Tag Archive: fantasy

If you are a fantasy writer who uses magic in their stories, then you have undoubtedly heard of what is referred to as a “magic system.” A Magic system is a formal structure for your magic. This does not mean that it is specific like a science. It means it is consistent throughout your world. I’ll levy an example.

In the Harry Potter world, magic follows specific rules. The caster must have a wand. They must speak the correct words, in the correct way. They must be strong enough to conjure and control the spell they summon. This is part of the magic system. There are more intricacies, and specified exceptions, but overall, everyone who uses magic must follow those rules. If they do not follow those rules, they once had to follow them and have learned how to circumvent them or have been granted special privileges (such as Dumbledore being the only one able to apparate into and out of Hogwarts).

Harry potter has a very specific magic system. It’s easy to follow and rigid. Not all magic is wands and spoken spells, however. Many stories, such as Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, have more complex magic systems. In the Sword of Truth world, there are two types of magic, Additive and Subtractive. Additive is a type of magic believed to be lost. This involves anything to do with creating. There’s an iconic scene where a character displays his ability to use additive magic by cutting and then re-growing someone’s hair repeatedly.  However, this world, the magic system is very loosely defined. It says “Yes, there are two types of magic that all magic can be classified into… but that’s all we really know about magic.”

That brings me to another point. There are two kinds of magic systems. There are strict systems, and lenient systems. Harry Potter’s magic system is very strict. They can only cast spells they know, with wands that are theirs, if they are powerful enough. They can break these rules at very great cost to themselves or others. The Sword of Truth’s magic system is very lenient. Various types of magic exist, all with different rules of their own. Everything requires different knowledge, skills, and equipment. It’s pretty much a magical free for all.

So why do I mention all of this? What’s the point? Well, if you frequent any fantasy writing advice blogs or forums, you will see a great deal of literature on magic systems. Mostly the idea that you need to have a well thought out magic system for your fantasy story to be good, especially in a sword and sorcery type of setting. The more important magic is in your story, the more flushed out your magic system needs to be.

But I disagree.

These magic systems often represent something else. In a strict world, they represent science. It is very difficult to deviate from the laws of science, as it is difficult to deviate from a strict system. This system has often been studied and standardized. Certain people have expertise in certain areas, and work mostly in those areas. This is a parallel to the science of our world. In a lenient world, they represent social rules and laws. Generally it suggests a grey area, where unpredictable things happen, or where things happen without an easy explanation as to why.

So I say that it really depends on what your magic represents. If it represents or is a replacement to science and technology, then it needs to be well thought out and precise. However, this does not mean that it needs to be accurate. There are quite a lot of scientific ideas that have yet to be proven or studied enough to prove. The same could be said about your magic. Once you realize that not even science always follows its own rules, you realize just how unimportant your fancy magic system needs to be.

If your magic represents social rules, then it needs to reflect the point you are trying to make. Do you think social rules are important and should be followed? Do you think it’s safe to deviate? Is there a minimum safe deviation? Are social rules elitist? Are they pandering? This can be reflected in your fantasy society’s “rules” about magic. Generally, in these stories, either the antagonist or protagonist goes outside of the rules established in the magic system, usually far outside.

However, it seems that regardless of the story, the magic system tends to get some level off deconstruction. If its science, a part of it gets proven wrong. If it’s social, then attitudes change throughout the story. So I say why waste your time creating a fancy magic system when you are going to break all of those rules anyway? As long as whatever is happening in the story is consistent, readers don’t really care how complicated the system is.

I am currently working on a project where the magical character grows up not knowing about the magic system, and just using her magic. When she finally is told about it, she doesn’t understand why she doesn’t fit into the system and neither do others. It creates a dangerous dogma that makes her a target to some. It is in this way that magic systems can be made relevant to your story other than to keep up the suspension of disbelief.

Thanks for reading. How do you feel about magic systems?

