I’m finding it hard to describe the sort of fictional magic I’ve been trying to talk about here. So I’ll try to give a better definition of three styles.
Magical Realism is the trickiest to describe. In Magical Realism, magic is unremarkable. When a couple kisses for the first time, they find themselves floating a foot above the ground. When people see them, nobody goes ‘wow, look at that!’, they say ‘must be in love’ and shake their heads at the foolishness. Magic is the result of natural actions and events, it’s never the cause of events.
In the urban lite/faux Magical Realism, like Garden Spells by S A Allen, magic is noticeable, but it’s very tiny. Nobody throws lightning bolts. No werewolves, no vampires, no gods, etc. Think instead of kitchen witches who can alter your mood with their cooking, or men who can charm all the people in town with the sound of their voices and the glint in their eyes*. People around them notice the magic, understand that it’s magical, but simply make space in their minds for it (or try to forget the trauma). After all, every family has it’s quirks; witches are just a bit more quirky than normal.
Harry Potter is full on Urban Fantasy, nothing quasi or subtle about it. The fact that it’s hidden from the real world (by magic) doesn’t make it less powerful, it just means that there are established rules about when and where you can use it. This kind of magic constantly effects the story, because it’s an action done by or used against the characters.
I love Urban Fantasy, a lot of my stories are set in this style. But I’m really being drawn to the ‘urban lite’, which focuses more on the characters than on the neat stuff they can do. I think writing a story in this style will give me a better grip on strong character-driven writing, which I sometimes ignore in the face of all the cool special effects.
*Yes, both examples are from S A Allen novels; I really enjoyed them!