So You Want Your Characters to Fall in Love. Should You Use Magic to Achieve It? - Uncharted

So You Want Your Characters to Fall in Love. Should You Use Magic to Achieve It?

By Jessica Evans

Imagine you’re a character in a world where magic spices up modern dating. You’re swiping on an enchanted app or maybe sipping a latte that’s more than just your regular caffeine fix—it’s laced with a love potion. And then all of a sudden: boom. You don’t feel like yourself, and that match you just made suddenly looks like the love of your life. But is this feeling real, or just an illusion crafted by magical means? This is the heart of our exploration today. As writers and readers, how do we navigate this captivating yet complex terrain?

Today we’re delving into the intriguing, yet potentially complicated world where magic influences love. It’s a world that blurs the lines between genuine affection and magical coercion, making us question the very nature of love. Can a connection born from magic ever be trusted? 

Allure of Magical Matchmaking

Contemporary fantasy novels have a field day with this idea. For instance, in “The Fifth Season,” Jemisin intertwines love and magic and challenges the notion of agency in relationships forged in crisis, asking if love can ever be truly autonomous in such settings. Jemisin crafts a narrative where the forces of attraction are about emotional chemistry and navigating the intricate dynamics of power and magic. This adds a layer of depth, questioning whether love in such a world can be untangled from the influences of these extraordinary abilities.

Similarly, in The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, magical matchmaking is explored through the lens of a society deeply rooted in tradition and magic. Here, the concept of love transcends the personal, becoming entangled with the destinies and powers of the characters. Forna’s narrative probes whether love can truly be free in a world where magic dictates one’s path.

These tales make you wonder, though: is love real if magic pulls the strings? How do characters navigate their feelings when they know magic has played a role in their connection? These narratives often explore the ethical dimensions of such relationships, delving into themes of consent, agency, and the true nature of emotional bonds.

Incorporating magical matchmaking in narratives allows authors like Jemisin and Forna to reflect on real-world relationship dynamics through a fantastical lens. It creates an opportunity to explore deeper issues like power imbalance, consent, and emotional manipulation in a setting that’s removed from reality yet strikingly relevant.

So, if you’re writing a story with a sprinkle of magic, remember to keep it real emotionally. The heart of the story is what truly matters. Magic can serve as a catalyst in a relationship, but it should not overshadow the core journey of the characters. Whether influenced by magic or not, the emotional arc needs to resonate universally, reflecting real experiences of love, conflict, and growth.

Consent and Agency in Magical Romance

Throw magic into your love story, and suddenly, big questions about consent and choice pop up. It raises critical questions: Does magic undermine free will? How can characters maintain their agency in the face of enchantment? Navigating these ethical dilemmas is a delicate balancing act that adds depth and realism to the narrative, inviting readers to engage with the story on a more profound level.

Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone weaves a complex story in which magic deeply influences personal relationships and societal structures. The characters grapple with the ethical implications of using magic in romantic contexts, raising critical questions about free will and agency in love, especially when magical forces are at play. For instance, the protagonist’s struggle to reconcile her growing feelings within the turbulent world of magic and oppression brings a rich exploration of love’s authenticity in the face of external influence.

Another poignant example is Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death. The novel delves into themes of consent and agency within a magically charged landscape, addressing complex issues like destiny and the power of choice in relationships. Okorafor’s narrative challenges readers to consider how characters maintain autonomy and genuine connections amidst a magical destiny and intervention backdrop.

Magic as a Metaphor for Connection

Think about it: in love stories, isn’t magic like the unseen forces – those butterflies in your stomach, the unexplainable connection – that pull people together? This metaphorical layer invites readers to consider the nature of attraction and connection beyond the tangible realm.

In The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, magic serves as a metaphor for the unseen forces of fate and destiny in relationships. The protagonist’s journey through a magical realm mirrors her internal journey towards understanding love and connection. Chokshi uses magic as a lens to explore themes of trust and vulnerability, emphasizing that the most profound connections often lie beyond the tangible world. The use of magic in this way enriches the narrative, offering a deeper, more nuanced exploration of love and connection. It’s a reminder that in both magic and love, there’s often more than meets the eye, and the most powerful forces are those felt, not seen.

So how do you do it?

Whether aided by magic or not, this journey needs to resonate with readers on a universal level, reflecting the real experiences of love, conflict, and growth. By ensuring that the emotional core of the relationship remains believable and relatable, you’ll create a story that captivates the imagination while still touching the heart.

When you mix a little magic into romance, you’re not just telling a fantasy tale. You’re shining a light on the real, messy, and magical thing we call love. Themes like power imbalance, consent, and emotional manipulation can be examined through the lens of magical interactions, providing a unique perspective on these complex issues. This intersection creates a dynamic storytelling environment with potential for conflict, resolution, and character growth. It allows writers to explore how magical abilities impact personal relationships and how characters balance their extraordinary powers with their human emotions and needs.

Here’s an imaginary premise to guide you, followed by a checklist/action list to help integrate these concepts into your own stories.

In a world where emotions can be manipulated through an ancient form of magic known as “Emotocraft,” two characters from opposing factions find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other. However, they struggle with the uncertainty of their feelings: Are their emotions genuine, or are they being influenced by the pervasive magic in their world?

  1. Establish the Rules of Magic: Clearly define how magic works in your world, especially regarding emotions and relationships. Is it common or rare? Is it accepted or feared? The rules you set will frame your narrative.
  2. Explore the Impact of Magic on Relationships: Use magic as a tool to delve into themes of consent, agency, and authenticity. How do your characters navigate love and attraction in a world where feelings can be magically influenced?
  3. Balance Magic with Emotional Realism: Ensure that the emotional journey of your characters remains central. Magic can complicate or clarify feelings, but the heart of your story should be about the character’s emotional growth and connection.
  4. Introduce Conflict and Tension: Utilize the magical elements to create conflict. Perhaps one character doubts the authenticity of their feelings due to the influence of magic, creating tension in the relationship.
  5. Address Ethical Dilemmas: Challenge your characters with moral questions. What is the cost of using magic in relationships? How do they grapple with the power they hold?

By following this checklist, you can weave a narrative that skillfully blends magic with the complexities of human emotions, creating a magical romance that resonates with readers on a deep, emotional level. Remember, the key to a compelling story is not just in the magic itself, but in how it reflects and amplifies the human experience. The outcome will be a narrative that enchants and enlightens, offering a magical yet profoundly human exploration of love. In essence, the interplay of magic and romance in literature serves as both an escape and a mirror, reflecting our own world’s complexities in love, choice, and morality.