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Writing 'Believeable' (?) Magic Words

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Hiya Blue Boarders,

I've got a question for all you fantasy/magic/wizardly types.  I'm trying to write some words, more like an incantation in my new book and no matter what I try writing, it sounds REALLY Harry Potter-ish.  So much so that I'm tempted not to write them out at all.  But the problem is...I NEED to.

My thought was trying to find root words in Latin (or wherever) that sort of invoked the tone of the incantation, but I'm not sure I suceeded.

Here's the dark incantation that I came up with to bring the dead back to life:

“Mortimarivus, Cardiolovo, Evokare, Incoprore.”

Again, this is for my book.  I don't want anyone to think I'm some creepy dark magic kind of guy. 

I'm only hoping zombies aren't walking the earth having posted this.  :ahh

Any ideas?

-=Thomas=- :chicken
#1 - April 02, 2008, 07:38 PM
Furry & Flo #1 - The Big Hairy Secret (Capstone - August 2013)
Furry & Flo #2 - The Problems With Goblins (Capstone - August 2013)

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Brains Brains BRAINS

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

I don't write fantasy, so I may be off base, but my impression is that your incantation is a little long. It's a bit of a mouthful. What about just the first and last two words?
#2 - April 02, 2008, 07:59 PM
Kristin Walker
A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL  (Razorbill, Feb. 2010)
7 CLUES TO WINNING YOU (Razorbill, Apr. 2012)


I don't know if it'll help or not, but when I've tried to write the 'spell' type stuff, I usually try to think of what I'm writing as poetry.  If I have to, I'll doublespace a few times, and then just write a few words on each time, and when I come up with something remotely close, then I'll try and turn that around into an actual, verbal spell.

If I need to, I try to think of things that evoke the kind of thing the spell is used for - imagery that would seem to make sense for whatever I'm going for.

Let us know how it goes!
#3 - April 02, 2008, 08:36 PM

Well, I *do* write a lot of this kind of stuff (although no one I wrote ever did magic aloud...) but know that the HP stuff is based on romance languages, heavily influenced from Latin, and that's a fairly common device unless it's "poetry" or "song" magic (another common trope). However, if you want to create something "new/different" it's nice to make words that "sound" believable which, aside from the all-call to zombie hordes, seems what you're driving at in the first place. So:

- How about making up your own language? Raising the dead could be: "N'rya estra kro deliss!" (As opposed to drying raisins which would be "N'rya estrata k'nei daeliss!" Don't confuse the two.)

- Playing ye olde linguistics trick wherein as long as you use the first and last letter of a word, the brain associates the appropriate English word within context? Try it! It's fun! "Ruue tinne draggouned! Ihs foin!"

- Sticking random apostrophes and dashes is always "de riggeur" for fantasy types (see above) but sometimes you can do simply with derivatives of actual, non-romance languages like Cantonese, Hindi or Hebrew -- it's the "sound" of letters that can lend itself to the "magical" ear/fantasy culture (think Klingons...on the other hand, don't). "Ahnit b'lo bekkin dru tzamin kal dherrit!"

Anyway, some random ideas from a random fantasy writer fan.

Hope this helps! Good luck!
#4 - April 02, 2008, 08:48 PM

The write word paints a thousand pictures.
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You're right. Your spell does sound very Harry Potterish. I think that's because of the Latin. Many people used Latin for spells and Harry Potter is just the most recent and well known. Why don't you try another language. Gaelic, Norse? Tolkien made up his own languages. I'm doing a fantasy now and I base alot of the scenery on Greece so I chose Greek words and roots for my 'magical commands.'  When you come down to it any foreign language can sound strange and mysterious to people not familiar with it. So I suggest leave the Latin and go for something off the beaten track. There's a whole world full of wonderful sounding syllables out there to chose from. Research African, American Indian, Oriental whatever strikes your fancy and has the 'sound' you want.

rainchains :horse
#5 - April 02, 2008, 08:49 PM
« Last Edit: April 03, 2008, 10:45 AM by rainchains »


If you're trying to avoid sounding like a british school boy wizard, you might want to try something other than latin-ish stuff. :)   Either that, or hunt down someone who actually speaks it, and use real latin - but that would only really work if you're doing a "real world" fantasy, and you run the risk of it getting kinda "omen"ish campy if you're not careful.

Maybe babble to yourself randomly in what sounds like another language?  German/Russian/Klingon syllables can sound pretty scary and commanding, mix in stuff that sounds Hebrew or Chinese or even different accents in English... listen to the way people pronounce things, and mush it all together. I've always kind of felt it was more about the sound and feel of it.   (Then again, Tolkein was a linguist, and tackled it by writing whole new languages and grammar structures, and his stuff sounds dead on right.)

in terms of length - my instinct would actually be to go longer - we're raising the dead, after all, it's probably going to be complicated.    OTOH, that might not fit in your story, and it would depend on your reader's age and comprehension level.

