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KikiteNeko
05-30-2008, 12:13 AM
What are your thoughts on magically realistic storylines? By that I mean, not sci fi or Harry Potter. No potions or rituals or really fantastical stuff.

I'm writing a literary/suspense (the suspense is debatable) novel right now about a missing girl. The girl sometimes has dreams or a heightened sensitivity to things. Like for instance, there's an old woman with a quilted afghan, and the little girl can look at the squares on the blanket and imagine they're countries where that old woman has been. And the girl's mother is descending into madness after losing her daughter, and she begins talking to the garden where her daughter used to play.. bascically, they're ordinary people with just a twist.

Anyone read/write magically realistic stuff? Or any thoughts at all on it. Does it ruin a story or enhance it? Would you believe anything the story gives you if it's well-executed?

Mr. Anonymous
05-30-2008, 12:22 AM
My novel is something along those lines... These kinds of books are often called Low Fantasies, as opposed to the Tolkien-esque high fantasies.

I certainly don't think it ruins a story. If anything, it would be the story, not this particular element of the story, that is at fault if all does not come together as it should.

I actually prefer magical realism in the fantasies that I read. It makes them more gritty, down to earth, and allows me to relate better to the world and the characters.

Mr. Fix
05-30-2008, 12:26 AM
This seems like the idea in the 'Six Sense.' Not overt magic Per Se, but a subtle kind of magic. I like these kinds of stories. :Thumbs:

Shadow_Ferret
05-30-2008, 12:28 AM
Where's the magic?

Esopha
05-30-2008, 12:43 AM
Alice Hoffman is a pretty good example of magical realism. Maybe compare her stuff with yours?

underthecity
05-30-2008, 12:55 AM
My own novel is a little like that. One of the characters is a practicing warlock. We don't see him doing fantasmagorical things, but he does hypnotize people, things of that nature, and at one point we see him manipulate reality.

There are also supernatural elements in the story, ghosts, possessions . . .

So, no, I have no problem with that at all. I mean, read any horror novel and that's what you get.

allen

eveningstar
05-30-2008, 12:57 AM
The Wikipedia entry on magic realism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_realism) is quite interesting, it includes examples of it in film and art as well as literature.

I write low fantasy that borders on magic realism, maybe it's closer to realistic magicism. But I've always preferred low fantasy to high, I like my magic down to earth and tangible.

kuwisdelu
05-30-2008, 03:27 AM
Magic realism is a great genre. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of it.

Some great examples are Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, and I'm sure some others here will suggest many more authors.

A loosely related genre is hysterical realism, and sometime postmodern literature will have some elements of magical realism, too. My favorite among these is probably Jonathan Safran Foer.

Kalyke
05-30-2008, 09:45 AM
I think Toni Morrison did/does a lot of it.

maestrowork
05-30-2008, 04:46 PM
I like magic realism, if the magic is not too overblown. My current WIP has magical realism in it.

KikiteNeko
05-30-2008, 04:48 PM
Where's the magic?


I guess you could argue it's not magic, it's a touch of supernatural.

Pup
05-30-2008, 05:33 PM
I guess you could argue it's not magic, it's a touch of supernatural.

My first thought was where's the magic, also.

the little girl can look at the squares on the blanket and imagine they're countries where that old woman has been.

I don't see that as magic or supernatural, unless the little girl can perceive things about strangers that she would have no other way of knowing, and is always right.

the girl's mother is descending into madness after losing her daughter, and she begins talking to the garden where her daughter used to play

There are plenty of people suffering various delusions that cause similar behavior.

My threshhold for calling it magic or supernatural would be if the people in the book could pass James Randi's Million Dollar Challenge. Not just subjectively believe they can tell the future or perceive information about people through psychic means or communicate with spirits, but actually do it in a provable way because their world works differently from ours.

Of course, all people don't believe our world works the same way, so what's magic-in-a-fantasy-world to one person will be reality-based fiction to another.

Ken
05-30-2008, 05:53 PM
reminds me a bit of Jane Eyre and Villette by Charlotte Bronte.

