Fabulism

Fabulism

Posted on May 8 by R.M. Greenaway in Fiction, Mystery
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In day-to-day life I’m fairly unflappable, but when it comes to writing, I’m a worrier, always finding new things to flap about. Last year it was a concern that there’s an element of the unreal in my BC Blues crime series. I felt that to fit on the shelf labelled “Police Procedural,” a novel has to reflect life to a T, with grit, dirt, cruelty, violence, and all the rest, and should never touch on magic.

I’ve since walked my way out of that worry. The crime novels I read for pleasure range wide, from the heart-wrenching all-too-real urban noir of Sam Wiebe to the near-mystical Three Pines procedurals of Louise Penny. And really, there is magic in all of them. Credibility goes by different guidelines, when reading fiction. It’s something else at the heart of the story that matters, something that it’s hard to put a finger on and describe, that makes us believe.

I came upon a word this winter that I find useful to describe that sense of unreal in my work. The word is fabulism: “A form of magical realism in which fantastical elements are placed into an everyday setting.” So it’s not a genre so much as a flavouring. After discovering that word, or that element, I’ve realized that most fiction, maybe all, contains fabulism; it’s just a matter of degree. As children we’ve read about closet doors that lead to magic lands, and in fact would be upset if the closet door turned out to be just a closet door. We get older and maybe are looking for that closet door to lead to a more down-to-earth oddness, more to do with the mysteries of our own relationships and the mad and bizarre things that happen in the world around us. That’s part of the pleasure of reading.

After walking through these thoughts, I don’t feel bad that I’ve added a splash of fabulism to my team of RCMP officers as they work through the crimes that make up the series. In my latest novel, Creep, there is no literal werewolf, but there is ritual, costume, and at least an internal metamorphosis that is just as wolfish, weird and scary to me as the fanged creatures of myth; but definitely it’s the myth that inspired me. Part of the pleasure of creation is taking elements that influence us, mixing them up and making something all of our own.

Taking these thoughts a step further, I’d even say that fiction without a trace of magical realism to me might feel not quite real. Now, how twisted is that?

In day-to-day life I’m fairly unflappable, but when it comes to writing, I’m a worrier, always finding new things to flap about. Last year it was a concern that there’s an element of the unreal in my BC Blues crime series. I felt that to fit on the shelf labelled “Police Procedural,” a novel has to reflect life to a T, with grit, dirt, cruelty, violence, and all the rest, and should never touch on magic.

I’ve since walked my way out of that worry. The crime novels I read for pleasure range wide, from the heart-wrenching all-too-real urban noir of Sam Wiebe to the near-mystical Three Pines procedurals of Louise Penny. And really, there is magic in all of them. Credibility goes by different guidelines, when reading fiction. It’s something else at the heart of the story that matters, something that it’s hard to put a finger on and describe, that makes us believe.

I came upon a word this winter that I find useful to describe that sense of unreal in my work. The word is fabulism: “A form of magical realism in which fantastical elements are placed into an everyday setting.” So it’s not a genre so much as a flavouring. After discovering that word, or that element, I’ve realized that most fiction, maybe all, contains fabulism; it’s just a matter of degree. As children we’ve read about closet doors that lead to magic lands, and in fact would be upset if the closet door turned out to be just a closet door. We get older and maybe are looking for that closet door to lead to a more down-to-earth oddness, more to do with the mysteries of our own relationships and the mad and bizarre things that happen in the world around us. That’s part of the pleasure of reading.

After walking through these thoughts, I don’t feel bad that I’ve added a splash of fabulism to my team of RCMP officers as they work through the crimes that make up the series. In my latest novel, Creep, there is no literal werewolf, but there is ritual, costume, and at least an internal metamorphosis that is just as wolfish, weird and scary to me as the fanged creatures of myth; but definitely it’s the myth that inspired me. Part of the pleasure of creation is taking elements that influence us, mixing them up and making something all of our own.

Taking these thoughts a step further, I’d even say that fiction without a trace of magical realism to me might feel not quite real. Now, how twisted is that?

R.M. Greenaway

Posted by KathrynB on January 19, 2016
R.M. Greenaway photo

R.M. Greenaway

R.M. Greenaway has worked in probation and travelled British Columbia as a court reporter. Her first novel in the B.C. Blues Crime series, Cold Girl, won the Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award. She lives in Nelson, B.C.