Sounds fun, though.  :)


#6 - April 02, 2008, 09:02 PM

Man, you guys rock.  This totally helps me.  I think I'm going to avoid the latin thing.  I've actually got two 'spells' (if you can call 'em that).

One is from the Dark Tome where a cleric reads aloud to raise man from the dead (and essentially creates a zombie...I know, I know...a cleric wouldn't normally do that).

The other is the cleric's words to Turn (or render incapacitated) the same zombie.

I'm guessing I'd want both 'spells' to be different.  One from the Dark Tome and one from the High Order of Clerics, which shouldn't sound as rough and evil.  Anyway...much to think about.

Thanks for your suggestions and I'd LOVE to hear any other ideas y'all might have.  This definitely gives me a running start.

#7 - April 02, 2008, 09:25 PM
« Last Edit: April 03, 2008, 10:03 PM by TKT »
Furry & Flo #1 - The Big Hairy Secret (Capstone - August 2013)
Furry & Flo #2 - The Problems With Goblins (Capstone - August 2013)


Hey, I'm a fantasy/magic/wizardly type! 

One thing to do might be to back up and think about why magic spells are needed, what their purpose is, and to know that you need to know how your magic works.  Do the spells focus the wizard's mind so she can bring forth the magic within her?  Or is it a way of channeling magic from another dimension?  Or what?  In my book, the spell-words are a language--an actual means of communication with the magic, which is a living being. 

What everybody's said about the Latin is right on.  But looking at another, possibly less common, language might be just what you need.  You're raising the dead with this spell, so what about Russian, which seems strong and full of consonants; maybe a good spell would come from that.  I'd suggest finding a Russian (or whatever language) book (if Russian then transliterated into our alphabet!) and reading some of it just to get a feel for the language, and then make up your own spellwords based on that.

I'm flying my geek flag here, but my spell language is based on Quenya and Sindarin.
#8 - April 03, 2008, 05:10 AM


I started by mixing words from two different languages (Norwegian and Latin) and played with it from there.  Ultimately, I decided that having words wasn't really necessary at all.  But I was DEFINITELY frustrated by the fact that everything I wrote sounded like a Harry Potter spell at first!
#9 - April 03, 2008, 04:28 PM


The only thing I might suggest is saying the words you come up with out loud.  It's more fun for the reader if they roll off the tongue instead of making one stutter and repeat...
#10 - April 28, 2008, 07:31 PM

Hiya Magic People!

Well, it's been a while (another draft, actually) and I've finally come across my rotten Harry Potter-ish spell again.  At rainchain's suggestion, I messed around with long forgotten languages and sort of made some changes to make it sound creepy and stuff.

I dug around and found some Norse words that I think are fitting.  My spell to raise the dead (in the book, mind you!) is:

"Eptir Andlat Risa Aptaer!"

Loosely translated: After death, rise again...

 :feelbad  <---see?  It works!

What do you guys think?

-=Thomas=-  :chicken
#11 - June 02, 2008, 08:24 PM
Furry & Flo #1 - The Big Hairy Secret (Capstone - August 2013)
Furry & Flo #2 - The Problems With Goblins (Capstone - August 2013)


Sounds really harsh and creepy! Cool
#12 - June 02, 2008, 08:29 PM

The write word paints a thousand pictures.
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Hey Tom,

I love your new spell. It sounds very commanding and dark. Also I like the fact that it has some of the sounds of the translation so your readers will be able to remember it or get it. Eptir and after have enough in common for me to get it and risa and rise.

rainchains :horse
#13 - June 03, 2008, 08:45 AM

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I love the words you found. I do have one small suggestion, which of course you are free to ignore.

When I read your spell out loud, there's a "rub" between the final sound in "risa" and the opening sound in "aptaer." A little glottal stop that slightly breaks the flow of the phrase. But if you change the order of those two words, you can read the phrase smoothly, straight through:

Eptir Andlat Aptaer Risa!

(Also, the "eptir" and "aptaer," positioned thus, echo each other, so the phrase acquires a kind of chant rhythm.)

#14 - June 04, 2008, 07:44 AM

Thanks for the input guys!

When I read your suggestion Susan, I was like: No!  Then it won't make sense!  The literal meaning (butchered of course) would be out of whack!

But...when I tried it, I discovered (as you probably did) that it actually works either way. 

Eptir Andlat Aptaer Risa! = After Death Again Rise

And you're right...your arrangement flows better.  Very cool.  Now to perfect what the clerics say to repell the undead!!!

-=Thomas=-  :chicken
#15 - June 04, 2008, 07:17 PM
Furry & Flo #1 - The Big Hairy Secret (Capstone - August 2013)
Furry & Flo #2 - The Problems With Goblins (Capstone - August 2013)


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