Everything You Want To Know About Magical Realism

By on May 21, 2016
Everything You Want To Know About Magical Realism - Writer's Life.org

Magical Realism is a fantastic genre that has become increasingly popular in recent years. But what is it, and how can you write it?

Magical realism is tough to explain, it’s part fantasy, part supernatural and part realistic fiction. It takes the world as we know it and makes it otherworldly, it’s the uncanny, the fantastical, the strange.

Essentially writing magical realism involves creating a work of fiction where the setting is essentially ordinary and real, it is likely the novel would take place in the ‘real’ world, and the protagonists are ‘normal’ human beings. However in this world there must be an element, or elements of magic, of the impossible, of something haunting, improbable and bizarre which happens to these characters and influences their world so its edges start to bend, and nothing is quite what it seems.

It is common in magical realism stories, for the characters to be accepting of the strange events that take place around them. That is not to say they might not voice concerns about it, or find it difficult to understand, but they don’t spend the book fighting against it, or exclaiming their disbelief.

The world they live in may already have elements of magic, which are accepted as the norm, or it could be that the magic occurs as the story develops. Either way the characters believe in the magic around them, and accept it fully - which means the reader is required to suspend their disbelief and accept it fully too.

Magical realism can be used to evoke a sense of awe in your readers, but also to unsettle them too. Bringing strange, unreal ideas and concepts into a world we are wholly familiar with can be very disturbing. So if your intention is to write a story that unnerves your reader, magical realism can be a good way of doing so.

As always, if you are hoping to write in a particular genre, it is a good idea to read it first. With this in mind take a look at some of the most celebrated books in the magical realism genre. Haruki Murakami is the master in my opinion. 'Kafka on the Shore' and 'Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World' are my personal favourites. Gabriel García Márquez is another popular author in the genre, and of course, the beautiful 'Like Water for Chocolate' by Laura Esquivel is another captivating story that is great for those who are new to the genre.

Magical realism has layers and depths and is a hugely creative and fun genre to work in. It is a place where literally anything can happen, and, so long as you write with conviction, you can take your readers on a spectacular adventure.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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