Michael Karolewski

What Is a Realistic Fiction Book? – Let’s Learn What Makes Them Real

What Is a Realistic Fiction Book

When a piece of fiction appears to portray actual individuals from everyday life, certain publishers categorize it as realistic fiction. Realistic stories reflect real-life situations, featuring characters who are not superheroes or fantastical beings. These characters are based on the people who live in the contemporary society we know today, facing its complexities and challenges.

While technically, realistic stories could take place in the future (albeit with “realistic” characters grounded in present-day norms), most commonly, they are set in the present or recent past and always grounded in reality.

Discover critical traits of the realistic fiction genre along with tips for you writing your own realistic fiction  stories of your own.

Let’s Talk About Realistic Fiction – What is it?

Let’s Talk About Realistic Fiction

Realistic fiction is a subgenre of fiction that includes narratives exuding a high degree of believability. Such books delve into relatable issues, feature characters grounded in reality, and unfold within settings firmly rooted in the real world. This genre enjoys widespread popularity globally, encompassing various sub-genre styles, notably a well-known one called contemporary fiction, which often adopts a romantic tone. The hallmark of realistic fiction lies in its authentic narrative style, prompting readers to contemplate the believability of the plot and enable them to think that it could happen. These stories can occur across any historical period, spanning from recent memory to bygone eras, so long as they focus on authentic characters and genuine concerns. Although, more often than not, realistic fiction gravitates towards the era of the author’s lifetime.

Realistic fiction stands in opposition to genres like fantasy, science fiction, and various forms of adventure and horror, which tend to rely on bending the rules of everyday life, thus pushing them out of realism. It permeates the literary landscape with its global presence; nearly everyone has seen one, read one, owned one, or possessed a work of realistic fiction. Typically, these stories delve into aspects of contemporary life, offering narratives that resonate with the modern reader.

Realistic fiction books frequently explore facets of contemporary, everyday life. The key characteristics include:

  • Settings rooted in familiar worlds, typically in the present era or recent past, reflect the everyday aspects of contemporary life.
  • Characters live in places recognized by the reader as real or convincingly real.
  • Characters have relatable issues or depict events with a credible air of believability that could actually happen.
  • Conflicts unfold in a manner that aligns with reality. Conflicts are also resolved (or not) in a realistic way
  • The themes and events explored in realistic fiction books mirror real-life experiences, offering readers scenarios similar to those encountered in their own lives or within their social circles.

What Makes Realistic Fiction So Compelling?

Realistic literature captivates readers by immersing them in the present and showing individuals who may or may not have similarities to us. While book series such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson address topics common to realistic young adult literature, they also include fanciful aspects that are not seen in real life. Realistic literature, on the other hand, is entirely based on the natural abilities and resources of its characters. The difficulties they face are firmly grounded in reality and include dealing with a terminally ill parent, battling illness, navigating adolescence, managing crushes and various types of romantic relationships, and simply struggling with the complexities of being human in an unpredictable world.

Realistic young adult novels, in particular, provide sympathetic characters for children and teenagers to assist them in negotiating their own real-life challenges. For instance, Laurie Halse Anderson’s book “Speak” provides a poignant narrative where the protagonist’s traumatic encounter at a party can offer solace to a teenager who has undergone a similar ordeal, perhaps even guiding them toward seeking help. While readers can find comfort and connection with characters across genres, establishing those bonds through a realistic lens often proves more accessible.

Ultimately, realistic fiction endures as a genre that resonates due to its inherent link to real life. For many individuals, spanning children to older adults, realistic fiction offers stories that provide solace, healing, and truth. At its core, these narratives are both entertaining and deeply meaningful.


Here are some examples of realistic fiction short stories:

