Genre for middle-grade book about a kid who finds a lucky coin
July 17, 2022 8:04 PM   Subscribe

I've finished a draft of a middle-grade novel about a normal kid in the normal world who finds a magic/lucky coin. I've started writing my query letter to agents, but I'm not sure what genre best describes my story.

This is a follow-up to my previous ask.

My first guess is fantasy, since the coin is a essentially magical object, but there's not a traditional fantasy setting and everything other than the coin is completely realistic. Should I say this is a "soft fantasy?" Or a realistic story with one fantastical element? The magical item is definitely out of place, so I don't think it qualifies as magical-realism as I understand it.
posted by imelcapitan to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
Magical Realism does fit, in my opinion.
posted by soelo at 8:21 PM on July 17

Best answer: I would not call this magical realism; in those stories the magical bit is not treated as out of place. This is the general plot of a lot of classic children’s fantasy such as that written by Edith Nesbit. This is squarely in the tradition of The Enchanted Castle, or Edward Eager’s Half Magic. Children’s fantasy definitely fits.
posted by brook horse at 8:56 PM on July 17 [9 favorites]

My top-of-mind similarly themed books from childhood are the Trick books by Scott Corbett, about a kid who gets an enchanted chemistry set that does effectively magical things. He lives (IIRC) in a perfectly normal world, and the chemistry set is the only supernatural thing in the entire series. They're filed under Fantasy on GoodReads, if that helps.
posted by Shepherd at 2:37 AM on July 18

Best answer: It has been seven years since I got an agent for my MG novel, and it's certainly possible that the query process has changed since then, but assuming my experience still holds... you're overthinking this.

Your query has to help the agent answer two questions:
1. Broadly speaking, is this the kind of thing they represent?
2. Does it sound like an intriguing enough example of that kind of thing that they should request a sample [or the whole MS, depending on the agent]?

To answer Question 1, you don't need to pin your novel down to its exact sub-genre. Just describe it as an "MG fantasy novel."

Save your mental energy for writing a lively, intriguing plot summary that distills the feel of your book down to a few irresistible sentences, guaranteeing that the answer to question 2 is "yes." (Piece of cake, right?)

PS: You mention that you've "finished a draft." By "a draft," you mean "the last of many drafts that I have rewritten over time in response to feedback from grownup readers who know contemporary MG novels and whose judgment I respect," right? If not, you are probably better off waiting to query agents until your novel is in the best shape it can be. You want to make the strongest first impression you can.
posted by yankeefog at 5:07 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yup, call it MG fantasy. The rest of your letter will explain in what capacity the story is fantastical.
posted by babelfish at 11:20 AM on July 18

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