Accepting the Magic in Magical Realism

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One of the things I love most about magical realism is that there does not have to be a reason for the magic. It just is. People in the stories know about it, they accept it without question (or at least with very little question), and they go on about their lives without getting too caught up on the why or the how of it.

As a reader, I know sometimes our analytical brains take over and want a reason. We want explanations of where it came from and how it works and why it’s there at all. But isn’t the point of reading fiction to get lost in another world (whether realistic or fantasy) and just enjoy the ride?

As a writer, I struggle with how much to explain and how much just to let be this nebulous magical thing. I think about what does the reader HAVE to know for the magic to work within the confines of the story? What MIGHT the reader want to know that adds an additional layer of complexity to the story and makes it feel more organic to the setting, characters, and plot? What detail pushes their ability to suspend disbelief too much so that all they can do now is pick holes in the magic until the story itself is pushed to the wayside?

I think about all of these things. I have answers to them and long drawn-out explanations of how the magic works and how it started for that particular character. All of these things are what make the story to work, even if not all of them show up on the page. In my mind, the reader needs just enough background that they aren’t confused and believe that this particular magic is real for these particular characters.

I think Rainbow Rowell said it very well recently when promoting her latest book, Landline. The following is bits of what she had to say about the magic phone in her book at her launch party on July 8. (I pulled the quotes from Twitter, so I’m not claiming they are 100% word for word what she said since I wasn’t in attendance, but you’ll get the point.)

“There’s a magic phone in this book. Try not to get too hung up on it—I didn’t!…And then I decided not to explain the magic phone at all. So this magic phone shows up—and don’t be that guy. Don’t be the person who’s like ‘Yeah, but…how did the magic phone get in there?’ Don’t be that person. Nobody likes that person. Ever.”

Not everybody is going to be okay when a magical element turns up in an otherwise realistic story. And that’s okay. If everyone read only the same types of books, the world would be so very boring. All I’m saying is try to give the magic a chance. Accept that it’s a part of the story for a reason and it just might surprise you.

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (6th – 8th August) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the link below to find out about the other posts and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more. And Check out the #magicrealism tag on Twitter!


8 thoughts on “Accepting the Magic in Magical Realism

  1. “One of the things I love most about magical realism is that there does not have to be a reason for the magic. It just is.” That sums it up very well for me. And even i d no need to have the answers. As long as the magic works for the characters and the story the reader will accept it, too.

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