1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Magical realism

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by deadrats, Nov 7, 2016.

    Does anyone here write magical realism? When I've gotten feedback on my magical realism, in some cases, I've been told to take out the magical parts. This makes me think I'm not creating a believable word where these elements of the story exist. I'm not sure how to fix this. How do you make magic realism more believable? How do you get these elements to work. I did try taking out the magic when I first got this advice. It completely ruined the story. Sometimes I like to experiment with these things, but it's frustrating not to be able to pull it off. Who are your favorite magical realism writers? Maybe I need to be reading more in this genre. Let me know if you have any tips or recommendation. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    I find magical realism works best in the smaller details, presenting the extraordinary as if it's ordinary and having the characters treat it as such. I tend to write with magic-realist elements as opposed to it really being the focus of the story, and it seems to work. Or at least, people seem to like it, which I guess is basically the same thing.

    As an example, in a story I wrote a while ago, there's this line:

    So it was that when my age was barely enough to be counted on two hands I was passed into the service of a sea-captain named Elijah Nottamun, a man who was blind in his left eye, but thanks to a curious and fortunate genetic defect had two pupils in his right, and so he could see as well as any man.

    The two-pupils thing is never explained, it's not a plot point and no-one ever comments on it. It's just a detail thrown in for atmosphere.

    I've never submitted that one for publication so I can't tell you if it's the kind of thing editors like or not, but people I've given it to who like magical realism have enjoyed it. Happy to send you a copy if you think it'd be useful.

    My favourite magical realism writer by a long way is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Reading 100 Years Of Solitude was like having a door kicked open in my head about what you could really do with fiction. I've always thought Catch 22 had a lot of magic-realist elements as well, with Milo's scheming and the way Nately's Whore always attempts to kill Yossarian on sight.
     
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  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If we're talking about Magic Realism - the genre - then there are two things to remember about this genre:

    1) There is almost never more than one element of unreality that intrudes into the reality of the people in the story.
    2) That element of unreality is not a random thing. It's not introduced with a "{insert thing} and see what happens" mindset. Magic Realism has, as one of its key features, the fact that the story is trying to present a cultural element in a sympathetic light to the reader. Sometimes it's hard to discern the element as truly cultural because from outside the given culture, the element may appear as a universal part of the human condition. When this happens, typically the reader is being told through the story that yes, this is universal, but we see in a special way, in a stronger way, in a more feely way.

    ETA: When I studied Magic Realism my professor ardently used the word unreality, rather than magic. She explained that many stories in the genre contain elements that Anglophone Westerners would not think of as "magic" because of their own cultural training, so, instead, unreality.
     
  4. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks guys. I kind of thought I did those things. Maybe the story sucked if I couldn't pull it off without the magic-realism aspect. I'm thinking of giving this one another go., but this time keeping the magical realism. It's a short story, but it's pretty long. I would actually like to try and make it under 5k words. It's kind of between being a short story and novella right now. Weird story. Weird length.
     
  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Or maybe I should keep going and turn it into a novel. I don't know. I hate to waste time if the story is stupid.
     
  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, I don't think that's a good conclusion to draw about your story. The things Magic Realism usually tries to engage can be engaged in other ways. Maybe the person reading the story isn't familiar with the cogs and gears of Magic Realism?*

    For example:

    The film My Big Fat Greek Wedding tackles a theme that would be right at home in any Magic Realism story, but it tackles it in a Realist way. Greeks and other Mediterranean cultures feature large, overlapping, overbearing, everyone-in-each-other's-laps kinds of families as a cultural elements that they think of as important. I'm Latino and my culture has the very same thing. That movie could just as easily have been My Big Fat Puerto Rican Wedding with a simple change of names and food items and every Puerto Rican would have been rolling in the isles with laughter. In fact, at the beginning of the film a number of different cultures pop through the on-screen title before settling on Greek to show this very fact. What you're about to see is as much a Mediterranean thing as it is a Greek thing. In the story Nia Varadalos (the MC and writer) tries to show us the frustrations and also the wonderful parts of growing up this way, especially when the culture is living in a little bubble away from its homeland. Her story is Realist, not Magic Realism.

    Now, take the story Blindess by Jose Saramago. 100% Magic Realism, and it tackles a very similar idea, concept. The core idea in that story is about the need for interconnectedness, and the whole It Takes Takes A Village mindset that Latinos feel is so very important and so much a facet of our culture. See the similarity? Instead this story uses Magic Realism to say the same thing that Nia Varadalos said with her story. We need each other, even when we get on each other's tits, we have to remember that we need each other. The people in Jose's book go blind until they rediscover the value of needing one another, then they get their sight back.

    The fact that the message can be delivered in a Realist way doesn't make a Magic Realism approach bad. It's just a different way of going about it, equally valid.

    *ETA: There is also always the element of running into that particular reader/critic who thinks that if it can be told through realism, then it should be, and that every attempt should be made to avoid entering into the realms of the fantastical, surreal, unreal, science fiction, etc. Such a person is entitled to their opinion on that matter. I would never take away someone's right to be wrong. ;)
     
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  7. SardonicWriter

    SardonicWriter Member

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    If you're talking about magical realism, you can count on me to point you in the right direction.

    IF you haven't already, I strongly advise you read 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
    Colombian. And won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. Began writing at the age of 18.

    This novel was the first work of Literature I read of my own volition. It's a beautiful read, albeit slow in quite a few parts
    and complex in its storytelling as it goes back and forth in time. It's really how magical realism should be presented;
    never overwhelming and subtle, but lingering and always intriguing. It never comes out as "magic" but as
    natural occurrences or phenomenon. Hence the name of the literary device.​
     
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  8. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    My favourite examples of magical realism have a sort of dreamlike quality to them - not just the content, but the prose, the rhythm of the writing - like I'm being lulled into a half-asleep, half-awake state where anything is possible and my critical, rational brain is mostly turned off.

    It might help that most of the magical realism I've read is in translation, so it's already got that--I don't know, that otherness, I guess?--that comes with translations. I'm not sure how helpful that is, for someone writing in English, but... I think it's true, in my experience at least.
     
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