Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Magical Realism, Fantasy or Not?

One of the biggest steps in the submission process is determining which genre your book falls under. It's important in both worlds of self publishing or the traditional route. You need to know your genre in order to target the audience most likely to be interested, whether it be readers or agents or editors. Although I've seen a lot of incorrectly classified submissions, I've noticed the genre authors tend to get the most mixed up is magical realism.
As an agent that represents both fantasy and magical realism, I find a lot of fantasy authors will submit under the genre magical realism, believing, falsely, it gives their fantasy novel more literary cred or makes it more unique. Or, they simply do not understand what magical realism actually is. I don't blame them. Search the term, and a plethora of definitions pop up that don't exactly make it clear. As Webster's Dictionary puts it, "A literary genre that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction." So does that mean Twilight is magical realism? No. Urban and paranormal still fall under the fantasy umbrella because even though they are set in modern time the reader is brought into a world that is indeed different than our own.
What you do need to know is magical realism has a rich and varied history and is a separate genre from fantasy. If you're not sure which genre your project falls under, than it is most likely fantasy. A boy from our world who finds out he's a wizard and goes off to wizarding school to have all kinds of magical adventures, that's fantasy. A boy from our world who believes he's a wizard but whose story takes place in reality, that is potentially magical realism. Notice I said "potentially." Magical realism is an elusive genre, not for the inexperienced or crowd-pleaser. The best way to get familiar with the genre is to read some of the classics, Like Water For Chocolate, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Midnight's Children, and House of Spirits. You'll find that even though there is a touch of magic, a bit of the fantastic, a sprinkling of the otherworld, these books are completely grounded in reality and the culture they stem from. Magical realism treats magic as if it were rational, just another aspect of our world, not as something otherworldly. Once you understand it, it will become obvious.
Why is this important? Because the average fantasy reader is different than the average magical realism reader. The audience is different, thus the people you submit to will be different, the shelf in the bookstore will be different, the Amazon Bestseller category will be different. I hope this post has helped a little to understand that difference. 

14 comments:

  1. Mary yes! Thank you for this, I'm still searching for the correct classification for Peace Makers and you confirmed here that it falls firmly in Fantasy. Now to determine what type!

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  2. I describe my e-book Southern Charm as "Southern-fried magical realism." I was inspired to write it in an attempt to conjure an American/Southern version of the, yes, fantastical beings that populated my childhood -- faeries, brownies, etc -- all of whom are imported from England! I decided that here, in the South, the land and our relationship to it is a source of magic. Although I was inspired by fantasy, the story utilizes magical realism.

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    1. It sounds like your story is fantasy not magical realism, so be careful when querying!

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  3. Thanks so much for this definition. This is what I had been thinking, but I read a definition on another blog (I think it was an editor's blog) where magic realism was defined as a branch of fantasy, where magic is treated in a more realistic way.
    I was quite baffled. Assuming that editor would know more than I do, I thought, "Goodness, I've always thought magic realism was a completely different thing."
    I'm glad to know I was not so badly informed, after all :-)

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    1. There's a lot of different definitions out there, which is why it's so hard to pin down as a genre. :P

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  4. Thanks so much for this definition. This is what I had been thinking, but I read a definition on another blog (I think it was an editor's blog) where magic realism was defined as a branch of fantasy, where magic is treated in a more realistic way.
    I was quite baffled. Assuming that editor would know more than I do, I thought, "Goodness, I've always thought magic realism was a completely different thing."
    I'm glad to know I was not so badly informed, after all :-)

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    1. It is a vague genre, hard to pin down. Best thing you can do is assume you're writing fantasy unless you're absolutely certain it's MR. :)

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  5. Magical realism or fantasy? A Goddess gives nature element based magic (Air, Earth, Fire, Water) to four women, to protect the Earth. Those women become the real version of what a "witch" is. They make the "magical/mythical" creatures. This happened in the past. Now, someone is trying to rid the Earth of magic, which it is only used when nature gets extremely out of balance.

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  6. MR or Urban Supernatural? 500 years ago there was magic, but it went away and the world moved on. A variety of psychic practitioners abound, non-natural arts that are classed alongside science. When the murders start, no one thinks of sorcery, and the detective and those assisting her have to be driven to entertain the idea of it as the evidence of an otherwise impossible event mounts. The story ends with the discovery of why the magic went away and how it is restored, and the effects of the return of magic to the world.
    I've been thinking of it as Urban Supernatural, but the story is more about the hero's life, and the detective's, in the city, chasing criminals and exterminating ghosts, and the chaos their lives (and everyone else's in time) become when the last great magic spell catches up to them. Is there a style of querying that is more appropriate to MR than those I've been trying?

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  8. Its really informative but who made the second picture?

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  9. Its really informative but who made the second picture?

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