9 Different Types of Magic Users to Use in Your Writing
When it comes to writing magic in your novel, there are some core fundamentals you need to consider. First and foremost is your magic system (which we have an ultimate guide for creating right here).
Within that framework are some folks essential to your system (and your story): your magic users.
Magic users are the characters who get to tap into the mystical arts of your world and harness that power. They can be heroes, villains, or both and will usually play a critical role in your tale due to their abilities.
But there are many different types of magic users, many of which come with certain reader expectations. Disregarding these expectations is a surefire way to end up alienating readers and hurting your story’s overall quality.
To avoid that, we’re going to talk about the following:
- Clerics and Religious Magic Users
It’s important to note that we’re looking at the most common use of these magic users in fiction. There will be some overlap (i.e., an author might call a female wizard a witch, but we’re differentiating the two), and there will be instances where some people define one type of magic user differently than others (i.e., djinn of pre-Islamic folklore vs. djinn from Islamic theology or in witchcraft).
With that disclaimer, let’s chat about some spellslingers in alphabetical order.
Up first, we’re talking about those who walk the line between magic and science. Alchemists use alchemy (surprise), which is a precursor to chemistry. Traditionally, alchemy was concerned with turning one metal into another or discovering a universal elixir that could turn any base metal into gold.
While you’re free to use that traditional version of an alchemist in your work, this type of magic user usually goes a little further. Rather than focusing solely on metal to gold, alchemists are typically portrayed as potion and poison makers, often infusing magic into their creations.
This could mean making love potions or elixirs that turn you invisible. It could also mean coming up with poisons that erase memories or put someone under your control.
Your alchemist could also be obsessed with gaining knowledge and transforming their physical being through magic.
Clerics/Religious Magic Users
Next, we have those who wield magic from a higher being or deity. I’m calling them clerics, but this can include anyone who uses some divine magic.
These characters are pious believers whose faith is rewarded with powers no one else can access. What they do with their magic usually depends on what their deity has gifted them.
A kind god might give a cleric the ability to heal. A war deity might give their clerics spells that destroy or make them stronger. A storm goddess might give her clerics powers over lightning, rain, and wind.
Whatever the case is, always remember that access to magic comes at the cost of faith. If a cleric doesn’t worship the way their god wants them to, that god can cut off that power.
Though djinns (or jinns or genies) take many different forms across folklore and theology, there are some consistent threads we can draw on to write this unique kind of magic user.
Djinns aren’t human but a sort of species of human-like creatures that abide by “human” norms: culture, religion, wants, needs, etc. As far as their magical capabilities, the djinn you write may have any of these abilities:
- Shapeshifting into a variety of animals
- Possessing humans
- Soothsaying/future telling
- Cursing their enemies
- Magically benefiting those they like
Some genies in pop culture are depicted as wish granters, though this is more representative of divs, a monster from Persian mythology.
Like people, djinns can be good or evil. Good djinns use their magic to help out, while evil djinns do the opposite.
If you’re writing a djinn character, you probably don’t want to be so binary with them. Treat them like any other character, but take their elements from folklore to make them unique.
Like angels, demons, and other entities from spiritual or religious beliefs, some people believe djinn are as real as you and me. Take this from someone who writes about angels and demons duking it out in a post-apocalyptic world: you’ll catch some heat from some folks for using theological entities.
But, on the flip side, many readers seek out stories about these unique magic users.
Unlike many magic users who draw on power that’s hard for us to envision or comes from some mystical source, druids harness the magic of nature and the natural world for their magic.
This could mean communicating with or befriending animals, using plants to create poultices or potions (like an alchemist), causing plants to proliferate or in grow specific shapes, controlling Aristotelian elements, harnessing the power of the sun or the moon, or anything that partners them up with flora and fauna of the world.
There’s a word in that last line that’s important: partners.
When writing a druid, readers usually expect a character who is “one with nature.” They respect the world, hate those who exploit it, and work in tandem with the world rather than harness it for their own power.
They also tend to view unnatural things—machines, extraplanar monsters, dark magic, etc.—as wrong.
That being said, you can write a druid who subverts all those expectations and uses their connection with the natural world for evil means. Perhaps the “natural world” includes the supernatural or other dimensions.
In this list are three entries that writers can use interchangeably (and are by some writers): mages, sorcerers, and wizards. If you want to use these as synonyms, go ahead. But I’m going to illustrate some of the subtle differences between them to give you an even more extensive repertoire of magic users.
Up first, mages. These magic users are defined not just by harnessing some magical source but by studying to understand that source and their powers.
Mages generally aren’t born with a penchant for magic. They have to work hard for their power, hitting the books to buff up their skills. The term “mage” also has connotations of being a profession or a role. Perhaps a kingdom recruits and trains mages for their army, or a college provides education to prepare mages for their societal roles.
Unlike some titles, mage hasn’t traditionally been applied to only one sex, opening up the term for any character.
While “magician” could simply be used as a catch-all for anyone who uses magic, it can also mean the opposite: an illusionist. These magic users make the world think they can use spells and the mystic arts when everything is sleight of hand or a trick of the eye.
To a real magic user, magicians are viewed as frauds or charlatans. However, magicians are looked upon with wonder or even reverence by the everyday person.
A savvy magician can use this perception to climb social ladders, gain wealth and power, or manipulate others through fear. They are intelligent and generally in it for themselves. There’s a reason the power-seeking character archetype is called the Magician.
When writing your magician, feel free to mix in some actual magic if that tickles your fancy. They could get access to a little bit of power and make it look like something more significant.
The important thing is that your magician is using their power or apparent power for themselves, often at the expense of others.
I love writing characters with a penchant for being bad, and necromancers certainly fall into that category. Like how druids draw on nature, necromancers pull their power from a single source: death.
