What is Realistic Fiction? - Definition, Characteristics & Examples

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  • 0:01 Realistic Fiction
  • 0:36 Characteristics
  • 1:22 Examples
  • 3:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kara Wilson

Kara Wilson is a 6th-12th grade English and Drama teacher. She has a B.A. in Literature and an M.Ed, both of which she earned from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Short stories and novels that make you feel like you are getting to know real people dealing with believable situations can be considered realistic fiction. Watch this lesson to learn about realistic fiction and then test your knowledge with a brief quiz.

Definition of Realistic Fiction

Realistic fiction is a genre consisting of stories that could have actually occurred to people or animals in a believable setting. These stories resemble real life, and fictional characters within these stories react similarly to real people. Stories that are classified as realistic fiction have plots that highlight social or personal events or issues that mirror contemporary life, such as falling in love, marriage, finding a job, divorce, alcoholism, etc. They depict our world and our society.

Characteristics of Realistic Fiction

A quick way to classify a story or novel as realistic fiction is to identify the following characteristics within that literary work:

  1. Realistic fiction stories tend to take place in the present or recent past.
  2. Characters are involved in events that could happen.
  3. Characters live in places that could be or are real.
  4. The characters seem like real people with real issues solved in a realistic way (so say goodbye to stories containing vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, dragons, zombies, etc.).
  5. The events portrayed in realistic fiction conjure questions that a reader could face in everyday life.

Examples of Realistic Fiction

Let's take a look at a few examples of realistic fiction. First, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green tells the story of 17-year-old Hazel, who has terminal cancer and grudgingly attends a cancer support group. There, she meets her friend Isaac and her love interest Augustus Waters. Their story unfolds, dealing with friendship, teen romance, loss, teen angst, holding onto humor in the face of pain, and living with limited time.

This bestselling novel exemplifies realistic fiction because it is set in modern times, the characters are involved in a situation that is sadly not far from some people's reality, and they live in the familiar setting of a suburban American town. Hazel, Isaac, Augustus, and the minor characters involved all seem like they could be real people, and the questions raised about love, death, and teenage struggles are ones that many people must ask themselves in real life.

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