Sub Genres: Magical Realism

Hi all! I’ll be doing a series of sub genres that aren’t as common as the big five (I don’t actually know if there’s five of the big ones or not, but I’m going with it: Fiction, non-fiction…. guess there’s only two)

As a burgeoning writer, there are many things I have yet to try. I tend to stick in my favorite categories of fantasy and sci-fi because I’m convinced, that is how I think: in vast worlds. I think in connections and societies and how they would interact. I think in possible scenarios and how they would play out if we had magic, or lived on Uranus or whatever. Well, today, I’m going to start to expand my horizons if only because there’s a contest for it and I want to beat Cheri (this is my life long goal).

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Magical realism is an offshoot of fantasy. According to wikipedia it “is literature, painting, and film that, while encompassing a range of subtly different concepts, share in common an acceptance of magic in the rational world.” So basically, if magic was normal.

Not so basically. This genre covers a wide range of stories from raining literal fish from the sky and an isolated town through a century to stories about losing one’s innocence and leaving youth behind, but my main question when I first learned about it was: How is it different from urban fantasy? I also wondered how people were able to write in what was touted as a more literary style. Also, how do you come up with ‘normal’ stories?

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Magical realism vs. Urban Fantasy

From what I understand, the difference between magical realism and urban fantasy is mainly what the story focuses on. Urban fantasy focuses on the magical aspects of the story whereas magical realism focuses on the ‘normal’ aspects of the story (away from the magic at least). So if the story is about vampires and focuses on being a vampire, then it is urban fantasy. If it is about a vampire and how he can’t seem to hold a job for more than a century, than I think that would be considered magical realism.

Literary Style

This has been hotly debated amongst me and my friends if only because no one has any idea what it is specifically, but has an idea, generally. We learn all about it in school and have so many different definitions of ‘Literary’ and what it means. Does it have to do a with a certain kind of writing topic? Style? Requirements? A more informed person might be able to tell you but here’s what I’ve discovered:

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Literary is a blanket term for books that are character driven and meant to ruminate on things that are not simple in a poetic way. Okay, what does that mean? It means that a lot of the books I found in this category focused on images and telling a story through the characters rather than through actions. The authors really wanted a connection between readers and the mcs. A lot of the language used is to evoke images that take readers along for the journey rather than spelling out what happens like in many fantasy pieces.

Coming up with Normal Stories

This is something that I’m also still trying to figure out. Some people are able to put together thought provoking stories about going through everyday life and struggling to get by for one reason or another. I’m constantly in awe of these authors because I can only think of weird fantastical stories that would never happen in the real world. Since I had to come up with one, though, here’s what I did. I thought of what makes me worried or what I tend to ruminate on. What came up was death and aging and losing youth. Unfortunately, though it is a good theme, I wasn’t terribly inspired so my second try was something a little closer to home: an issue I know about but don’t really have an opinion to. I chose a side and wrote passionately about the cause. Though I still feel distanced from the cause, I do understand it a bit more and see the exercise as a success because I produced something that I enjoyed writing.

And that’s the moral of the story, ladies and gents. Let’s all write what we like and be inspired by others and together we’ll create great new stories. Also, exploring outside of your genre is important for growth, so try new things every once in awhile. Any subgenres you want to see? Let us know in the comments below!

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