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.
Either my brain is hardwired to relate everything in life to Harry Potter, or the world of magic is real. I vote for the latter.
Maybe wizards will reveal themselves to the global population like vampires in the True Blood series. A girl can dream.
…or maybe that’s a terrific idea for a new book series.
Anyway, did you pick out these similarities? Looks like Spain’s Olympians thought the first event was quidditch.
Or how about the Hogwarts Express? I bet it was headed for Platform nine and three quarters.
Did you catch the thestrals? Maybe you didn’t see them because you didn’t witness death.
One of these days, you’ll be picking out creatures and costumes from (after)life lessons. My new book series, coming soon!
Think it’s difficult to get into Harvard? Try Vita Post Mortem Academy, where John F. Kennedy teaches social studies and Albert Einstein gives physics lectures. Of course, there’s no hope getting in if you can’t see ghosts. …not a problem for Juliandra Winklevoss.
I know, I sound crazy. It’s like saying being able to do magic like Harry Potter, or compel people with your mind like Olivia Hart, is a fatal flaw. Let me explain.
When I watched the episode of Glee that was a tribute to Cory Monteith, I was crying before the episode even started. Okay, I’m not helping to prove my point.
I’m really good at being optimistic. No, I mean really good. Maybe, too good. I have an extraordinary ability to look at the bright side. I compartmentalize things in my brain so that the unpleasant experiences are rarely remembered, and the positive occurrences are front and center.
I often tell my friends, ‘I don’t do sad.’ In fact, I make my friends read books and movies before me, because if it doesn’t have a happy ending, I’ll just skip the hassle altogether.
So what’s the problem, you ask? Glee was the problem. The episode memorializing Finn Hudson went against every grain in my body. The show that usually added song and dance to everyday life suddenly was indescribably sad. There was no happy ending. I couldn’t compartmentalize the heartache. I couldn’t pretend everything was going to be okay. In real life, he was dead.
As I read through my favorite novels, I realize many fatal flaws can be considered virtues. Some would argue Harry Potter’s fatal flaw is honor. His integrity and innate need to do the right thing ultimately causes him to die. However, the key point was that without accepting inevitable death to protect the one’s he loved, he wouldn’t have been able to survive the curse.
Another example is Percy Jackson. His fatal flaw is loyalty. He would sacrifice the world to save someone he really cares about. Is that really a bad thing?
Athena teaches Percy that some fatal flaws can be good in moderation. I thought about this for awhile, and I decided I’m not going to submit to this decision that optimism is a flaw. I don’t care if I have a slightly twisted view of reality because I wear rose colored glasses. I would rather see the glass half full. When moments of sadness make their way through the cracks of my optimistic armor, I’ll have a crying jag, but then I’ll take out my magic wand, shout,”EXPECTO PATRONUM,” and cast a patronus of sunshine, rainbows, and ragamuffin kittens, and blast that gloomy dementor into oblivion.
As a fantasy fiction author and reader, I am constantly thinking about superpowers.
Speed. Strength. Invisibility. Magic. Charm….
All terrific abilities to have and useful when defeating the big bad enemy, but none of these traits are the supreme reason for the hero’s success. The way I see it, the ultimate superpower is optimism.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world,” said the King of the Dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield, who recognized hobbits were the true heroes, doing good for the sake of doing good, without further goals or desires.
While I agree it is their selflessness that should be revered, I also think it is their optimism. There is something to be said about persevering with a positive outlook as you helplessly stare your enemy in the eye.
It’s the same “Can-Do-It” attitude the unsung hero, Neville Longbottom, portrays when he grabs the sword of Gryffindor and takes down the Dark Lord’s snake.
Although applied to fight a different type of enemy, I watched the power of optimism in action last night. I attended a jazz class taught by a fabulous women named Ann, who’s mother had just passed away. To add insult to injury as if to mock her and say ‘try being happy now,’ it was also the teacher’s birthday.
Ann, with the help of her friends in the class who dressed in animal print to show their support, was an optimistic superhero and beat down the enemy. The class became a joyful tribute to her mother, and we danced our hearts out with glee.
I was truly touched with her parting words for the night. “Create your own happiness, and keep dancing.” — Ann Barrett