Beginning a Story: Wizards in the Military

What is the best way to begin a story? My teachers have always recommended writing several beginnings until you find the right one. One professor claimed he wrote over 30 versions of a story before it felt right (I’m skeptical). The point, however, is valid.

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about this concept:

A. Wizards (and magic in general)

B. The Military

A+B. Wizards used in the military

I don’t know if there is a worthwhile story lurking here, but I want to try. The idea is to render the narrative in a straight-forward, realistic way and let the two conflicting worlds interact. I suppose my inspiration is part Stranger in a Strange Land and part A Modest Proposal; Cultural criticism cloaked in SciFi.

To put it another way, what would happen magic had a practical application in combat? Would dragons replace Bradley APCs? Instead of fighting house by house to clear a neighborhood, why not send in a witch to cast a spell of immobilization and then collect the insurgents, frozen mid-motion, like lawn statues?

A disclaimer: I am a geek, but not a magic-savvy geek. My knowledge extends to the Harry Potter movies and Naruto, which is magic of a sort. I apologize to all military types and all magic types. This is just an exercise.

Here goes.

1. The first documented use of Standardized Governmental Magic (SGM) was in Los Angeles during the 2010 Riots, in which a full 15 percent of the city was lost to fire. In a pilot program with Los Angeles SWAT, five wizards and five mages were deployed to disarm rioters and control fires, particularly in the Watts district of the city.

2. No one knows exactly when the government first started using magic for military purposes. There are photos from the 2010 Riots in Los Angeles that show wizards in camouflage and flack jackets, surrounded by a protective ring of riot police, casting water spells to repel the crowds and extinguish the fires and burned for 16 days; it rained black water and ash for three weeks.

3. I was one of the first. They came for me one night at the barracks of the 351 in Virginia. We had just finished dinner in the mess hall, a long, low cinder block building painted stray dog gray, when two men in suits tapped me on the shoulder.

“Seargent Craig?” The man who spoke was enormous – one of those giants the service finds in a cornfield in Iowa. He had a quiet face and corporal’s stripes and smelled like the generic lemon detergent used by the base’s laundry service. His companion was a civilian, dressed in a charcoal gray suit that was too big for him, and he seemed delicate – ill matched to his mammoth escort.

“Sir?” I said, starting to get up.

“Follow me.”

I followed.

…more to come.

Well! This is the question: how best to convey the important information in a quick, entertaining, and (hopefully) stylistic way? I’m frustrated. The first two are flat and the second perhaps too self-conscious.

More later.

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6 responses to “Beginning a Story: Wizards in the Military

  1. I like number 3 and number 1. Number 2 is fine but it should just be a paragraph somewhere else.

    I’m thinking start with number 3, elaborate a little more and then cut to number 1 before giving a way too much.

  2. Thinking out loud:

    It seems like you would have the problem that the wizards and witches would be too powerful to intertwine with realistic warfare…like if they can freeze a village of insurgents, or cast a spell so everyone loves America, the war would be over pretty quickly. Somehow you have to define the magic these witches/wizards/warlocks have and it can’t be all that powerful.

    However, I do enjoy the idea that the government having magic and civilians not could be a metaphor for machine guns/tanks/missiles/nuclear, etc. For example, it would be very hard for American civilians to start a revolution today because of the powerful weaponry the government has that is illegal for civilians.

  3. Good comments! I agree that the boundaries of a magician’s power need to be defined. That’s always bothered be about the magic genre – how powerful can one person be? So, I have to answer the question – how much power is unique and cool while not making a wizard a one-man army. (Ergo, there is no such thing as an “Army of One” har har)

    In my outline, magic spreads to the private sector and eventually individuals start to train themselves, so citizens could conceivably use magic to overthrow or challenge a government.

    …lots to think about…

  4. ps – i just like the idea of all the bad guys in Iraq being turned into lawn ornaments.

  5. Definitely 3 – the first person seems a good way to go. If you’d like a good example of great “wizard fiction”, check out Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series. It’s been described as “Harry Potter meets Spenser the Detective”, and may be the best of the genre I’ve read – a bit geeky and sparkling with great dialogue and a lot of pop-culture references.

  6. I agree with Andy, you can start with 3 and go to 1 or start with 1 and go to 3 even. Great idea about wizards in the military. I’m curious about the magic, how is it developed? Through study? Can you be born a gifted wizard and does one’s magic ever go away? Hm, maybe limited use, or it is physically draining. Am I thinking more along the lines of mutant abilities?

    Either way, great stuff. I loved that it rained black water and ash for three weeks.

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