It’s not news to anyone that when we see women wearing medieval type body armor, this armor virtually always includes two breast shaped protrusions. Often, this armor not only accentuates the female’s breasts, it often provides little to no actual protection. I mentioned this topic briefly when discussing the changes to Thor. Check it out if you’re interested in my feelings on the hero’s gender change.

female warior3

Note the above image of a female warrior. This is not atypical. The woman is meant to look like an intimidating foe. However, her outfit is completely impractical. She’s wielding a sword, which means she intends to be in a close fight. Any actual warrior heading into a close quarters fight would want some protection. Depending on their skill level, they may opt for lighter, weaker, or more flexible armor. However, they will always go for the most coverage with whatever they have. Unless they need to do something very specific and armor would interfere with that. Also, they would be sure to cover their vital parts. The upper chest would definitely be covered, because an arrow could easily hit them there and kill them. Their back would be defended, because they can’t see what’s behind them. Their legs would be covered because even a shallow cut could make it more difficult for them to move or escape an enemy. She would have her hair up so an enemy couldn’t grab it. However, this woman’s outfit attempts none of that. She wouldn’t even wear this under a suit of armor, for reason’s I’ll explain later. What this image is doing is presenting her as a sexual image for the male audience of the fantasy genre. The most common occurrence of this sort of outfit is in the fantasy and sci-fi genre of video games, but that’s because there are markedly fewer movies of the same type released per year. To think that millions of boys and men are seeing images very similar to this one on a daily basis is sort of terrifying.

female warrior 2

This image is a little different. This woman is at least covered. Only that small circle in the center of her chest is revealed. Wait… what? This is another common trend for women in fantasy. They are all armored up; except for one spot that just so happens to show off their bodacious cleavage. This wouldn’t be an issue if no actual warrior would ever actually do that. Why would you cover yourself up just to leave your 1-hit-kill spot open? I don’t think women are so proud of their cleavage that they are willing to show it off to the enemies they are killing,especially when it leaves them open to instant kill. Also, I would comment on the single left sided pauldron we see here, but this isn’t an issue with women’s armor. This is an issue with armor in general. Single pauldrons were used by horseback knights using lances and spears to defend their non-weapon bearing arm. With a shield, this pauldron created a virtual barricade between the knight and their target. This became a trend for non-horseback warriors in media. I’m not entirely sure why, but I believe it has to do with Final Fantasy. Square Enix loves to make asymmetrical character designs. Many of these involve the characters having only one pauldron, usually on their non-dominant arm. This could have utility for a foot soldier, though there are better ways to protect yourself and keep mobility on the ground. It’s more of an artistic choice than a practical one, which in these situations is fine as long as they aren’t trying to treat it like its practical.

female warrior

This picture is just one of the many images of women in body armor that is both impractical and impossible. These images are perpetuating a sort of male fantasy that is unhealthy. There are three things I’m going to focus on here. The first is how the breastplate perfectly wraps around the woman’s breasts. It also looks to be just covering where one would expect to see a nipple. There are a few problems with his. The first is that nobody wears armor immediately on their body. They have something under it, generally some sort of shirt. This woman clearly has nothing under her breastplate. This would cause irritation of the skin, and would quickly lead to problems, most likely infections. The next thing that isn’t proper about this armor is that it fits her breasts perfectly. The cups were the exact right size and produce that perfect ball shape. Even if its acting in a push-up bra fashion, that makes no sense. No warrior would be like “I’m going to kill some people in a battle for my kingdom/freedom/justice/etc., better wear my push-up breastplate. Gotta look busty in this battle.” It would probably be more like “great, what do I do with these things?”

The second big issue with this breastplate is how it hugs her skin so tightly. This would severely restrict her mobility since twisting her body could cause the breastplate to grind on her skin. This might also just stop her from twisting all together. Armor causes the body to move in the confines of its shape. If it is shaped exactly like your body, you cannot move much. It also acts to accentuate her body shape.

The final issue with this armor is that it exposes almost half of her torso. Her upper torso is completely unprotected, leaving her heart and lungs vulnerable to an arrow. The armor also reveals a section of her midriff. This is dangerous for many reasons. Whereas this allows her some bending movement forward and back, this is a way for her to potentially stab herself in the stomach. The bottom of the armor is pointed. Imagine she needs to bend over suddenly. That point goes right into her abdomen. Ouch.

