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Thread: Fantasy vs. Magical Realism

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Springs's Avatar
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    Fantasy vs. Magical Realism

    Okay, so I'm working on getting a query for my first novel up and ready to be sent out, but I'm finding the genre to be a real stumbling block. I've been working under the assumption that my novel would be considered 'magical realism' for a while now, but when I posted my query in Share Your Work, a lot of people seemed hesitant to agree with me. Because my current query isn't necessarily flawless and people seem to be making certain assumptions about the story based off the query that aren't necessarily true (which is a whole different issue for me to work out), I thought I'd post a separate thread for a different set of eyes to give me some feedback.

    My story is a YA romance which starts out with a main character with depression who's experiencing romantic feelings for her best friend. A large part of the story early on is her getting past her lack of confidence to ask said best friend out. Once they finally establish a relationship (about halfway into the book), our main character gets into a car accident and goes to the afterlife, where she finds out that our main goal in life as humans is to find our other half (basically our soul mate). She then works to be reunited with her love interest as soon as possible (resulting in her actually being brought back to life).

    The reason that I lean more toward magical realism is that the vast majority of the story takes place in the "real world," and the afterlife doesn't even show up until about halfway through the story. I tried to make it so that the entire story reads as though it could plausibly happen, despite the fact that relatively unbelievable concepts like being brought back to life are present. However, a lot of people reading my query think I should advertise the story as straight-up "fantasy." I don't know what to do. I don't want to call something magical realism if it doesn't actually fall into that classification, because then I'll look stupid, but wouldn't an agent being presented with a fantasy novel be turned off when nothing remotely fantasy-esque happens in the sample chapters? Is there some other classification I can use?
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  2. #2
    Ooooh, pretty lights and sirens :D _Sian_'s Avatar
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    It sounds like a romance with fantastical elements to me. That's how I'd pitch it.

    Magical realism implies (at least to me), some sense of the mythical and the unexplained, treated as per normal. The way it's often used is different and evolving - Another definition that comes up quite a bit is: contemporary fantasy written in the literary style (where theme is massively important and the locations ect become a character so writing two pages about a room is legitimate, because it's not just about describing a room).
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  3. #3
    Great Old One CameronJohnston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by _Sian_ View Post
    It sounds like a romance with fantastical elements to me. That's how I'd pitch it.

    Magical realism implies (at least to me), some sense of the mythical and the unexplained, treated as per normal. The way it's often used is different and evolving - Another definition that comes up quite a bit is: contemporary fantasy written in the literary style (where theme is massively important and the locations ect become a character so writing two pages about a room is legitimate, because it's not just about describing a room).
    I'd agree with this approach from the description of the plot.
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  4. #4
    Twitching ap123's Avatar
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    It's hard to tell without reading the manuscript, but this doesn't sound like Magical Realism. In MR, the focus is on the Realism--ordinary, "realism" setting that uses magical/fantastical elements. Usually tells the stories of ordinary people/regular lives using unexplained but accepted bits of fantasy to enhance the usual, if that makes any sense. Often the magic in MR is symbolism taken to the extreme.

    Sounds to me like you could use the term speculative fiction.
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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Phantasmagoria's Avatar
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    I'd echo what others have said and say it doesn't seem like it's magical realism so much as romantic fantasy/ fantasy romance (or perhaps speculative fiction with a heavy focus on romance). When I think magical realism, my mind tends to go to something like Gabriel Garcia Marquez (ie one of my fav works of his, A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings https://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~cinicho...nwithWings.htm). It's kind of the way the fantastical elements are treated in the narrative that merits the distinction between genres here (ie, urban fantasy might have many elements in common with magical realism, but the elements are handled differently, if that makes sense).

  6. #6
    It's all symbolic. Night_Writer's Avatar
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    @ Springs......I wouldn't call it either fantasy or magical realism. If nothing fantastic happens until midway through the book, then it's not something that dominates the story. When you summarize the story in the query, you're probably going to mention that a character goes to the afterlife, so then they'll know what the story is about.

    Also, some people wouldn't consider the afterlife as fantasy. People believe in the afterlife. So to them it's real. Not fantasy, not magical anything. It's just the way the universe works.

    You described it as YA romance. Maybe that's just what it is.
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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW
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    "Magic realism" is a term invented by literary critics initially to characterize the work, specifically, of Nobel Prize great Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I've seen it extended to some other South American and Spanish authors, like Vargas Llosa, Allende and Asturias, and I would include the work of Umberto Eco and Nigerian folk author Amos Tutuola under that umbrella. It's rather hard to define, but includes, at least for me, the evocation of a sense of strangeness anchored to realistic details and situations, through the use of a certain amount of narrative experimentation. In that sense, it doesn't really fit the concept of "Fantasy" in fiction as I understand it.

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