around the ‘dream team.’ Overly Sarcastic Productions (OSP) on Youtube has a fantastic video on the semantics of this trope, and I highly recommend checking them out after this! I’m going to hit on the basics of their video to help frame today’s blog.

Let’s start with something obvious: the best teams work best when each member contributes something. OSP really successfully discusses the most common members of the five-man-band: the Leader, the Lancer (right-hand man), the Heart, the Big Guy, and the Smart Guy. These five archetypes cover basically anything you could need for a five-man team, but using these cut-and-dry outlines can make a character feel flat and one-dimensional. Oftentimes, the most successful way to combat this is by combining archetypes.

Let’s start out with the simplest example.

Harry + Hermione + Ron (Harry Potter)

How could I talk about team dynamics without discussing this generation’s golden trio? Harry and the gang fall into a looser five-man-band, occasionally picking up Neville or Luna as the Heart or Ginny as the Big Guy. But on their own, they’ve got a pretty obvious Leader-Lancer-Smart Guy composition. On the surface, at least. This dynamic is interesting specifically in the way it splits up the roles of Lancer and Smart Guy. Ron is the quintessential Lancer — the first best friend, the side-kick, the one who’s always there. But the entire Weasley family is a wealth of knowledge. When it comes to the wizarding world, Hermione is nearly as lost as Harry is, as both grew up in muggle homes. Without Ron, there would be no nights at the Burrow to see how a magical family lives. There would be no explanation of unusual items and customs. Ron’s experience makes him more of the street-smarts guy, but that role is a pillar of many stories. 

As for Hermione, yes, she is bookish, and she in every way fills the stereotypical ‘smart guy’ role. But! She is also a wonderful foil to Harry. She is committed to overachieving in classes while Harry exists in a more passive world of natural talent and chosen-one-ness. And despite that, she stays with Harry through everything. She is unyielding. She helps him and Ron with homework because she can’t stand to see them fail. She isn’t mad when Harry is entered into the TriWizard Tournament because she cares so much more about Harry’s safety. She stays with him every second while looking for Horcruxes. She doesn’t even leave when he’s cheating to beat her in Potions. 

Because of the complexity of his friends, I wouldn’t say that Harry has a very complex archetype. He leads because it’s his story. And that works! I have so much love for these characters, especially the way they are written in the book. They exist on an even playing field. The story works because they exist together, creating a unique unit that feels unstoppable. 


Captain America + Ironman + Thor (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

Next, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite superheroes — well, they’re mine at least. However, many of you astute readers are questioning me. “Don’t you know there are more Avengers than that?” To which I say, yes of course. But these are the ones that matter. Even considering Black Widow, Hulk, and Hawkeye, the three listed above are the characters I care about the most. They also happen to be the most interesting characters to examine.  

Lined up against our five-man-band archetypes, there are some pretty quick parallels: Tony Stark is very obviously the ‘Smart Guy,’ Thor is obviously the ‘Big Guy,’ and Steve Rogers is obviously the ‘Heart.’ Very simple, clear alignments. It becomes a little muddier when you look at the other two “roles” of Lancer and Leader. 

Before we get there, let’s talk about the Leader v Lancer relationship. At its most basic level, Lancers are the right-hand man; they’re the second in command; they’re often the closest to the Leader. The Lancer often provides in-group opposition to the Leader. In good writing, the Lancer is a foil to the Leader, accentuating that characterization. So what does that do for our Avengers example?

Well, all three have very distinct moments of leadership. I believe — even aside from their solo-films — all take charge as the commanding force of large battles. 

Cap leads in the Battle of New York, leaving Thor to zap things and Tony to decide on his own what should be done. In this situation, Tony is the Lancer to Cap’s Leader. It highlights that Cap is a team player with the charisma to shine, while Tony is more of a quick-thinking, individualistic rogue.

In the Battle of Sokovia, Tony takes the lead, taking responsibility as the creator of their current issue, Ultron, with Thor playing Lancer, mostly by extension through the life-lightning he used on Vision. Cap is just there to punch things and save people this time around.

In the Battle of Wakanda, Thor is the turning-point in the fight. While Cap did what he could, leading the charge and calling the shots, he was the Lancer here, dependent on the God of Thunder to join in and decmate the army more efficiently. When the time came, Cap put up a great fight against Thanos, but it was Thor that was there to deliver the final blow, making him more of the Leader. All this time, Tony is in space, incapable of filling any real role.

While there’s nothing special about saying “Tony is smart, Thor has powers, and Cap is a sweet, lovable softy,” there is something special about the way their leadership dynamic ebbs and flows. 


Quasimodo + Esmeralda + Febas (Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame)

This is one you might not have expected to see on this list, but I really really really wanted to talk about the success of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Unlike the two examples above, there really aren’t many characters to add to make this a full five-ish man band. Other main characters include the scary bad guy, those comic relief rocks, and that one gypsy-narrator who can’t decide whether or not to be omniscient. 

