In real life, Western culture lumps a lot of things together as ‘magic’. Enchantments, spoken incantations, various kinds of spells, curses, hexes, witchcraft, divination of the future, necromancy, consulting ancestral spirits, and astrology all fall under some definitions of magic. Those are useful ideas for the real world, but what is magic in fiction, especially fantasy?
In my debut novel Fantastic America, and the rest of the Magic Unleashed series, magic is a force of nature. It ebbs and flows in the physical universe, but that makes it even more difficult to work out a science based definition. Ultimately, magic is a force that responds to thought and will to cause changes to the world that would otherwise be impossible. That’s a good working definition for the stories I write in the worlds of Fantastic America. Other stories may follow different rules.
Of course, in my stories there is a lot more to magic than that simple definition. There are many ‘flavors’ of magic, different schools or kinds of magical traditions. Within the novels and short stories of the Magic Unleashed series, I explore each of those traditions. Some, like necromancy are unpleasant for anyone outside that tradition.
Faith based miracles, that can save people with little or no magic at all, are a function of belief. The largely instinctive magic of arcanists, fueled by ambient magical energies all around them, operate on a intuitive or subconscious level. The wildly powerful spells and rituals of wizards can warp the very fabric of reality. That is the purest expression of magic in the modern world.