Author of Middle Grade novels about friendship, family, and figuring out where you fit in.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Get Real: Thoughts on Realistic Fiction

I'm a big fan of realistic fiction, which is why majority of my manuscripts fall into that category. Don't get me wrong: I love fantasy and sci fi and magical stories, too. I even wrote a couple of manuscripts containing magical elements before I realized that it just wasn't my strength. But contemporary, realistic middle grade is my passion.

I think realistic fiction in general has the risk of appearing boring. Magical stories might deal with grand conflicts such as defeating an evil wizard or saving an entire planet from destruction. By comparison, a realistic manuscript's plot revolving around failed friendships, complicated relationships, or trouble at school/work (as examples) might seem a little too... ordinary. (Though, of course, there are genres such as suspense and mystery that are both realistic and intense. I just tend to write quieter stories.)

But here are some things I love about writing and reading realistic fiction:

- That I've-so-been-there feeling, when a character does something that you can totally relate to. As a writer, I like to pull things from personal experience and incorporate them into a story.

- That I-feel-like-I-know-you-from-somewhere feeling, when characters and settings feel so real to you. I remember feeling like this as a kid when reading the Babysitter's Club books. Kristy and Claudia and everyone may as well have been girls I went to school with.

- That I-can't-stop-laughing feeling. I love a humorous book that causes me to reread the funny parts a second and third time. I'm looking at you, Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Of course, the above list is applicable to fantasy and magical books, too. But since I read way more realistic fiction, I experience the above much more frequently with that genre.

What are your thoughts on realistic fiction? Do you tend to read/write it, or do you favor sci-fi/fantasy/magical stories?


Tiana Smith said...

I still haven't read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I really need to get on that.

I tend to write stuff with some magical element, even when I try not to it'll sneak it's way in. It's funny how that happens sometimes :)

Laurel Garver said...

I love realistic fiction and tend to be drawn to it more than other genres, for the reasons you mention, and because it helps me better understand the world I actually inhabit as well as how people tick.

Nick Wilford said...

Well, I guess I am quite drawn to sci-fi/fantasy because I enjoy the worldbuilding element. But realistic stories can be just as "magical" in their own way, it just depends how strong the characters and stories are. Any genre can be boring if it's not done well.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love realistic fiction too! While I read widely and love so many genres, realistic fiction is my fave :)

Shelley Sly said...

Tiana - You always have great magical-story premises, so it sounds like that's a strength of yours. :)

Laurel - That's another reason why I like it, too. It appeals to my psychology background.

Nick - Oh, I love wordbuilding in fantasy/sci-fi stories, so I know what you mean. And you make a good point about any genre being boring.

Jemi - Same here! Other genres are fun to read, too, but I always come back to realistic fiction.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I love realistic fiction, especially in YA and MG. It's such an interesting time in a person's life, there's plenty of things to draw inspiration from!

Shelley Sly said...

Rachel - I totally agree, there are so many ways to find inspiration for realistic fiction. :)

Anonymous said...

I prefer reading realistic fiction, but I still read a lot of speculative novels. I tend to write realistic, but in the past two years I've been writing and publishing speculative projects.

Heather Holden said...

I enjoy reading realistic fiction a lot. Definitely not boring! My go-to genres continue to be fantasy and horror, though. But even then, I like the kind that are rooted in our contemporary world. Supernatural elements are just more fun to me when they need to be kept secret! (This is probably why Echo Effect doesn't come across as a fantasy 99% of the time, LOL.) Silly me wants the best of both worlds, I guess. :)

Shelley Sly said...

Medeia - I enjoy speculative fiction, too, and I might start a speculative project at some point.

Heather - I know what you mean, I like the best of both worlds, too. :) Supernatural elements within a realistic setting is fun.

cleemckenzie said...

I'm very much a realistic fiction fan. I guess that's good because that's mainly what I write. :-)

I like a good ghost story or sci-fi, too.

Shelley Sly said...

Lee - Besides realistic fiction, I do enjoy ghost stories, too.

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