That means this group works exclusively by itself. For this one I want to abandon the roles of Leader and Lancer because I don’t think they really apply to what has been done here. I want to talk about the other three roles and how every character fills every one. 

Let’s start with our main guy, mister Quasimodo. This guy is incredible. And the first thing you’re likely going to notice is his heart. His introduction scene shows him encouraging a baby bird to fly. You see a gentleness that warms your soul right before you’re reminded of the manipulative asshole who raised him to be timid and fearful and ashamed to exist. Yet Quasi loves him until the end. After recognizing years of abuse, neglect, lies, neglect, manipulation, murder — shit, nearly stabbing the woman he was falling for — Quasi still tries to save this monster from falling off the cathedral into the depths of lava-hell. And that’s not even touching the love he has for his friends.

… Yet… there was that one time he held Febas in full armor with a single hand. And that time he effortlessly moved the stone seal from over the Court of Miracles. And that time he literally broke down stone columns of an architectural masterpiece. You can’t deny he’s incredibly strong! … Yet… he is also smart! He devised an escape plan for Esmerelda, and he figured out how to read the map to find her.

Of course, if we’re going to talk brains, let’s talk about Febas. While he fits the typical ‘big guy’ persona — strong soldier who breaks into a burning building, who chokes out a guard, who catches our very heavy protagonist from falling to his death — I think he’s much more than that. Aside from a startling wit, he is always quick to pick up on things. He is the only character to recognize Esmerelda in disguise. He helps her escape Frollo by thinking quickly and saying she had claimed sanctuary. His immediate instinct when trying to decipher gypsy code is to literally translate the Latin or Greek or Aramaic. 

Our sweet captain also has an immense heart. He is generous with money; he risks his life to save those unrightfully oppressed; he falls in love with someone of much lower social status. 

Which leaves us with Esmerelda. She is loving. Her song God Bless the Outcast is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I know of. She defends Quasi when she doesn’t even know him, simply because of the love she feels for the oppressed. She uses that love to give others confidence, reading Quasi’s palm to tell him he isn’t a monster. That scene leads to the fact that she’s brilliant — both observant and quick. She keeps up with Febas’s banter — in fact, she’s never without a come-back. 

But I think most notable is her strength. Everything Esmerelda does, she does with her full strength. On the physical side, the dancing she does is not light work. Neither is the insane escape sequence she pulls off shortly after. She then goes hand-to-hand with an experienced soldier. And then there’s the scene where she dives into a river, strips Febas’s armor off, swims him to the surface, and gets them both to the bank. Are you kidding me? But it’s more than that. She prays with all her might; she loves with all her might; she leads with all her might; she defends with all her might. It’s a big presence that leaves an impact.

All this leads back to the group and it’s dynamic. All things considered, I would say Febas is most like the “Smart Guy,” Esmarelda is most like the “Big Guy,” and Quasimodo is most like the “Heart.” The Hunchback of Notre Dame is incredible because it gave us three characters with incredibly powerful (and incredibly similar) skill sets without any one of them stealing the show. Not only did they accomplish that. They did it while flipping stereotypes on their heads. Strong soldiers are supposed to be dumb. Dancers are just ladies with no agency. Big, bulky guys should just tag along to lift things. These characters have one of the most beautifully complex team dynamics I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen this movie in a while, I highly recommend you watch it, if for nothing else than a phenomenal display of great writing. 


I think next week, I’ll release a second part, talking about some of the teams I didn’t get to. These will be teams that I want to go more in depth with, comparing and contrasting in-universe examples. Specifically teams from Star Wars, Star Trek, and Avatar the Last Airbender. 


Stay Safe,

Rena Grace

The World of Magic Systems

Writing Advice

Magic Systems are one of my favorite things to read and the thing I’m most passionate to write about. So I’m going to talk through four completely different ways creators use Magic Systems WELL.

Before we get started, I want to lay some terminology groundwork:

Magic in fiction can be almost anything that makes your world unusual. It doesn’t have to be cut-and-dry “a wizard waved a wand.” But whatever it is, I believe some rules should exist to govern it. 

Soft Magic is the loosest form of magic. In its most extreme form, the author may know of rules that guide it, but the reader is left in a vast plane of limitless creativity. Soft magic systems make it easy to continue to “power-up” the characters almost unlimitedly with minimal backlash. Audiences know going in that there was more to this power that they didn’t understand.

Hard Magic, on the other hand, is completely governed by rules. Even if the reader doesn’t have them all, the author knows the exact limits of the power and the reader has a fair idea. The hardest of magic systems keep an impossibly tight grip on their magic so that it works as rigidly as the laws of our world.

