For some writers, it's easy to come up with a story about space aliens, vampires, superheroes, or magical beings. But what if you're looking to write a more grounded, realistic short story or book? Well, you might need some realistic fiction story ideas. Luckily, that's just what we have for you in this article. We'll talk about different ways to come up with realistic fiction ideas, and we'll provide you with a list of realistic fiction story prompts to get you going.
Let's get going!
- What realistic fiction is
- How to come up with story ideas in this genre
- Prompts for realistic fiction stories
- How to test your idea before you write
Table of contents
What is Realistic Fiction?
As the name suggests, realistic fiction defines fictional stories that are grounded in reality. There are believable characters, the situations are easily recognizable, and the conflicts are genuine. These storylines can take place at any time, but they're usually contemporary to the author's life. A realistic fiction tale may seem like a true story, but it's not.
Realistic fiction is not a genre of its own. There is some definite overlap with other genres, like literary fiction and historical fiction. The main characters can be anyone from high school kids to elderly adults. Even children can be major players in a realistic fiction story. But one thing has to hold true: they need to be realistic characters in realistic settings.
Coming Up With Realistic Fiction Story Ideas
There are about as many ways to come up with story ideas as there are writers. Obviously, no one can tell you what to write, but you can get inspiration from anywhere. And the following tips should help do just that.
Choose a Theme
Writing with an overarching theme in mind can help get the ideas rolling. And there are some common themes in realistic fiction that have held true over the years.
- Love – All different types of love — new, old, unrequited, platonic, fading — make excellent themes for realistic fiction.
- Growing Up – Some of the best realistic fiction is about changing from childhood to adulthood, or from adulthood to old age.
- Life Changes – From divorce and sickness to getting fired and learning to truly live, life changes have made for many a great story in this literary genre.
- Self-Discovery – The successful woman realizes there's more to life than working 60 hours a week. The college student suddenly realizes that his true passion lies in religion after a near-death experience. Everyone goes through self-discovery, which makes it an excellent theme.
- Bravery/Perseverance – Finding the will and the way to face unbeatable odds is a very human thing. We take solace in others learning to live their best lives in the face of great adversity.
- Social Issues/Injustice – Some of the most impactful realistic fiction stories deal with social issues such as racism and injustice. Creative writing in the realistic fiction genre is all about exploring these kinds of issues through compelling and believable characters.
You may have noticed that all these themes are very human. Of course, you could argue that every story is, at its core, human. But these themes are especially human because they're about struggles that people from all walks of life have to deal with. They're about humans dealing with very human problems. If you keep that in mind, you won't go wrong while crafting your realistic story.
Draft Some Characters
Remember that characters in realistic fiction won't have superpowers, magical abilities, or the ability to read other people's thoughts. They won't live in a futuristic science fiction civilization. They're just people, which means you can take inspiration from real life.
Try to nail down some character specifics for your protagonist first. Will she be an aging woman who just lost her husband of forty years? Will he be an accountant who saves a young boy's life on his way to work?
Your main character should absolutely have a story arc, so think about what you want that arc to be. Uplifting stories generally have a positive arc with a relatively happy ending. But, like life, there's no guarantee of a happy ending in realistic fiction.
Also, think about some traits or quirks you want your main character to have. Not only physical traits, but beliefs, habits, and compulsions, as well. Check out this article for more on making believable characters.
Realistic Fiction Story Prompts
The following prompts are designed to get the ideas flowing. You can choose a writing prompt and stick close to it, or you can let it take you in any direction you please. The story you end up with may look nothing like the writing prompt you started with! Let each prompt be the story idea that sparks a novel or a short story.
1. Write a story about a character learning that the most important aspect of a relationship isn't what she once thought it was.
2. Write a story about a group of close friends becoming a family after one of their own passes away.
3. Explore the meaning of love through the eyes of two different characters from opposite sides of the world.
4. Write about a character learning about self-fulfillment vs happiness the hard way.
5. Write about an old couple finally going on a train trip through Europe in an effort to save their marriage.
6. Write a story about a character who struggles with self-esteem and vanity.
7. Explore where true confidence comes from.
8. Write a story about characters learning what's truly important as they move from adolescence to adulthood.
9. Write about a woman who meets the love of her life as a result of the 9/11 attacks.
10. Explore the importance of learning to help others during tough times.
11. Write a story in the form of a personal narrative from the perspective of a cult leader.
12. Explore the life of a fictional 19th-century suffragette.
13. Weave the story arcs of several seemingly disparate characters into one surprise ending where they all get what they've been searching for — together.
