Take a modern-day contemporary romance and set it in a familiar city or town. Keep the technology: texting, cell phones, the internet, and all the engineering wonders of the 21st century. But inject an element of magic or time travel or even a bit of shapeshifting or ghostly visitations. Since it’s a romance, you have a hero and a heroine. One of them or both are ordinary human beings. Or perhaps he or she appears like an ordinary human being–sometimes. Add in elements of mythology or magic but keep the romance front and central. This is what I’ve been doing in some of my stories which mix magical realism with romance.
I didn’t decide one day to incorporate magical realism into my stories. I’ve always liked reading stories that have strange and unexplained things going on. But it all started with a novella in 2015, Christmas Stray where a boy who claims to be an elf and his puppy appear behind the woodpile to a couple snowed in for Christmas.
What is this thing called magical realism romance? It’s easier to say what it’s not.
It’s not Fantasy or even Urban Fantasy. The setting is in the real world and the main plot line does not center around the fantasy world. There is no battle between kingdoms and realms and most of the characters are not aware of the magic taking place. Furthermore, no undue attention is drawn to the magic that happens. It’s accepted as “just is.” The main character does not permanently change into a creature imbued with special powers, and it’s not a journey of discovery and mastery in another world.
It’s not Paranormal Romance, although there are elements of the paranormal. Perhaps some can interpret a character as a ghost or a time-traveling spirit. However, the story world looks normal to ninety percent of the characters, and the plot does not center around the otherworldly creatures. There is no explanation of the changes or appearances that take place or any lore about the strange creatures like in vampire or werewolf shifting stories where there is a system of clans, transitions, fated mates, etc. Instead, the central plot line is an ordinary contemporary romance set in a mostly ordinary world.
What we’re left with is a romance with elements of magic rooted in the real world.
Of the eighty romances I’ve written, I count thirteen of my books to incorporate magical elements into the mostly realistic storyline. Nine of them are Christmas stories, and ten of them are concentrated in my Christmas Creek Romance series where something strange happens in most but not all books, and yet, at the end of the story, the strange happenings are forgotten or kept secret by the affected couple.
This last detail, of having most of the characters unaware of the time shift or otherworldly visitation or excursion to another realm is what keeps my stories in the dimension of magical realism which is defined as a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy. Magical realism is a part of the realism genre of fiction. Within a work of magical realism, the world is still grounded in the real world, but fantastical elements are considered normal in this world. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-magical-realism
Are you ready to be shapeshifted into a vintage MG Roadster convertible while the guy you’re crushing on is driving his dates around your small town? That’s what happens to town wallflower Hayley Brockman in my newest Christmas Creek Romance, Nick’s Christmas Ride.
Let me know if you like magic realism in romance. If you do, check out gem girls, Sapphire and Ruby, where ordinary women meet up with demigods on the streets of San Francisco. Black Tied: Sapphire [wok firefighter, the son of the kitchen God] and Red Hexed: Ruby [accidental sword bearer to Lord Frey of the sword that can stop Ragnarok].
Rachelle Ayala is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her foremost goal is to take readers on a shared emotional journey with her characters as they grow and become more true to themselves. Rachelle believes in the power of love to overcome obstacles and feels that everyone should find love as often as possible, especially if it’s within the pages of a book.
Her book, Knowing Vera, won the 2015 Angie Ovation Award, A Father for Christmas garnered a 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award, Christmas Stray received a 2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award, and Playing for the Save got the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award in Realistic Fiction.
She is also a writing teacher and founder of the Romance In A Month writing community. She lives in California with her husband and has three children and two birds.