Wednesday Writing Tips: Magical Realism Short Stories

THIS IS WHERE TO START WITH MAGICAL REALISM SHORT STORIES

By: Mary Kay McBrayer

As with any genre categorization, the edges of magical realism short stories are blurry. The term “magical realism” itself seems to be an oxymoron: if it’s magical, how can it be real? The definition, however nebulous, depends on whom you ask.magical-realism-short-stories

HOW DO YOU DEFINE MAGICAL REALISM SHORT STORIES?

I tried to reduce the definition to its most simplistic qualities: the world of the story is realistic, just like this one, or maybe a little worse. Magical elements are introduced to the world of the story, and the characters in the world treat them as though they are real, a part of their crappy world. The characters are not astounded by the presence of what seems (to the reader) magical.

Naturally there are some dissenting opinions, and because humans like to categorize things, there are some distinct sub-genres. Surrealism is “concerned with upending accepted realities,” and fabulism “is known for putting fables and myths into a contemporary setting.” (For more on these topics, click here.)

For our purposes, we have another chunk of that genre to define as well: what is a short story? What qualifies as “short,” and what makes a “story.” Again, I tried to reduce this definition to its most simplistic qualities: if I can read it in one sitting, then it’s “short.” If I have to get up for snack breaks, to check my email, et cetera, it doesn’t qualify. As far as defining “story”: there needs to be a narrative. That means, to me, SOMETHING HAPPENS. Something happens after which nothing is the same, a new status quo is reached. Much of the time, the magical entering the realistic world works as the “something,” but not always.

With those VERY loose terms defined, here are some of the most impactful magical realism short stories, including magical realism short story collections and magical realism short story authors.

Continue reading…


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