Fiction should not conflict with your objective sense of reality, it should embellish it.
Magical realism: "an unexpected alteration of reality [. . .] an unaccustomed insight that is singularly favored by the unexpected richness of reality or an amplification of the scale and categories of reality" (Alejo Carpentier)
More specifically, magical realism achieves its particular power by weaving together elements we tend to associate with European realism and elements we associate with the fabulous, and these two worlds undergo a "closeness or near merging." When I first stumbled upon this sub-genre of fiction, (Intro to the show “Narcos”) it was jargon. Something I didn't understand due to my lack of knowledge regarding literature. I had a hard time putting in to words the difference between fantasy (my idea of fiction) and what I wanted fiction to be for me (magical realism). Understanding the subtle differences wasn't something I could do, due to every category of fiction being interwoven in my mind. The truth is, pin-pointing the contrast between the two would make all the difference.
Fantasy in nature is an escape. It is a separate world allowing the spectator (reader) to observe and occasionally be immersed in. Great examples of fantasy are “The Lord Of the Rings” or “Harry Potter”, where the reader is aware that what he is reading is not his reality but something concocted for him to escape to. “Harry Potter” is a great example of observing the protagonist's escape from his own reality as well, much like our own experience as we read the book. But this form of writing doesn't challenge our perspective of reality, nor does it try to. It is for lack of a better term, an escape. If I were to compare this to the magic we do, it's Copperfield. It's a fantastic voyage which we do not feel is real and cannot be taken seriously. That's not to say that there isn't a moral to the story or that the performer isn't trying to connect with the audience, it's to say that trying to pass this off as realism is in fact lying. There is a place in magic for this type of thinking, many stage performers take on the role of a fantastic conjuror but often blur the lines between it and attempt to relate it to our own reality, thus lying. If I were to tell the story of a mage with extraordinary abilities who can make a helicopter vanish but then attempt to read your mind, I'm a liar. I've crossed the line from fantasy and am delving in to something much more personal, something I have no business (as a fictional character) doing. I'm lying to you. To me this accurately describes what I dislike about many performers. Magicians believe they can travel from fantasy to reality and back again, and expect you to be immersed and follow along. This is a very selfish idea and shows a lack of creativity. That's not to say that fantasy in magic isn't good. I personally am not a fan but when done right, can provide a somewhat escape for the audience. Doing this will most likely resemble a play you would see in a theater and after much reflection on the thought, will deflate the magic. The story trumps the magic, or at the very least makes it less important. So how does one create fictional magic without denying the magic? The closest answer to that is magical realism.
Many of the performers, when creating “fiction” will take a “What if...” approach. What if gravity didn't exist, what if cards could find other cards. This is merely fantasy and in no way offers an engaging experience but rather a silly observation of something to be clearly false. Everything is based on the assumption that the “what if...” is real, when we clearly know it not to be. Therefor, being immersed in this sort of fantasy is impossible, we simply don't care.
Magical realism is fictional, but in no way does it follow the guidelines of fantasy. It is linked with reality. One of the best ways to describe this idea is with an example from a book entitled “One Hundred Years Of Solitude” where the character who is so beautiful that she is followed everywhere by a cloud of butterflies. This extraordinary trait is brought to earth somewhat by the observation that all of the butterflies have tattered wings. In essence, there is a very earthly reason why these butterflies follow this beautiful girl, but is it coincidence? That's for you to decide. Surely the text suggests it is not but is never explicitly implied. It is the idea that the mundane can be wonderful or that the wonderful can be mundane. Whether or not the butterflies follow her for her beauty or because they have tattered wings becomes irrelevant to a point. The feeling is much more realistic and the casualness of it is whimsical yet not entirely fantastic and out of touch with reality. In text, an explanation for the phenomenon has to be written (tattered wings) but when performing, these instances can simply be implied by behavior or observation and do not have to be directly addressed. In my previous blog I mention narrating your every move as a sort of crutch, when in reality I think it's the performer trying to depict a specific phenomenon to the audience, this however leaves the audience in a weird state of trying to follow a narrative and a character at the same time, which is entirely possible in text but practical, actual application of this falls short.
Therein lies the art. That is the hard part. How do we convey this during performing? I think, once again acting plays a crucial role and certainly remaining truthful is key. But really creating this type of magic in my opinion doesn't and shouldn't come easy. I'll let you know when I've figured it out...
“So magical realist works put connected events side by side in a way that doesn't appear to violate objective reality, but attempts to convince us by details that the events described are linked by more than chance.” -excerpt from an article in “Speculations” by Bruce Holland Rogers
In this particular article, he uses an example from book called “Ceremony” and I quote: there is a scene in which a spurned woman is dancing very angrily. Miles away, the man who betrayed her is checking the commotion his cattle are making in the night. Descriptions of the woman's heels stamping the floor are alternated with descriptions of the cattle trampling the man to death, back and forth from one to the other. No assertion of causality is made, but the dancer's heels and the animals' hooves become linked so powerfully that the reader doesn't just "get it." What's conveyed is not a symbol or a metaphor, but the reality that a woman can be so angry that when she she dances, her lover dies.
As you can see, in no way is it explicitly stating that her dancing is killing her lover, it is merely implied (although strongly favored) and up to you to decide whether or not the two instances are linked.
This to me is a very interesting notion regarding the magic we do. Gabi Perreras often mentions the implications of behavior in an effect and how we do not have to tell them about what we are doing (or trying to do) it is implied. How can we translate that in to an effect?
I'm not going to give you an example of a successfully designed effect which depicts magical realism as I've not yet come that far. I simply want you think about this: What are you trying to achieve with your magic? Are you trying to impress people? Are you trying to prove you have supernatural powers? Are you trying to tell a story? Or do you just want to take them for a little spin?
Whatever the answer is, and I hope it isn't the first two, take the time to at least indulge the idea of magical realism or some kind of fiction and let me know in the comments what you've come up with. Thanks again for reading this and I look forward to all of your feedback as always.