Writing a necromancer means writing a magic user who is okay with harnessing the power of death to their own benefit. This could include:
- Raising the dead
- Using corpses as ingredients in potions or components in rituals
- Communing with spirits to gain knowledge
- Binding the dead to do their bidding
- Cursing their enemies in horrific ways
For hopefully obvious reasons, people tend to think poorly of necromancers. We tend to dislike people who mess with the dead, especially for selfish reasons.
Because of their selfishness, tendency to disturb the dead, or lack of moral good that comes with their magic, necromancers are often portrayed as evil. They make great villains, especially if you give them an empathetic or compelling motivation.
Necromancers don’t need to be evil, though. After all, magic can be a means to an end like any other tool. Maybe your necromancer isn’t too concerned with the ethics of raising the dead and uses their magic to save the day.
Whichever way you go, have fun getting dark when writing your necromancer.
Sorcerers are the second entry on this list that falls into the gray area of mage-sorcerer-wizard. To make our magic users more unique, we’re putting sorcerers on the opposite end of the spectrum from mages.
Where mages must work for their understanding of magic, sorcerers are born with it. Whether through genetics, a pact with a powerful creature, or finding some magic item that gifts them power, sorcerers can wield their magic without being nerds and reading textbooks.
There’s no limit to what power this gives your character, except those you impose (and remember that limits are more interesting than abilities in your story). Make it relevant to your plot and the world you’ve built.
When writing your sorcerer, you can still have them learn to control their new power, usually through a mentor.
If the hero in your story is a sorcerer, controlling their power will be essential to their inner conflict. Making them too powerful will lead to a boring story with almost no tension.
On the other hand, a villainous sorcerer will use their crazy levels of power to drive your external conflict and create seemingly insurmountable obstacles for your protagonist.
Witches and Warlocks
Witches and warlocks are gendered terms for the same type of magic user, though witch is gaining popularity as a moniker for any character like this.
Traditionally, witches have turned their back on the light and have made a deal to serve something evil (usually the Devil). In exchange for this deal, witches gain access to magic abilities.
More often than not, these abilities are harmful: curses, hexes, summoning demons and spirits, controlling others, ruining crops, and making giant houses out of candy to lure in and eat children.
Why the witch or warlock made a deal is up to you: perhaps they worship the devilish creature, are looking to get ahead in life, or are motivated by revenge.
Just like a cleric, the power given can be taken away by the thing that provides it. So not going back on the terms of their servitude is vital for a witch.
All of the above is based on the most common view of literary witches. That said, modern witchcraft—Wicca—is more about worshiping nature than the Devil or an extradimensional evil.
If you want to write a Wiccan magic user, you’re looking more at a druid than this version of a witch.
Finally, let’s talk about the last member of the mage-sorcerer-wizard umbrella. While mages study hard and sorcerers have an innate ability to wield magic, wizards fall somewhere in between.
That means your wizard might have a knack for casting spells but must go to school, delve into ancient ruins, or meditate under a waterfall to learn more about the arcane ways.
Wizards are great when your world has magic but not everyone can use it. If it were just a tool, a lot of people would become mages and learn how to cast spells. But something about your wizard has given them exclusive access to magic. If they want to reach their full potential, that means gaining a better understanding.
When writing a wizard, you can approach your character from several angles. You can make them new to their wizarding role, so their development will come from learning more about using magic.
You can make them an accomplished wizard who helps out those who don’t know as much as them. Or that accomplished wizard can be the deadly threat in your story.
A quick note: The term wizard has traditionally been used to label male spellcasters, while witch has been the female opposite. You can do this, but it doesn’t need to be the case. There are plenty of female wizards in literature today.
Craft the Perfect Magic User
Hopefully, this article has shown you just how specific you can be when writing magic users. There’s more to these characters than just casting spells; creating your witches, druids, and necromancers can be a lot of fun.
But it takes time and thought to get it right.
Your magic users don’t exist in isolation from the rest of your book. To write an unforgettable story with your magic users, you’ll also want to consider:
- Creating a magic system
- Coming up with fantastic characters
- Internal and external conflict
A lot goes into writing a book, but those links will give you even more tools to make the spellcasters you want.
And to bring all that together into a cohesive first draft, check out our free e-book, Let’s Write a Book. It guides you from idea to finished story, including all the non-writing things you need to be successful. Click here to get it in your inbox right now.
Most of all, have fun creating your very own magic users in an extraordinary story. Happy writing!
The Chosen One. It’s a trope that many people love to hate despite its pervasiveness across popular culture. If you’re unfamiliar with the Chosen One, it’s a popular trope or narrative device used across books, TV shows, and movies where a character is destined to fulfill a certain role or mission, often because they have unique abilities or traits. These traits are frequently tied to magic, meaning you’ll see this trope a lot in fantasy and other types of speculative fiction, especially those with a young adult audience.
So how do you write well then? Realistically, there are a few things universally considered “good” writing. The story should follow a logical plot where one action feeds into another. The characters should behave in ways that align with their established personalities. There should be some high points and low points and stuff in between. Generally, good writing is also well edited and follows most of the conventions for grammar and punctuation. While you can write well with typos and mistakes, you run the risk of distracting the reader to a point where that good story becomes not so good because it’s unreadable. Ultimately, the success of things like your voice and your characters are going to be up to your reader and you’ll never please everyone. But we can take some steps to ensure we please more people than not.
That’s great—our fiction should reflect the world as it is and that means including people of various ethnic backgrounds and skin tones. But the history of writing about people of color is kind of… awful and it’s important to remember that you can’t just throw in a BIPOC character without giving some serious thought to how you represent and describe that character.