Urban Fantasy vs. Magical Realism
Hello writers! How have you all been? It’s been a while, I know, but I have just been lost in a sea of work. Kindle Vella is launching next week, and I have been working on my fantastic Ivy Labyrinth project that I mentioned to you all a couple months ago. I did an entire post on tips for writing urban fantasy, and it seemed to be reasonably enjoyed by all of you. But as I was writing the first few episodes of my serial, I realized I wasn’t actually writing urban fantasy. It had similarities, but it did not quite fit based on what I had read about the genre. I went searching for answers, and I discovered a new genre for me: magical realism.
Today, I’m going to share with you a short comparison of these two genres so you don’t make the same mistakes I did when starting a new project.
In urban fantasy, the setting is most commonly a urban city although I have seen a few instances where the setting is a major or even rural town. Whoever and whatever your fantasy creatures are, they should live in the city and interact with the population, but their true magical identities are unknown to mortals. They should integrate seamlessly into the universe and fly pretty much undetected. Until the main character discovers them, of course, and gets drawn into their world and their struggles. My favorite example of urban fantasy is the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.
In magical realism, fantasy and reality operate side by side. Magical elements blend into the real world like they are one and the same. Through the main character’s eyes, magic is presented as fact, as something that always has been and always will be. Sometimes the author doesn’t even explain how the magic works! They operate through the eyes of the main character who sees magic as an everyday occurrence, encouraging the reader to accept it as such as well. From what I have read, magical realism often contains a social or political critique of society. In my opinion, this doesn’t have to be an overly obvious factor. For me personally, I’m still trying to figure out where or if that element fits into the piece I am working on.
So there you have it: my very quick breakdown of urban fantasy vs. magical realism. I hope this helps some of you when figuring out which subgenre your story fits into. Happy writing!