Intro to Fiction: magical realism edition

It’s that time of the semester. Again.

Time to write my second short story for Professor Batman the Magnificent. And let’s get one thing straight—so far, in Intro to Fiction, people have turned in short stories about drugs, one-night stands, high school shootings, suicide, miscarriages, multiple car accidents (what stop looking at me), and insane people. Basically, we are a bunch of pessimistic little sadists.

And so, for my second story, I decided I wasn’t going to contribute any further to the growing pile of classically cynical/sad/angsty narratives. Instead, I was going to attempt to write a love story. In the form of a fairytale.

Well, it’s not so much a fairytale as it is magical realism. But it’s definitely different enough that I have no idea how it’s going to go over in class. I’ve already discussed how Prof. sort of looked down her nose at anything remotely YA, and honestly, she seems like the type of person who wouldn’t seem to have a problem telling me to grow up. She’s Pulitzer-prize nominated, remember? She writes Le Serious Shiz. It’s the eighth week of the semester; we all know what she likes to read and write, and that spectrum as sure as heck does not include fantasy/magical realism.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so not hating on “serious” stories. I love serious stories. I can write serious stories, if the character needs one. My first short story involved my protagonist being held at gunpoint.

But I got an idea the other day that I couldn’t resist (I admit, I was kind of trying to think of stories that I knew Prof. would be skeptical about. Because I like trouble). I don’t even remember what I was thinking about before my brain was all, “THIS.” All I know is that I have been wanting to experiment with magical realism again for a long time now, and when a couple of new protagonists waltzed into my head, I knew it had to happen.

Luka is a prince. Who’s a ghost. Who doesn’t know he’s a ghost. He’s also a tour guide… who gives tours of his own “abandoned” house.

Layla is a normal girl who tried to sneak into his house after sunset. She gets lost in the garden. She’s not very tactful.

Naturally, Luka discovers her and invites her in, offering her an “after-hours” tour. And then… things ensue. Oh yes. Things.

Luka leads Layla through the garden and to the back door of the house, which I imagine to look like this.

On the style of this as-yet-untitled story:

I have only written one other story that could qualify as “magical realism” before now. It’s called Death Touch and it’s about a Russian princess who was born with a severe birth defect—people died when she touched them (see, I can do serious). It was a fairytale, of sorts. I wrote it for an online contest, and ended up really loving the freedom it gave me. I could create entirely new rules for the world in which I set the story, and I could break them and bend them at my will. My main character killed people when she shook their hands, for crying out loud; I could pretty much do whatever the heck I wanted.

Magical realism, in case you are wondering, is essentially exactly what it sounds like it is; it takes magical elements and blends them into the real world. It doesn’t have to be as blatantly obvious as a princess who has killer hands (literally); the story and characters could be completely ordinary until something happens that you know could never happen in the physical world. Something that breaks the rules of reality. Something that takes mundanity and makes it fantastic. Something that doesn’t provide all the answers. It simply is.

I was raised on fairytales and magical realism, but I never really wrote any until “Death Touch.” After that, I knew I wanted to return to the style/genre someday, but it doesn’t usually come naturally to me. Mostly because I like structure, and knowing exactly what can and can’t happen. But that’s the point of magic, isn’t it? Anything can happen.

I’ll admit, I’m half-thinking about this story as an exercise. Loosen up, stop trying to limit yourself with rules that exist only in your head, focus on poetic description (eww, description).

But at the same time, I’m SERIOUSLY SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS STORY GUYS I DON’T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND. I’m kind of in love with the ghost prince Luka. He’s so fun to write. Plus it’s a challenge to think of non-clichéd ways to talk about his ghostliness.

Have you ever had an instance where you decided to write outside of your comfort zone and ended up loving the experience/story? Do share with the class.

Samantha Chaffin

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One thought on “Intro to Fiction: magical realism edition

  1. deshipley says:

    This time next month, I will be writing outside of my comfort zone. Far outside it. My NaNoWriMo has turned into NaWriBeYoComZoMo. (That’s “National Write Beyond Yo Comfort Zone Month”, for those unfamiliar with acronyms gone wild.)

    Project #1 involves zombies, for Pete’s sake. Zombies! I don’t do zombies! I barely did vampires, but this book’s got those, too. And ghosts, and werecats, and mutants from the moon. #Free-for-all
    Nuts as all that is, though, it’s got nothing on Project #2, which… I’m pantsing. That’s right, no novella-length outline for me, I’m just going to jump right in with my MC and hope for the best. #Free-for-allTheSequel (*This time, she has even less idea what she’s doing!*)

    Insert slightly hysterical laughter here. This is going to be a November to remember, and no mistake. …Or we’ll all remember it for what a glorious mistake it was. One of those.

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