We would be appalled if a casino was built over Gisozi in Rwanda, a mega mall was constructed over Robin Island in South Africa, or new condos were erected through the gates of Buchenwald in Germany. Let us therefore not have a baseball stadium sit atop the legacies of slavery at Shockoe Bottom.
No matter how well you speak, how nicely you dress, or how educated and “respectable” we make ourselves appear, we are still targeted, attacked, and/or perceived as threats. It’s tragic when people of color can’t even gain a higher education without fearing for their safety. Yesterday myself and a lot of other black students, poc’s, and allies staged a great demonstration in solidarity with those suffering at Mizzou. So happy I got to be a part of it.
Turn on the TV or open a book these days and you’ll be convinced that there is magic woven into our daily lives. TV shows and books with fairy tale, supernatural, or odd elements are as omnipresent as ever.
Why so much magic?
There’s a feeling these works tap into: that the world and our lives are unsettled. We inhabit a time and place that is odd, sometimes crazy, a place where things don’t always make sense or add up. This can be beautiful and strange, but also dark.
Magic says what we can’t.
Magic can give us a method to talk about tragedy and injustice when we might not be able to find the words otherwise.
In an article by The Atlantic Monthly, “The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction,” Jeff VanderMeer says:
“It is cathartic to seek out and tell stories that do not seek to reconcile the illogical, the contradictory, and often instinctual way in which human beings perceive the world, but instead accentuate these elements as a way of showing us as we truly are. Unruly. Unruled. Superstitious. Absurd. Subject to a thousand destabilizing fears and hopes.”
So whether you want to write a story with magic or an odd element because it seems fun, or because you’re looking for a way to tell a story about a social issue that is close to your heart … here are some tips for making your writing successful.
The Basics: What is Magical Realism?
Magical realism is literature that treats supernatural, extraordinary events as commonplace.
It transforms the common and everyday into the awesome and the unreal.
It treats the unreal as part of reality.
The reader has to accept the fait accompli [(def) a thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept)].
The rest of the story follows with logical precision. It explores the ripples of the weirdness.
Magical realism takes the supernatural for granted and spends its space exploring the human reaction to the event/thing/magic/weird.
How do you get a reader to accept the fait accompli?
Tell it straight and with authority. Treat it like it’s no big thing. AND…
Set it up quickly. Example: “There were two mutant girls in town. One had a hand made of fire. One had a hand made of ice. Everyone else’s hands were normal. The girls met in elementary school.” – Aimee Bender, “The Healer” from Girl in the Flammable Skirt.
Provide details of the normal everyday world so we believe in it (Ex. Make your characters eats spaghetti.)
Make emotional reactions ring true.
Give us a pretty normal narrator we’ll follow and listen to. Sometimes this narrator will tell stories within the story. This is a nod to faery tales or fables or oral tradition. This also tells the reader how to read the story. “Aha, this is a modern fairy tale!” the reader says. Sometimes when the narrator says, “You won’t believe me” or “I know this sounds crazy” it makes them sound NOT crazy (a crazy person wouldn’t be concerned). Also if the narrator says it then the reader doesn’t have to and s/he can keep reading.
Use magic sparingly. Only one element of weirdness! (Nobody likes a story where the magic fixes every problem a character has or when the magic is so complex that it doesn’t make sense.)
Leave it unexplained.
Make the magic mean something. The magic is a theme that is used to tell a story that happens all the time in the real world (something unjust or tragic).
Sarah Curry is a MFA Fiction student at VCU and has a M.A. in anthropology from George Mason University. She has worked for several years for non-profits and campaigns as a writer, researcher, and advocate. And yes, she will read your vampire story.
Apparently a stranger felt the need to talk about me anonymously on YikYak and then got embarrassed and deleted the post when people called him on his bullshit. Also, to be fair, I don’t always have a comic with me. Sometimes I’m watching wrestling.
PS. I made $200 writing about comics last month. If anybody knows who posted this, could you ask how much they got paid to talk shit on somebody they don’t know?
Shoutouts to all the friends/strangers that stood up for me, by the way, y’all are great forreal.
*cackles while “Shake It Off” plays in the background*