A Writer’s Book of Days – 15 June 2016

Inside the Circle

And the bubble theme continues?

Unlike being in a bubble, being in a circle implies other people. A trusted camaraderie. Inclusion.

Sure, it’s possible to use “The Circle” to exclude people as well. “Sorry, you’re not part of the inner circle. We have nothing to say to you and no reason to listen.” But stepping back from that sentiment to look at the upside, a circle is generally formed to gather advice and input.

Make your bubble into a circle? Circle the bubbles (like a toddler’s activity book).

Inside the circle implies a freedom that being in a square does not, for some reason. Edgeless exploration. That’s what a circle is. Eternity, even if it repeats itself. Whereas a square has stopping points. End points. Sharp turns where one route halts and the next begins.

Circles are inherently magical in implication. Inscribe a circle in the ground to create a loop. Draw a circle in the air to begin your spell. Form a circle with your arms to complete the circuit.

Dresden. Full Metal Alchemist. Both of them use circles prominently in their magic systems, which is probably why I’m so drawn to using circles in mine. (I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two other examples of magic circles in popular fiction. Fate/Zero? Maybe. D&D? Yeah, sort of.)

So what other properties of circles can we explore? What does it mean to be “Inside the Circle?”

Repetition. Continuity. Inclusion. Unbroken. Unique. There’s no other shape like it. All the others have points and angles. A circle is soft, smooth. Weak? Perhaps, in raw form. But it is elegant as well. More robust. So harder to get right, but then harder to counteract. Is that so? Then why is breaking a circle in Dresden so easy? So that’s why magic is so tenuous, if you want a tenuous magic system, because it’s built on circles. But it’s also easy to argue that circles are not tenuous. Isn’t it?

This makes me want to learn more math. So I can find fundamental truths to create narrative causality.

A circle is a source. A well.

A circle is empty. A depository.

A circle is continuous. Unending. Infinite.

A circle has utility for building momentum. It is a tool. Useful for some purposes and not for others.

A circle is an icon. A symbol. An emblem. A marker. It represents many things and can be adorned to represent many more.

A circle is a journey. A route. A pattern. A day. A year. An hour. An era. A cycle of both season and computation.


“So you mark the circle first and place the charge within it so the energy can build, perpetuated by the cycle.

“After that inscribe your rune within the circle. You’ll want to start toward the center, with the smallest part of the rune. Otherwise, if you connect to the circle too soon, you could route its energy into an incomplete rune.”

“What’s wrong with that? Won’t it just short out and misfire?”

“It could misfire. Sure. And depending on what kind of rune you’re building, a misfire could cook your whole hand. Or worse. It’s also possible that you’ve inscribed a perfectly valid rune into the circle and you don’t even know what it does. There’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re working off of a circle.

“Now watch right here. Once you’ve finished inscribing your rune inside the circle, you need to make sure you have two things in place. First, a clear access point. If you yourself don’t know where to connect your rune to the circle, you’re going to have a hard time getting it to do what you want. Every rune activates in sequence, with a clear start point and a clear end point. The energy created by the circle follows the instructions laid out by your inscriptions without changing a thing, but only if you know where to start it.

“The second thing you need is a clear shutdown point. Unless you want your rune running forever, and I recommend against that, you need to have a protocol in place whereby the energy is dissipated from the rune. Otherwise it’ll feed back into the circle, recharge, and start the whole cycle over again. Understand?”


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