Realistic fiction is a genre of stories where events are made up, but they could quickly happen in real life. These stories take place in familiar, everyday settings and have ordinary characters. They aim to represent real life.

Unlike fantasy or science fiction, realistic fiction features ordinary people and ordinary places – no fire-breathing dragons or adventures alongside aliens in outer space.

Instead, realistic fiction focuses on conflicts and problems that any person might face. For example, it might be about losing old friends and making new ones, moving to a new and unfamiliar place, or winning a sports competition. Whatever the story’s about, it shows our world and our society.

What are the characteristics of realistic fiction?

Specific characteristics of a story tell us what genre it is – so there are characteristics that tell us whether a story fits in the realistic fiction genre.

  • The story takes place in the present or the recent past (if it’s set further in the past, then it’s historical fiction).
  • The characters live in places that could be or are genuine.
  • The characters seem like real people.
  • They behave and speak in a way that makes them appear authentic.
  • The events that unfold are events that might happen in real life.
  • The characters’ problems are realistic, something people struggle with in real life.
  • For example, moving to a new place, growing up, and making friends.
  • The solution to fix the characters’ problems is believable and rooted in the characters’ actions.
  • They don’t just have a magic spell to wish it all away.
  • The themes make the reader think about things that they face in everyday life.

If the story you’re reading (or writing!) has these characteristics, it’s most likely realistic fiction.

Examples of realistic fiction for kids

‘Wonder’ by R J Palacio

‘Wonder’ tells the story of a young boy named August Pullman (‘Auggie’) who goes to school for the first time. His facial difference prevented him from attending a mainstream school, but now he can. He wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary child.

The story features realistic characters with real issues that people might face in the real world. It’s also set in the natural setting of a school in America.

‘Bridge to Terabithia’ by Katherine Paterson

This children’s novel is about two lonely children who create a magical forest together – but it’s all in their imagination. The story explores the realistic themes of friendship, loss, and loneliness.

Fitting with the realistic fiction genre, the characters are realistic and face real problems. The setting is also natural – a town in America.

Further Realistic Fiction Examples

  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Don’t Forget Me, Nana Phoebe by Twinkl Originals
  • Dipal’s Diwali by Twinkl Originals

What makes good realistic fiction?

A good realistic fiction story is believable. The characters should be authentic and relatable, perhaps having just as many weaknesses as they do strengths.

The problems the characters face should also be ordinary and realistic – issues that anyone could encounter during their life. The way that these problems are dealt with should also be realistic, not exaggerated or blown out of proportion.

Just like other fiction genres, themes are also essential for realistic fiction. Some of the most common themes of realistic fiction are friendship, love, school, growing up, and family. These should be woven into the story’s plot and characters.

How do you teach realistic fiction?

Here are some tips for teaching realistic fiction to your class:

  1. Explore the characteristics

First, you should explore how characters, settings, plots, and themes work in realistic fiction. What are the characters like? What should the setting be? What themes are usually written about in this genre?

It will help to give an overview of the genre and show your class what to expect when reading a realistic fiction book.

  1. Analyse short realistic fiction

Once your pupils are familiar with the genre, it’s time to start reading! You could start with an extract or short story that fits within the genre. Ask your pupils about the characters, setting, plot, and themes. What makes it real? Do they think the events could happen in real life?

  1. Write realistic fiction

An excellent way for your pupils to consolidate their learning is to have a go at writing realistic fiction. After learning about the different elements of the genre and taking a closer look at them in an extract or short story, they should be ready to use what they’ve learned to write their realistic fiction.

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