  • “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin: A woman receives the news of her husband’s death in a train accident and spends the following hour processing her emotions.
  • “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara: An inner-city class embarks on a field trip to an upscale toy store, prompting the children to contemplate the disparities in people’s wealth.
  • “The Hartleysby John Cheever: Mr. and Mrs. Hartley, accompanied by their daughter Anne, revisit the Pemaquoddy Inn, where they had a pleasant experience eight years ago. The story revolves around their interactions and Anne’s preference for skiing with her father.
  • “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger: Muriel converses with her mother about her husband Seymour, a war veteran whose mental state causes concern. Meanwhile, Seymour meets a young girl on the beach and shares a story about bananafish with her.
  • “Now I Lay Me” by Ernest Hemingway: Nick Adams lies awake at night, fearing that closing his eyes will cause his soul to leave his body. He passes the time by vividly imagining his fishing spots and reflecting on his past experiences. The story also explores his interactions with a roommate.
  • “Fat” by Raymond Carver: A waitress serves a highly overweight customer who orders a substantial amount of food, leading her coworkers to mock the man.
  • Petrified Man” by Eudora Welty: Set in a beauty parlor, the story revolves around Leota and her client, Mrs. Fletcher, as they engage in gossip covering various topics, including Leota’s boarders, Mrs. Fletcher’s pregnancy, and a traveling freak show featuring a petrified man.
  • “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” by Bret Harte: In an attempt to improve their town, the citizens of Poker Flat expel a group of undesirable individuals. The outcasts embark on a challenging mountain journey and encounter a couple headed for Poker Flat, who offer provisions and directions to a resting cabin.
  • “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett: Nine-year-old Sylvia, deeply connected to nature and animals, encounters a young hunter who stays with her and her grandmother. He seeks a rare heron to add to his collection.
  • “Alyosha the Pot” by Leo Tolstoy: Alyosha, a quiet and unremarkable student, works diligently on his family’s farm from childhood to the age of nineteen. When his older brother is drafted into the army, Alyosha takes his place in the service of a merchant. Despite being burdened and mistreated, he bears his responsibilities with resilience.
  • “My Old Man” by Ernest Hemingway: The narrator recounts accompanying his father, a jockey, during their time in Italy and France. The story revolves around his father’s experiences, including an argument after winning a race in Italy and eventually buying his own horse to train and ride in France.

Five Essential Aspects of Realistic Fiction That You Should Know

  1. Characters: Developing characters and their interpersonal relationships in a manner that resonates with readers is paramount.
  2. Point of View: Maintain a singular focus on one character’s perspective at a time, avoiding simultaneous exploration of multiple points of view.
  3. Dialogue: Ensure that dialogue mirrors authentic speech patterns just like the way real people sound and talk, steering clear of the contrived or exaggerated language of fictional characters like “Yoda.”
  4. Setting: Evoking a palpable sense of familiarity in the setting allows readers to immerse themselves more deeply in the narrative like they have experienced it before.
  5. Research: Thorough research forms the foundation of realistic fiction. You can always do online research as online resources offer cost-effective solutions to keep your costs down; if feasible, consider firsthand exploration of locations you’ll be writing about. Finally, supplement your research with memoirs, visual media, and other relevant materials for added depth and authenticity.

Elements of Realistic Fiction


Realistic fiction portrays characters with relatable human qualities and flaws, avoiding the inclusion of superhumans or animal-like beings found in fantasy genres of literature. These characters embody common human traits such as love, hate, strength, weakness, wisdom, foolishness, laziness, and diligence.


The setting of realistic fiction encompasses both time and place, providing a backdrop that supports the central idea of the story. It can be situated during periods of war, peace, economic prosperity, or significant historical events like the slave trade.

Whether it takes place in the medieval era, ancient Greece, wartime, or other historical contexts, the setting brings the realistic fiction closer to reality.

The locations can range from familiar cities like Los Angeles and Kansas City to other real or extinct places worldwide. The writer employs their creative prowess to describe the setting, making it believable vividly.

Above all, these settings are ones that we can readily envision as real. They resonate with our understanding of the world, seeming familiar and plausible. Such times and places fall comfortably within the bounds of human comprehension.


The themes in realistic fiction books revolve around everyday issues that occur in our lives. They explore topics such as family struggles like divorce, infertility, rebellious children, poverty, or intense rivalry between the affluent.

In the business world, themes may involve the rise and fall of a business tycoon, betrayal, or the forceful acquisition of one’s fortune. Realistic fiction also touches on governmental and societal issues, such as the oppression of the governed.

These themes provide an honest perspective, to some extent, on various aspects of life, allowing readers to see different angles through the eyes of others.


In realistic fiction books, the dialogue and language used by characters genuinely reflect human behavior and reasoning. The conversations of each character depict the inherent qualities of that character within real-life situations.


Style refers to the writer’s choice of words and how they flow throughout the work. In realistic fiction, the writer carefully selects their diction to create a specific tone and atmosphere that aligns with the genre’s authenticity. The style contributes to the overall realism of the narrative.

How to Write a Realistic Fiction Novel

How to Write a Realistic Fiction Novel

For writers, the ultimate test lies in writing a fictional tale that rings true and seems believable. This task becomes particularly challenging when delving into the world of realistic fiction. These narratives, anchored in actual events, draw inspiration from memoirs and historical eras or even delve into the domains of horror if desired. It is just important to remember that realistic fiction doesn’t blend well with other fictional genres. Realistic fiction stands distinct from other fictional genres, demanding to stand alone in its authenticity.

That’s why it’s essential to know how to write realistic fiction books; it’s crucial to understand how to construct narratives that resonate with readers, offering relatable experiences without adding fantasy elements that drive readers away. Here’s how you can achieve that:

#1. Don’t go crazy when developing characters:

Real-life individuals typically bear conventional names, so opt for names that reflect this reality. Most people in real life don’t have crazy names, so don’t give your characters crazy names. Names like Joe, Jacob, or Chris suit realistic fiction, avoiding extravagant or unusual choices. Furthermore, consider the personality connotations associated with specific names; for instance, a character named Graham may not align with the expectations of a football player.

