Genre Study: Horror and Magical Realism - The Violet Project Diaries - Entry 17
A day-in-the-life diary series about the development of my writing career as a dark fantasy novelist.
Okay, so I’ve been behind on VPD for a bit. To get my head back in the writing zone for my novel, I wanted to do a genre study. Horror and magical realism are my favorite genres to blend. My first published attempt at doing this is my horror short “Autonomy Bleeds Black” where pain and power manifested into elemental forces. One of my favorite magical realism works is Pan’s Labyrinth directed by Guillermo Del Toro. I’m a huge fan of Del Toro’s and am grateful that Pan’s Labyrinth was my introduction to him. In interviews, he’s described this film to be very personal as someone who lived under strict and religious conditions, but used fantasy works and other genres to escape. Often our escapes become reflections of our inner world and help us interpret what’s going on within us subconsciously and consciously.
Magical realism is seen as a post-realism artistic movement where reality portrays magical or fantasy elements. As the following video essay from YouTube channel Screened presents, magical realism gave us modern day fairytale.
As magical realism is one of the best genres to help us dissect the layers of life, horror is used to threaten what we hold dear. I love that horror challenges us with the terrifying “what ifs” of life, no matter how bizarre they seem, while also confronting our desperate need for control. We want control more than anything when we’re determined to protect or save what and who we love. The next video essay from Screened does a wonderful job addressing the effectiveness of a horror movie through personalizing fear.
I love that this essay pointed out how some of the classic slasher or monster horrors don’t scare audiences as much anymore due to a lack of personalization. Some of it may also be how unlikely we would see such creatures terrorizing our lives. Audiences do a great job of letting their own fear create the monster if we let them. H.P. Lovecraft created ancient gods and monsters out of existential dread; Poe did the same with insanity and emotional instability. So with that said, the monsters and creatures have more effect as metaphors or manifestations of our inner and outer reality, a strong similarity with magical realism.
So, when I write stories or poetry in these genres, I enjoy letting my fears and insecurities manifest monsters or characters to better understand myself and the world. These genres are mirrors, but for their effectiveness to withstand any resistance to our personal revelations, we writers have to hook the audience in with familiarity and give them the illusion of control. How many times have you thought about watching a new horror film, but you brush past it because you feel like you already know what it’s about and what’s going on happen based on the cover of the movie or after watching the first 10 minutes? For familiarity and the illusion of control to keep their intrigue, I think writers should remember to follow the horror cliche of “everything was normal until [insert horror event here] happened”. We’re used to seeing a group of teenagers or the average American family living normally until they’re attacked or disturbed by something. The horror event needs to be more than just the expected surprise; the horror must be integrated into the normalcy and become stronger as the plot continues. Hereditary did an excellent job in that respect along with a good pacing of the plot. The increasing strength of the horror events made the story more immersive and less predictable. Magical realism does the same by not being spontaneous with its magical elements, but integrated them into the normalcy of the characters and their inner lives. To conclude, I have learned that finding the right blend for horror and magical realism does wonderfully in storytelling if we writers continue to look at our storytelling techniques retrospectively and challenge ourselves to enhance the integration of reality or normalcy with magic and terror.
Thanks for reading
My horror short "Autonomy Bleeds Black" is available at Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Scribd, and other ebook outlets.