Introducing Magic Lore
When it comes to magic, I am a huge proponent of no info-dumping just to explain magic.
I personally find that readers don’t actually need to know everything right off the bat because an in-depth explanation of magic tends to take away from the narrative and bore people — so the best time is not in the beginning. Don’t show all of your cards right away!
My favorite way to introduce magic lore and explanation is to bring it up as it becomes relevant. This way you’re sprinkling bits and pieces of information as they become important, and it doesn’t feel like you’re taking away from the story to force an explanation. Readers are smarter than people often think they are, and they don’t need their hand held!
Here are some suggestions of how to do this!
Have a character that doesn’t know how magic works.
If there’s a character that has no idea how magic in this world works, your audience can learn about how magic works alongside this character!
When you want to explain something, you can have this clueless character bring up that thing, and have a more knowledgeable character explain it, or have them discover the answer on their own.
The difficult thing about this method is balancing how much the character doesn’t know, and how much they ask. It gets annoying if it happens too often, but you also have to remember that they might possibly not know the things that are considered common knowledge in that setting — I think one of the best ways to work with this is to just have them question as much as possible, and have beta readers tell you if you’re doing it too much.
Harry Potter is a good example of this: He’s the main character who had no idea magic existed and that he was a wizard. Throughout the entire series — but especially the first book — Harry is in awe of the magical world, and more knowledgeable characters (Hagrid, Ron, Hermione, etc) help explain the rules of magic, how it works, and how society functions as a result.
Tales of the Abyss also did a similar thing, with a main character who had literally never been outside of his estate. He didn’t have any idea how magic worked, or the politics of their conflicted world — so through the entire story he’s constantly learning about everything in the world.
Explain it the first time it comes up
So maybe you don’t have a character that’s completely clueless — that’s okay!
For example, let’s say that there’s five types of magic in your story, and your main character uses type 1. In the beginning of the story, maybe you only talk about type 1 magic because your main character is using it.
Eventually, when you introduce a character who uses type 4 magic, it’ll be the first time your readers ever encounter type 4 magic — or even that there are multiple types of magic. This is your opportunity to elaborate on type 4 magic and explain it a bit, and mention the other types of magic.
Explain an outlier
I don’t know how your magic works, but sometimes there are people who use magic differently than what is considered standard. If you have a character who uses magic in a different way, it is your opportunity to elaborate upon what is different, and make a comparison/explanation to the standard style of magic.
Maybe something unexpected happens — elaborate on what was supposed to happen, and speculate why it didn’t. This can provide really relevant and interesting information for your readers.
Create disagreement or discussion
You know how things work, but do your characters know how things work? Even in science there are a multitude of conflicting theories about how things on Earth work — you can do the same thing in your story! Maybe a couple of your characters don’t agree with each other on how something works, or the theory behind it and they get in an argument about it. This can reveal a lot about not only those characters like how they argue, what they’re passionate about, their opinions on magic, it can also help explain a lot of magic lore and what knowledge about it exists.
These are some of the techniques that I keep in mind when slowly revealing how magic works in my WIPs, hope this helped!