What Are Some Characteristics for the Genre of Realistic Fiction?

Realistic fiction involves stories that mirror events in contemporary times, with characters that could actually exist and interact in real-life events. It is a subgenre of fiction that narrates a story about believable characters within plausible settings in perceptible themes and plots. Like most genre fiction, it has a beginning that transitions to a middle event leading to a defined ending. Its characteristics can be discerned based on a number of aspects.

Language and Flavor

Most types of realistic fiction use the colloquial form of a language. Its language is a contemporary everyday type, reflecting the characters’ social class, culture and setting. It allows the use of dialects, slang or phrases endemic to where the story takes place. Also, although set in a familiar setting, realistic fiction often does not impose or preach on personal beliefs, ethics and morality.


Realistic fiction is unbound by romantic perceptions of the world and endowed with more realistic views. Depicting the world as it really is, no supercilious elements are involved. Only common folk taking on the world and all its trials and comforts are portrayed, working towards sensible outcomes of their personal dilemmas.


The most common themes used in realistic fiction include humor, coming-of-age and problem novels. Humor-themed realistic fiction shows how the characters grapple with the tricky circumstances they’re in, using humor as a form of self-conservation. Humor may be of character (personal idiosyncrasies), of language (verbal humor with word misuse, misinterpretations or irony), or situational (bumbling, goofy or astonishing cases). Coming-of-age themes show how a protagonist tackles growing up situations that require him to become less immature and less self-absorbed. They show how the protagonist awakens to his role as a cooperative member of a community. Problem novels have realistic themes that reflect the more controversial issues of the day, such as drug use, child abuse, sexuality issues and relationship problems. Geared toward older children, they are characterized by underdeveloped characters showing melodramatic reactions within predictable plots. Their story lines are typically based on social topics.


According to Southern Connecticut State University, realistic fiction has several general types: adventure and survival stories ("Island of the Blue Dolphins"); animal stories ("Black Beauty"); family stories ("Little Women"); historical stories ("The Red Badge of Courage"); detective or mystery stories ("The Da Vinci Code"); sports stories (magazine and book publications); and social realism stories ("The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn").

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