Being a Better Writer: Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic

Apologies for the delay. Once again I had a Monday morning shift. I am considering moving future Being a Better Writer posts to Tuesdays for the time being as a result. I’ll keep you updated!

This post was bound to happen. Sanderson’s Three Laws have been a frequently requested topic since the very beginning of this blog, and it’s a staple of a lot of writing education these days (especially fantasy), so I knew there would come a day when I had to write about it. Of course, I wanted to ease into the topic first, which I did two weeks ago when I wrote a post about creating magic systems. During that post, I referenced the Three Laws, saying I’d talk about them later. You see, before I got into talking about the Three Laws, which are more about how to use magic in a story, I did want to dedicate some time to the subject of creating magic first, so that there would be a basis for Sanderson’s Laws to dig into.

Now, with that post behind us, the time has come to look at Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic.

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Being a Better Writer: So You Want to Be a Wizard, Eh?

Picture this, if you will, for a moment. Imagine a young man, an author. Well, a writer who has just recently become an author, having successfully published his first book. He’s just been invited to a big convention, where to his excitement, he will be on a panel alongside some of fantasy’s greats in writing (if I’m being sparse on details here, forgive me as I don’t remember all of them).

Anyway, our young writer sits down, understandably a little nervous considering the plethora of talent stretching down the table—many of whom he has read and enjoyed. The panel begins, and the spokesman fields the first question from the audience: A question about writing magic and how they start. And, for whatever reason, perhaps fairness, youth, or simply his place at the end of the table, the spokesman looks at this young writer and calls on him first.

Nervousness is probably a little higher now, but understandably so. Nevertheless, determined to make a good showing at his first panel, answers with what seems to be a reasonable response: ‘Well, to start, magic needs rules.’

Cue explosive “What!?” from the other members of the panel, all of whom immediately disagree in various manners and are ready to tell this young upstart where he’s gone wrong.

Now, this story? This actually happened, though not exactly as presented here, as I am retelling it, having only heard the story from that then new author’s point of view.

But that new author who gave what seemed to be a such an innocuous answer? A then little-known fantasy writer by the name of Brandon Sanderson.

Yes, you may have heard of him.

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