The protags in them had supernatural/surreal experiences that turned out to have rational explanations in the end, e.g. a ghost in the boarding house turning out to be a guy sneaking into the dorms to see his girlfriend.

If such explanations were not forthcoming in the end, I wouldn't have been at all disappointed. I really liked the unaccountable mystery, as it fit in perfectly with the dream-like, unearthly nature of the protag.

So I guess fantasies like the one your describing would be sound, in my book, if the heightened sensitivity was an outcome of the protag's personality, and underlying theme of the work.

kuwisdelu
05-30-2008, 06:25 PM
where's the magic

With magic realism, the "magic" isn't always so pronounced, straightforward, or obvious as in a genre like fantasy. In fact, it often isn't really "magic" at all, but more--as tomothecat said--something with a touch of the supernatural. As wikipedia puts it (which I know isn't the best source, but I think it puts it well): "magical elements or otherwise illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic or 'normal' setting....magic realism often combines the external factors of human existence with the internal ones. It is a fusion between scientific physical reality and psychological human reality." In this way, where in a fantasy novel, it's often quite simple to say "this is possible in real life, and this isn't," in magical realism, part of the whole idea is to blur that line between reality and fantasy. It's a question of perspective far more than with traditional fantasy. To steal a word from anis, magic realism tends to be a lot more dream-like and psychological than what you may ordinarily think of as "magic" or "fantasy."

Two great examples in recent cinema are Pan's Labyrinth, and The Science of Sleep. If you've seen either of those, that should give you an idea of the kind of "magic" that goes on in magical realism. Yes, it's possible that there's nothing paranormal going on either film, in reality, that the labyrinth is the childhood creation of a little girl's imagination and the strange world of the Stephane is the result of some strange psychosis, if you want to look at the stories from a strictly scientific view. But there's also the possibility there's something more fantastical going on than that, and--as always--it's a matter of perspective. What may seem perfectly ordinary and "true" to one person may be extremely surreal and highly questionable as reality to another.

Toothpaste
05-30-2008, 08:04 PM
I wrote an article about Magical Realism a few months back if anyone is interested.

It's a genre I am very interested in, and that often gets poorly defined: http://ididntchoosethis.blogspot.com/2007/12/magical-realism.html

KikiteNeko
05-30-2008, 08:21 PM
I wrote an article about Magical Realism a few months back if anyone is interested.

It's a genre I am very interested in, and that often gets poorly defined: http://ididntchoosethis.blogspot.com/2007/12/magical-realism.html


Nice photo on your blog! It's CD-cover ish.

Toothpaste
05-30-2008, 08:36 PM
Ooh which one?

KikiteNeko
05-30-2008, 08:49 PM
Ooh which one?


The bunch of people. Second down on the right side.

Toothpaste
05-30-2008, 08:51 PM
Ah yes. That was my attempt to take a photo of my cast (for a theatre festival last year) a la Vanity Fair. I think it was rather successful if I do say so myself!

Ehem, anyway . . . back to your regularly scheduled thread! :)

HeronW
05-30-2008, 08:52 PM
Magic realism varies in custom and history, so go with what fits: Witch of Endor spoke to Saul, 3 witches spoke to Macbeth, whatever works for your time/characters.

Shadow_Ferret
05-30-2008, 10:09 PM
Two great examples in recent cinema are Pan's Labyrinth, and The Science of Sleep. I haven't seen either.


I wrote an article about Magical Realism a few months back if anyone is interested.

It's a genre I am very interested in, and that often gets poorly defined: http://ididntchoosethis.blogspot.com/2007/12/magical-realism.html
I haven't read anything by the authors you mention. To me, descriptions of magic realism make it sound like urban fantasy and yet, none of the books mentioned are urban fantasy-like in the least.

I think this is one of those genres that I'll never understand.

kuwisdelu
05-30-2008, 10:19 PM
I wrote an article about Magical Realism a few months back if anyone is interested.

