Writer’s Wednesday: Magical Realism
Really Magical Writer’s Wednesday with Chase Ambler
The concept of magical realism is very interesting to me. Magical realism is a style of fiction that holds two competing concepts: the authentic, real world, and the fantastic, magical world. By neither keeping the story grounded in realistic setting as well as events, yet not succumbing to a completely foreign fantasy world, filled with powers galore, the author can really shed some light on the human condition. There’s a lot more to magical realism (that I’m just becoming aware of) than we need to get into here, so for the sake of this exercise let’s just keep it as a realistic setting and characters but one aspect is fantastic.
For my example, I’m going to use telepathy.
The night that the First Pathers came and took the Selected Ones, endowing them with the soundless speech, forever split the population. But this day it all came down to a bike.
I sat there at the bus stop with no agenda other than making it downtown on my day off. The wrong bus pulled up and let its passengers off. A smattering of them stuck around to catch another line. There was a younger Selected couple standing eerily side by side, eyes glazed over, obviously having a light speed conversation in soundless, totally oblivious to their surroundings. A lone older gentleman reading the newspaper, half asleep, sat next to me on the bench. And finally, a middle-aged man staring anxiously down the road with his daughter at his feet, cloudy eyed, probably having a soundless with her schoolmates far away.
The bus, the right bus this time, pulled around the corner from Woodsville Blvd and began slowing to the stop. It was right then that it all went down. A cyclist coming down the sidewalk in the other direction must have been on soundless when the little girl was pulled out of her own waves by her father and yanked towards the oncoming bus. Disoriented, the girl took a step back away from her father to balance herself, moving right into the path of the bike’s front tire.
From there the cyclist, the girl, and the bike all flew in different directions. The cyclist went soaring through the air until he was stopped by the Selected man. They both crumpled to the ground in a tangled heap. The girl bounced into the semi-slumbering old man, who somehow wrapped her up in his arms, though they cracked heads pretty hard. And that left the bike; I bet you can guess where that one went. When it comes to bikes, it’s always the gears—the gears and the handlebars. Well, this time it was the gears. They sank into my leg as the skeleton of metal and rubber crashed upon me.
The Selected woman’s soundless cries rang out in my head in a jumble of incomprehensible tones. I’d had a Selected friend who’d tried to teach me, but I never fully grasped it.
The girl’s father ran towards her screaming, “Allison! Damn Soundless! Allison!”
Then the Selected woman spoke, her voice wavering from disuse, “The ambulance . . . is on its way,” as she helped her partner to his feet. Her glossed look was hardened, as she was probably cursing out the cyclist still sprawled on the ground clutching his wrist.
As I threw the bike off myself I saw the blood rush out of my shin and calf. My hemophobia kicked in at the sight of the blood. My head spinning, the girl’s cries rang out across the bus stop until I passed out.
As you can see the setting is a regular bus stop. But the element of the fantastic is the telepathy. While it seems far-fetched, just think of how people a few generations ago would look at the way we live today. We can communicate instantly with each other, all over the globe, with the internet and cell phones. Sometimes we talk, but the vast majority of the time we text/email/post/comment in silence instead. Now the scene doesn’t seem so fantastical, but it’s still much more interesting than if everyone was just on their cell phones. The magical element draws readers in and tells them of the world they are already in but gives them a new way to look at it. Obviously the telepathy caused this accident, but at the same time it helped call the emergency services instantly. As with most technology, there are benefits and drawbacks to this “telepathy.”
Now I want you to try and write a scene set in the mundane, with realistic characters, but throw in an element of the magical. Please do share!
Chase Ambler is an American writer who spent his childhood in South and Southeast Asia. His life has been shaped by strange obsessions: heavy metal music, mountains, travel, and soccer. These subjects have all molded his poetry and prose in some way, but the birth of his daughter may have the greatest impact yet. He lives with his wife, baby daughter, and dog in Colorado. If one went looking for Chase, they could find him anywhere from changing diapers to summiting 14,000 foot mountains, but odds are he’s in front of the computer working on his next novel. Visit the FB page for his Novel: Snowsong