i've been pondering the questions one gentle reader posed a few days ago, which is essentially this, at least as i understand her...as someone who not only believes in Magic, but has been known to use it on occasion, how do i respond to books that include the use of magic and people who use it?
for me as a reader, i am willing to believe anything the writer can make me believe. in other words, i don't read stories in which magic is used to learn how to use Magic. i read stories for the Story. magic, when it appears in a story, in its simplest terms, is really about the manipulation of either power or energy and sometimes both. however it works, it has to make logical sense within its own universe. as long as it does that, i dont care how far off the mark the writer is from the way i experience and manipulate Magic.
on the other hand, to read a story in which the characters experience magic in a similiar way as i do, is a delight. there is a new author, sarah addison allen, whose debut novel Garden Spells, is an absolutely charming story that reminded me of practical magic - only better.
as far as the more stereotypical presentations of charmed and such, i don't pay much attention. the good thing about them is that they introduce the ideas of magic and spells and witchcraft in a way that is a bit different from previous ideas about witches - at least the girls on charmed are young and cute rather than old and warty. anything that asks the public to think about anything in a new way can only be a good thing in the long run.
i think the way to create believable characters who use believable magic is to focus on them as characters first, who have needs and desires and flaws. magic in a story is not exactly the same as Magic in the Real World, just as characters in a story aren't really people, no matter how closely from Real Life they may have been drawn. your job is not to make the reader believe in your magic, but to make the reader believe in your Story.
i find that's when i need all the Magic i can muster. :)
and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.