Power Creep is the bane of my personal existence. Essentially, it lets the characters continuously surpass the “maximum” over and over again against the laws of the in-universe magic. I do not enjoy watching a character become the “best ever, the end” just because the story says so. Power Creep is most notorious in anime or long-running series where the author is constantly raising the physical stakes — often ignoring internal struggles as a way to engage audiences. Power Creep is easier to fall into in a Soft Magic system where the rules are loose anyway. And while an audience might forgive it for a while, there is a reason that I recognize Dragon Ball Z memes, despite never watching the show. 

Most magic systems exist on a sliding scale between hard and soft systems — and both can be plagued by power creep if not careful. I’ll tell you now that I have an undying love for hard magic systems and consistent consequences. I want to know what cost the magic has and the toll it takes on the user. As with all stories, the magic of the worlds mentioned below affects how the story plays out. BUT I will be discussing strengths based on magic alone not the complete “package.” Anyway, with that set up, let’s jump into these examples.

Harry Potter and the Semi-Soft System

No one is surprised to see this here, but that’s because it’s almost universally seen as an iconic and fairly well-done magic system. I love fantastical realism, and the use of the soft magic system really works here because the premise is about expanding your view of your current world. There are rules that exist — only wizards can use magic, magic seems largely hereditary, and you need a wand to use it — but the world implies there is no limit to what a wizard could seek out to learn. Despite having a softer magic system, I never felt terribly jarred by any character’s ability, not even Harry. Some people had talents in some areas, others in others, and others were Dumbledore. But even the vast power of these super-wizards felt set up and earned. Part of the success of the series can be accredited to the step-by-step view of the learning process. Few things were natural to our main cast. We see where each succeeds and where each fails which feels realistic!

Avatar: Rules of the Last Airbender

Our hard-magic example is not only incredible — but incredibly topical. The premise is beautifully clean and simple: some people move water, some earth, some fire, some air, and some nothing. But one person, repeatedly reincarnated, can mess with all four of the elements at the same time. Perfect, easy to describe, clean, hard magic. From this base premise, softer principles are derived without leaving their lane. Waterbenders can manipulate water wherever it is, earthbenders can manipulate the impurities in metal, and firebenders –innately tied to manipulating energy– can produce concentrated fire as electricity. Aside from a single mix-up concerning what element lava would be considered, the Avatar universe is consistent and believable. It’s enhanced by the part bending plays in worldbuilding, and the part different fighting styles direct how each element moves through stances and forms. More strongly than in Harry Potter, we start to see a consequence specific to using the power in the form of physical exhaustion. If Harry is winded, it’s not from casting wingardium leviosa for too long; chances are, he was running, and that poor boy doesn’t do a lot of cardio. Yet Aang often shows signs of exhaustion after lifting a large rock or concentrating really hard on controlling a flame… On top of not doing enough cardio.

Star Trek: Wrath of Not Seeming Magical

I purposefully chose this futuristic society over its more popular counterpart because it doesn’t feel as inherently magical as something called “the force.” However, there’s a reason “sci-fi / fantasy” get bunched together, and this is a great example of it. Star Trek — and a newer take produced by Fox called The Orville — use technology as the magic. Occasionally, an episode may feature an inherently magical species (the Q is a great example in The Next Generation), but the show is always stolen by the different inventions that make the series possible. Their ships move faster than the speed of light; their tricorders can analyze and instantly tell vital information about people and places; their replicators literally materialize anything they have data on. That all feels very magical to me. Sci-fi does a great job convincing readers that their soft magic system is a hard magic system. All a writer has to do is yada-yada some science-y reason something exists, and — poof — there it is. Yet, it’s that claim that “this is science” that makes it seem like it’s governed by rules. 

Mistborn: The Series I Don’t Joke on Because it’s THAT Good

This might be a new one for those most familiar with visual media, but let me tell you: the Mistborn Series is everything I want out of a magic system. Brandon Sanderson is in no rush to explain the way the system works. He gives you pieces and parts over three whole books, implying in book one that everything fits into a strict set of rules. And it does. Unlike the previous three examples, the Mistborn series keeps almost everything obscured. It gives hints and ideas of what is to come, but the audience learns everything about this incredibly unique magic system with a group that is trying to figure out the extents for the first time. Everything you need to know is scattered throughout the books, including in mysterious journal entries that precede every chapter, but the reader has no idea what it means. Every time something new clicks, it is incredibly satisfying — like finding money in your pocket.

Overall there are hundreds of right ways to do a magic system. Recognize that many people many different things. As I mentioned earlier, the magic system in Dragon Ball Z is not at all what I’m interested in reading, but if you do a Google search for “top anime of all time,” you better believe it’ll show up. Write the magic system you want to see, but if I could give any advice, I would recommend considering exactly what your magic can and can’t  do.

I’ll see you all next Monday!

Stay Safe!

Rena Grace