After the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we have to admit, most of us were scanning the skies for the owl bearing our acceptance letter. While we might never know if our letter was in the mail, we can still find the enchantment and wonder of a magic school all over again with our own stories.
I’m here to say Hell Yes!
To do this, there are four things you’re going to need to build your own magic school.
A Magic System
If you’re confused about how to make a magic system, you can reference my post on how to make one in four simple steps! Thoroughly flesh out your magic system for your story before trying to create the school as the school, naturally, will have been built around it. Not the other way around.
Having a magic system is having a reason for young magicians and sorceresses to attend your school. While building your magic system, try to figure out why a school is necessary. Is it only learned by books? Is it wild and uncontrollable without proper education? Finding this parameter helps elevate the believably of something that, dare I say, doesn’t exist. Once you know why your magic is taught in schools, your next step is to figure out who is learning at the school. Are the doors to your school only open to the upper class society? To those who prove themselves with valor? The people learning there will, inevitably, become the teachers as well.
We’re all dreaming of Hogwarts and, personally, I like to imagine Ilvermorny is hidden on one of the many islands in my aptly named home, the Thousand Islands.
Where will you put your school? Will it be hidden away from the world so it’s secrets cannot be found by the unworthy? Or, would you rather it be in the very center of town because your world openly flourishes with magic?
Once you decide where it should be and why, there comes the fun task of actually designing the school. You have a great number of options, so do your research. Is it a boarding school? There will need to be dorms. Is it just a day school? So much room for learning! Take a look at the schools around the world and how they’re built. Some, like Hogwarts, are like mini castles, while others can be modern and open.
Think about how the system of magic taught here will affect the aesthetics of your school? Will there be a lot of greenery? Are there fountains running through the school like the veins of a titan? Magic is impossible and can do anything you can dream up. Just make sure the designs you add to your school make sense to the world and the story. The moving stairs in Hogwarts weren’t just fun, but often made the students late and gave them interactions with the professors.
Once you have an idea of what the school might look like, you can make a rough map of the rooms within the building. This doesn’t have to be pretty. No one will ever have to see it. This map is for your eyes only, helping you craft your stories with consistency. That way Suzie isn’t going to a class next door that was three floors up in an earlier story.
Classes and Teachers
This will be a fun part. I promise.
You can now make a curriculum for your students. Having this fleshed out helps you figure out what your students are doing and when. The first thing you need to do is decide what students will learn at the school. Define the subjects by breaking down the aspects of your magic system and what it is capable of.
Once you have that list, you can now make classes. Beneath each subject, create a timeline for how each student would learn that subject, from 101 to advanced. Be sure to include base classes for the number of years you think that subject would be required as well as more concentrated classes as electives.
A good analogy would be Math. In modern schools, kids not only take math, but they take it for several years. Every year the classes grow more difficult or shift into a new branch of math. I’ll post an example below.
- Botany [Professors: Callie Twiddleditch, Bernard Short, and Eugene Calio]
- Botany 101: Year One Requirement
- Botany 201: Year Two Requirement
- Poisonous Herbs: Year Three Elective
- Herbs and Magic in the Kitchen: Year Three Elective
No, your school doesn’t need wetlands and a number of creatures living inside of it. By all means, it already has a number of creatures when you count Professors, Staff, and Students. When I say your school needs an Ecosystem, what I’m trying to say is that it needs a social structure.
A social structure isn’t always a linear thing. Certain cliques aren’t bubbles unto themselves, but bubbles that crash and bump into one another through the cycle that is a school year. These cliques are embedded into your structure through institutions and belief systems.
THis is where the world outside your magic school will affect how people interact on the inside. You can separate the students in the haves and have-nots, into those with certain abilities, or political groups. The possibilities are endless. If you’re inspired to do something similar to what is already out there, try to figure out what twist you can apply to yours to make it stand apart. That twist will make the story element fresh and not a facsimile of something people already know.
By creating a social structure that is part institution and part political climate, you will have an engine in which to move your characters. It will give characters motivations to act upon, secrets to hide from the page, and groups to interact with.
Keep in mind, this is a huge task boiled down to a small number of subjects. Inevitably, the school will grow on the page. It will become greater than you originally imagined, and that’s most definitely okay. What I hope to do here is to help lay down a ground work for you to use when writing the first draft. As the school and the story grows, go back and make changes.
If you do this, make sure the changes still make sense. No one wants to add a cool feature that will later make the reader put down the book and ask, WTF?
Aside from changes, there are a number of other facets to your school that you can address, such as:
- School Clubs
- Field Trips
- And probably more….
Are you excited to start making your own magic school? If you do, I hope to get my acceptance letter later!