Her legs are also terribly unprotected, but that was discussed already. The clothes over her crotch could be an artistic move. However, it would be more realistic to wear a tabard of your kingdom’s symbol, or have the symbol on your armor, rather than have a cloth hanging from your belt which could easily be tripped over or grabbed. This is something that is common in general warriors as well. I believe that it started with the undershirts or tabards that people wore under their armor were longer than the armor and ended up handing down below the armor. They probably ended up getting scrunched between the legs as we often see. However, designers have started just putting them between the legs, essentially ignoring any idea that they are part of a larger garment. That’s just speculation, though. I’m no art historian.

female warrior1female warrior4

These two women share many similarities with the above woman, so I won’t repeat myself. The most notable thing here is that the parts that are unprotected are the sexualized parts. The one on the left has essentially no protection on her bottom. This paints the image of a strong woman whose sexuality is open and vulnerable. Her breasts are pushed up, but at least her armor is supported over her shoulders, which is something the previous woman lacked. This will give her more freedom of movement while ensuring her armor didn’t just fall off for being loose. The woman on the right has much more armor, but her modesty is not kept. Her breasts, stomach, and upper thighs are revealed and vulnerable. Again, her breasts are exposed, as is a perfect shot at her heart.


female warrior 5

This is probably the closest thing we have so far to a normal piece of armor. This is from the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This female warrior is wearing Daedric Armor, the best heavy armor in the game. It covers her as it would any man, except for one thing. It’s got beast protrusions. Why is this a problem? Well, I will answer that question with a question: When women play sports, what do they wear on their breasts, generally? The correct answer is a sports bra. Sometimes they don’t wear a sports bra and end up wrapping their chest. Why do they do either of those things? To push their breasts close to their body and keep them there. This helps them with balance and coordination. This prevents larger breasts from hitting into the arms or getting in the way of whatever they are doing. Similarly, women in fictional fantasy world would have the same concerns. Their breasts would not be out of their body much. They wouldn’t be using those breast protrusions even if they were actually in the armor. In real life, breast protrusions would end up being a hindrance. They would reduce the range of motion of the arms, perhaps drastically depending on the size. If a woman didn’t have her breasts wrapped, and instead was wearing a normal bra or something, they would more than likely get pinched between the armor and her skin. Often, warriors will wear a mail shirt underneath their armor. This mail shirt would effectively make the breast protrusions useless. If she were to fall onto her chest, the base of the protrusions would press into her chest (think of what happens if you press a glass cup against your body. Now have someone do it with a bucket and all of their body weight. Exactly.) CHEST ARMOR SHOULD NOT HAVE BREASTS.


Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of instances of women wearing realistic, era-relevant armor. Historically speaking, there weren’t too many practical uses for female armor, so this is a work in progress. However, I am fully aware that these designers are fully capable of figuring this out. They are aware that these are impractical armor designs. They chose to put these women in these suits of armor to sexualize them. This removes the idea that these women are actually capable warriors and suggests they are just there as eye candy. Despite what many would claim, this is the way the mind views it.  The image below is a great example of what a woman in armor should look like. This is also from Skyrim. Comment below with some really great or really terrible examples of women in armor.

.female warrio 6


In my time at college, I was focusing on a lot of topics related to feminism. We were working on sexual assault awareness campaigns for men, mostly, but I was, of course, exposed to a lot of feminist media that extended from the topic. I since identify as a feminist, though I assert that I have my own personal idea behind feminism. It mostly revolves around having accurate and healthy depictions of women in popular media including books, movies, and video games. I understand that true feminism is not an attack on men, nor it is trying to remove and rights from men. I consider women to be partners in my life, and therefore I expect them to be portrayed in the same light in media. This is often not the case. I always like to make a point that if women are 51% of the population and most likely a similar percentage of the people in the average person’s life, then why do books and movies often only have only one or two really strong female characters? I’ve been doing some digging, and anyone out there who knows anything about writing is that all the “research” is in mostly blogs. In college I read almost every issue of Writer’s Digest, and I don’t believe they ever touched on this fundamental issue in this field. Here are some articles I found that I think are useful for writers:

On Writing Strong Female Characters 

How Not to Write Female Characters

We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome


These all cover a series qualities and characteristics that make any character a good character. For some reason, when writing female characters, writes often forget that they are actually people. The industry immediately thinks that a character is male, regardless of if they are aware of it or not. Men need motivations and goals and quirks while women often need to just be there. There is often a subconscious objectification of these characters, particularly in movies and video games and comics. Contemporary fiction is probably the most progressive about this, but usually subsects, particularly science fiction and fantasy, are far worse. The female often serves as a reward for the male protagonist when he wins the story, serves as a way to motivate him to succeed, or is just there for a sexual aspect. Men are never put into this category, because we expect them to be the protagonist and be important. Even in romance and lush novels.

The saddest part is that we have to read and write articles about how to write a female character when it’s literally no different from a male character. It’s just so ingrained in us to not think of women as characters unless we teach ourselves that they are.