What is magical realism?
Magical realism takes place in a world like the one we know, but there is one thing that makes it unreal. Perhaps there are lurking vampires, or the main character is cursed, or you can buy magic spells from the store on the corner. The trick with magical realism is the reader has to believe the world really does exist. The master of magical realism herself, JK Rowling, made us all have hope that our letter for Hogwarts would one day come in the mail. We believed wizards existed in our world. (believed in the past tense? Some of us still believe).
A World for Your Book Within the Existing World
Writing magical realism might sound easy since most of the decisions about the world are already decided, but I think its the opposite. Similar to using real people in a fictional story (as I wrote about in my last post), there is a ton of fact-checking that needs to be completed in order to convince your readers the world within our world is real.
Question #1: Where do you build your world?
The proper setting is tough. How many times did you read about Harry taking the Hogwarts Express and wonder where the final location really was? Or read about Percy Jackson heading out to Montauk toward Camp Halfblood and try to picture it in your head?
Vita Post Mortem Academy
When writing my magical realism novel, The Light of Supremazia, my editor and I went back and forth on the school’s location. The world around Vita Post Mortem Academy was exactly like the one we know today, except there needed to be a remote section of the woods, North of San Francisco, where a creepy institution run by spirits was located. We had a discussion about whether redwood trees grew in the area and if it was anywhere near Bodie, a real life ghost town. In the end, we realized that if you couldn’t see spirits, you wouldn’t notice much more than a massive institution surrounded by an endless necropolis.
Can you picture this edifice as your high school?
Vita Post Mortem Academy:
To see more pictures of The Light of Supremazia’s setting, check out the (after)life lessons pinterest page.