It's a genre I am very interested in, and that often gets poorly defined: http://ididntchoosethis.blogspot.com/2007/12/magical-realism.html

Excellent article, Toothpaste. I can't believe I forgot to mention Borges, one of my favorites!

kuwisdelu
05-30-2008, 10:33 PM
I haven't seen either.

I recommend both.


I haven't read anything by the authors you mention. To me, descriptions of magic realism make it sound like urban fantasy and yet, none of the books mentioned are urban fantasy-like in the least.

I think this is one of those genres that I'll never understand.

Hmm. While this certainly won't apply to every, or perhaps even most, magical realism stories, it may help get the point across: In urban fantasy, the story is usually reliant, to some extent, on the fantasy elements. If the magical elements were taken away, the story would be extremely changed, but the way the author can tell it (through voice, style, literary techniques, etc.) probably wouldn't be affected. With magical realism, the story is less reliant on the fantasy elements, but the way in which the story is told is extremely reliant on them. Without the magical elements, the story would be little changed, but the author could no longer tell it the same way.

Again, this certainly isn't true word-for-word of magic realism as a genre (I can think of many examples for which this isn't true at all), but perhaps thinking about it that way may or may not help someone understand the difference. This is just one way of looking at it, though.

Also, magic realism need not be only a genre, but I see it often as more a property of a novel. Certainly there are books that are "magic realism" as their genre, but there are also many that are other things "with elements of magical realism." In fact, an urban fantasy could have magic realism elements, if written in a certain way.

Toothpaste
05-30-2008, 10:38 PM
kuwisdelu - thanks! Glad you liked it!

Shadow Ferret - I shall attempt to explain it here. Let me know if it works :)

I can understand your confusion. When you look at some of the works of Magical Realism they can still involve magical characters and creations that we see in many other forms of fantasy - as you pointed out Urban Fantasy: vampires, werewolves, faeries, and just plain magic. The difference has more to do with presentation style, than content.

The very very basic premise behind Magical Realism (excluding the ideology and philosophy behind it), is that when fantastical elements appear in a seeming real world set up, there is no explanation for it. In Urban Fantasy often there will be a reason given for the existence of vampires etc. Why the vampires are now living in NY or whathaveyou - Transylvania got too cold, there is a breeding ground in the subways etc. There are urban fantasy stories that have faeries in the big city, but that is often explained away with a magical door into the otherworld or something.

You see in such fantasies the author understands that to have faeries in a normal world setting is unusual and that the reader will wonder why there are faeries in New York let's say. And so the author gives an explanation which, while entirely fantastical, the reader can suspend his disbelief enough to accept as a truth for the book he is reading. "There are faeries in the city because there is a doorway to the otherworld located in a bar in uptown. Got it."

In Magical Realism the author offers no such explanation. Instead of pointing out the fact that having faeries in NY is weird, he ignores it entirely and gives no explanation at all. An example. Let's say we have our main character, a new yorker by the same of Tom. He lives a very normal life, in a very typical New York, one we are all familiar with. He has a boss, a secretary, and the plot of the novel revolves around the recent death of his father who left him 2 million dollars. Typical mainstream novel kind of stuff. Yet his best friend happens to be the fairy of light and shadow.

The author never explains why his best friend is the fairy of light and shadow. The character of Tom is never surprised that his friend is a fairy of light and shadow. And his friend, the fairy of light and shadow, never launches into a monologue explaining why he happens to be in New York. There is no discussion of a portal in upper Manhattan, there is no folk lore of faeries coming to the USA. It is never explained. The fairy of light and shadow is just another character, just like Tom's boss and secretary are other characters. The fairy of light and shadow is not seen as anything out of the ordinary, even though for us as readers we are like, "Dude, what the heck? His friend is a fairy of light and shadow?"

There are literary and philosophical reasons for writing a book like this. And I address those in the article. Magical Realism isn't just there to play with the minds of the readers. But right now I just wanted to show you the difference between Magical Realism and Urban Fantasy, as per your confusion.

Hopefully this helped some. If you still find it confusing, come back with more questions please! I love talking about this kind of stuff!

kuwisdelu
05-30-2008, 10:55 PM
I thought of another important factor that might make the difference between urban fantasy (or any fantasy) and magic realism more clear.

