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In a story idea I have, there is a race of humanoid creatures that evolved on earth from organisms that originated from another part of the universe and possibly another dimension. Their brains are unnaturally advanced and they seek to learn all that can be through experiments, sometimes at the expense of innocent people.

My idea was to include my own concept of arcane. In the story, the race's definition of arcane is something that seems impossible to those without the knowledge of how to do it. For example, conjuring a ball of energy would be preformed by, say, thinking of a certain alien image while twitching fourteen specific muscles in a quick sequence, or something like that.

That way I could get away with saying that magic is just things that normal people are mentally incapable of thinking of, as it would break their understanding of reality and induce insanity.

Thoughts?

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    $\begingroup$ This question belongs on WorldBuilding SE. $\endgroup$ – Lauren Ipsum Dec 21 '15 at 10:57
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That's pretty much all that magic is anyway.

If you were to go back in time and show people something that we would consider entirely innocuous and mundane, like a projector projecting a video onto a screen or a wall, they would likely call you a wizard and a conjurer of images.

Somebody else advanced coming from the future to our time (or in the case of your story, another race, which I'm assuming is set in the present) and summoning a ball of energy is something that we would consider magic too, simply because we don't have an explanation for how it has been accomplished.

The only reason that the myth of magic has been dispelled in our society these days is because most things that we may have considered magical we can now do with science and technology (conjuring fire in the palm of our hands can now be accomplished with a lighter that we can purchase with pocket change).

In terms of writing, most writers setting things in medieval era can get away with things just being 'magic', because within the context of the setting the characters would understand it simply as that, without needing an explanation.

Setting stories in modern day cannot get away with this, as most in society understand that magic is not real, therefore people using magic would be questioned by everybody, so this would either need to be part of the story or would break the suspension of disbelief.

Therefore in a modern setting I would strongly encourage that you have an explanation for how magic works. There are other ways to have believable magic in modern day settings, but having another race that can control energy with muscle movements and thoughts that humans physically cannot perform is a good idea, so long as the rules of your world remain consistent.

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One of the dangers I worry about when I see questions like this is that you're trying to world build yourself into a story rather than building a universe around the story you want to tell.

  • Start with a great story. World building can help you get there to some degree, but once you have a story to tell then give the world building part a break and get on with the story.

  • Make stuff up about how the magic works - don't worry about figuring out the exact scientific mechanics of how it would work... just make it up. You're the author, so you get to do things like that.

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