#2. Establish a solid narrative structure:

Realistic fiction thrives on comprehensive character involvement, immersing readers in their experiences and emotions. Creating a compelling storyline allows readers to empathize with characters facing adversity and triumphing over challenges. Keep instances of violence minimal, maintain a gender balance in character portrayal, and ensure that romantic elements remain plausible and grounded in reality.

#3. Create a Compelling Introduction:

In realistic fiction, the initial pages serve as a crucial opportunity to foster a connection between readers and characters. Create a setting where readers can engage in dialogue with the characters, allowing them to become emotionally invested in the narrative from the outset. As events unfold, they draw readers further into the story, compelling them to remain engrossed and reluctant to set the book aside.

#4. Establish a Realistic Setting As Well:

While realism doesn’t really rely on the use of actual cities, it’s essential to infuse settings with elements that evoke a sense of reality. Whether depicting urban landscapes or rural locales, ensure that the surroundings feel authentic and relatable. Minimize the inclusion of fantastical elements, as realism hinges on presenting scenarios that readers can readily identify with. For instance, readers can empathize with the challenges faced by a family reuniting after a long separation, whereas they can’t relate to the improbable scenarios like a toboggan race in the Sahara Desert that detract from the story’s credibility.

#5. Integrate Realistic Conflicts into the Character Dialogue:

Even the closest of friends inevitably encounter conflicts, and realistic fiction should reflect this aspect of human relationships. These conflicts should resonate with authenticity, touching upon issues like differing political views, religious beliefs, or even mundane disagreements such as choosing a movie to watch on Netflix. However, introducing fantastical debates like having two people argue about who will travel to Jupiter ruins the realistic elements of the story.

#6. Construct a Well-Developed Climax:

A common pitfall in many proposed realistic fiction narratives is the tendency to reserve the climax for the story’s conclusion. However, this approach may offer a more satisfying resolution for readers. Real-life problems are often resolved incrementally, and readers crave insight into characters’ lives beyond the resolution. While it’s essential to build tension leading up to the climax, it’s equally crucial to provide closure and depict the aftermath of the resolution. For instance, if two characters reconcile after a prolonged separation, explore the repercussions of their reunion, revealing whether it meets their expectations or challenges the notion of a “happily ever after.”

#7. Create a Conclusion with a Surprising Turn:

Have you ever diligently pursued a goal only to encounter an unexpected turn of events? After a year of striving for a promotion, you may receive a sudden layoff notice via email. Or maybe you anticipate welcoming a single baby, only to discover you’re expecting twins or even triplets. While the conclusion of a realistic narrative often unfolds as expected, there’s a certain allure in unexpected twists. While readers may relish a tidy resolution, introducing a surprising element can add depth to the story. As long as the narrative’s loose ends are tied up by the conclusion, authors have the opportunity to convey thought-provoking messages within their fiction subtly.

Concluding Thoughts

Realistic fiction is a literary genre that blends genuine events with invented characters and scenarios.

This combination adds depth and balance to your narrative, allowing for intriguing plot twists while maintaining a sense of authenticity. Through this subgenre, you can also impart lessons about the world, self-awareness, and values to your readers.

Remember, creating believable characters involves more than mere resemblance to real individuals; it entails endowing them with thoughts, emotions, aspirations, and imperfections, rendering them multi-dimensional rather than mere stereotypes.

Most importantly, have fun with it!

FAQ’s – Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is the founder of Realistic Fiction?

Realistic fiction emerged gradually over time, shaped by the collective efforts of various authors. From the early 19th century, influential people like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens made remarkable contributions to its growth. They stressed ordinary life and familiar settings, providing a foundation for the genre that we know today.

2. Which Writers Choose Realistic Fiction and Why?

Authors who choose realistic fiction want to reflect the complexities of reality to resonate with their readers. This genre dives into the complexity of human existence, developing empathy and understanding as it explores the aspects of relationships, societal challenges, and emotional depth.

3. Is Realistic Fiction the same as Fiction in General?

Definitely not! Realistic fiction belongs to the larger field of fiction. While other genres may include different aspects of magic or the supernatural, however realistic fiction is grounded in fact and realism.

4. Can Realistic Fiction Utilize First-Person Narration?

Indeed! A useful literary device in realistic literature is the first-person narration. Putting readers right in the protagonist’s shoes encourages intimacy and participation, making for a captivating and immersive reading experience.

5. What literary works of realistic fiction are there?

Think of the literary classics “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, or “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. There are no fantastical elements to these tales—instead, they are closely related to societal issues and human experiences.

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