Almost all kinds of fantasy (high fantasy, urban fantasy, anything) must usually set up some kind of rules for their magic to follow. One of the first things a fantasy writer must do when world-building is to develop the rules of their world: what is allowed and what isn't. To break the rules of your fantasy world is to break a contract with the reader. You can see this in Harry Potter where characters must say certain words to cast a spell and do magic.

In magic realism, there usually aren't any such rules. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything goes. If you try to explain the magical elements using a kind of logic, you usually won't get anywhere. The boundaries and limits to the fantasy--instead of any artificial explanations or rules that make sense inside a given world--are more psychological or philosophical than anything else.

Shadow_Ferret
05-30-2008, 11:08 PM
Hmm. In my urban fantasy I don't explain why the magical characters are there. I didn't know I was supposed to. I start with the real world and it just happens to have gods, vampires, werewolves, etc. I try to treat it like how the world is now only with the extra element. I treat them as though these things have always existed throughout history using the current myths and legends. The rules are what has been historically "true" about these things.

People in the story still don't believe in magic and gods, just like in real life, just like now, but these things do exist. Man is just ignorant of their existence. Sort of like some people now believe in ghosts, but the majority of people don't.

In other words, I take the real world which has always had people like Aleister Crowley in it. People generally regard him as a crackpot. In my novel, he existed, he performed magic for real, but people still regard him as a crackpot.

maestrowork
05-30-2008, 11:22 PM
I think there is a difference between fantasies that are set in the real world/alternative universe (urban fantasy) vs. magic realism. I think magic realism is a bit more subtle and deals with supernatural stuff that can be plausible, such as ghosts, witchcraft, etc. For example, in Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel), it's the ability of Tita who can do strange things with her food -- to make people feel sad, lust, happiness, etc.

Another good example of magic realism is Stranger Than Fiction with Will Ferrel, Emma Thompson and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Ed, I'd highly recommend that film if you haven't seen it yet.

kuwisdelu
05-31-2008, 12:05 AM
Another good example of magic realism is Stranger Than Fiction with Will Ferrel, Emma Thompson and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Ed, I'd highly recommend that film if you haven't seen it yet.

Another good example! I didn't think of this one, yet I own and love it. Will Ferrel is great in a serious yet still humorous role, and of course Emma Thompson and Maggie Gyllenhaal are fabulous. I also highly recommend it.

Toothpaste
05-31-2008, 12:35 AM
Shadow - ah but you do have an explanation. It is the alternate universe explanation. The alternate Earth you describe has always had werewolves and vampires etc. Like Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon - what if Dragons were real and used as aerial warfare in the Napoleonic Wars?

Your explanation is "because it was always that way". That in and of itself is an explanation.

It's very tricky, and that isn't to say that one genre cannot cross into the other, or that a book have many different elements.

Stranger Than Fiction is a great example, thanks Maestro!

LaceWing
06-01-2008, 07:50 PM
I think of magic realism as fairy tales for the over-educated and poetically-inclined. I keep trying to get a grip on it, and here I go again . . .

If I were to write of grass blades bending to assist beetles in their passage across a meadow, it would be more magical -- but not really -- than to write of beetles bending the grass blades as they advance. Nothing changes but the perspective. There's a video on Ted Talks about a plant's eye view that really pushes this idea.

Or, I could make tangible a poetic/philosophical/psychological meme and come up with something like James Morrow's Towing Jehovah: God is dead; get the corpse on ice and deal with political and personal problems along the way.

Marquez in 100 Years uses gossip as the lifeblood of a community, makes it literal and has blood flow through the streets, for instance, to encode and transmit news of a death. It is poetically presented and understood and needs no explanation, just as if the novel were a very long narrative prose poem.

CBumpkin
06-01-2008, 10:35 PM
I'm fond of magic realism. It's good fun. And, just for the record, a quilt and an afghan are two different things, aren't they? A quilt is made from cloth and an afghan is made from yarn. Just getting technical on you! Enjoy writing the story!