14. Write a story about a character who loses one of their five senses but learns to live better for it.
15. Write about a character overcoming drug addiction.
16. Write about a character who willfully decides to turn around their philosophy about life, learning to live with intention.
17. Write a story about an author who struggles with writing until something drastic happens in their life.
18. Explore where morals come from and why there's such a big wide range of them.
19. Explore a situation (either real or fictional) in which the majority was wrong about something that affected people's lives.
20. Write a story about a character learning that his concept of love is unhealthy.
21. Write about a family of refugees struggling to survive as they flee their war-torn country.
22. Write a story about an aging athlete who does the impossible.
23. Write about two characters struggling to shift their priorities and keep their relationship intact as they age.
24. Explore a character's trip through the criminal justice system as she is wrongfully convicted of a crime.
25. Write about an entrepreneur's journey to start a small business while his larger competitor sabotages him.
26. Write about a man's journey to return a lost child to his parents.
27. Write about a character learning to love herself before she can love anyone else.
28. Explore the implications of obsession.
29. Write about two characters who used to be best friends when they were kids reconnecting after many years.
30. Start your story with a small moment that has outsized and unforeseen consequences.
31. Write about a teenager who runs away from home after an argument with his parents.
32. Write about the last citizens of a dying town, struggling to revitalize the area.
33. Explore a historic earthquake or natural disaster through the eyes of fictional characters experiencing it.
34. Write about two children who are accidentally left at an amusement park.
35. Write a story about characters during the Great Depression.
36. Write about a dispute between neighbors that gets quickly out of hand.
37. Explore the meaning of Christmas through the eyes of a character who has just lost her family.
38. Explore the trials and tribulations of a character who was devastated by the 2008 financial crisis.
39. Write about a person who leaves everything behind to join a cult (e.g. Peoples Temple or Heaven's Gate).
40. Explore the implications of a husband who is caught spending time with a son he's just learned about.
41. Write a story about parents who struggle with a teenager who has mental health issues.
42. Write a story about siblings who struggle to deal with the mental and physical deterioration of one or both parents.
43. Write a story about a kid who has to deal with bullying at his new school.
44. Write a real-life fairy tale without the magic. Set it in modern times.
45. Explore the high-stakes corporate world through the eyes of a woman who encounters a glass ceiling.
46. Write about a poll worker who is accused of doctoring ballots during a particularly virulent election.
47. Explore the implications of a gender reassignment operation through the eyes of the person undergoing the operation.
48. Write a story about a young woman who struggles with anxiety as she makes her way through the world.
49. Write a story about a pair of identical twins who have to learn to live their own lives after spending so much time together as children.
50. Write a story about a town that suffers a severe earthquake.
Vetting Your Realistic Fiction Idea
In the realistic fiction genre, good writing is a combination of compelling story elements, characters that feel real, and situations that are easily recognizable. Of course, a knack for narrative writing is also a plus. Fortunately, all these things can be learned.
But in the competitive fiction market, you need more than just a great story to succeed. For the best chance of success, you need to position the book into the correct categories and ensure you have the best metadata so readers can find it.
And the easiest way to do this is with Publisher Rocket. If you find a story idea that you like, you can vet it with Publisher Rocket, ensuring that the category isn't too competitive. Publisher Rocket can also tell you if there is a demand for the type of realistic fiction story you're going to write.
- Publisher Rocket's keyword search tool can help you determine what phrases and keywords Amazon shoppers are actually using when looking for realistic fiction books on Amazon.
- The Competition Analyzer helps you to see what other realistic fiction authors are doing and approximately how much they're making from their books.
- The AMS Keyword Search function can help you formulate the best Amazon Ad campaigns for your realistic fiction book.
- Lastly, the Category Search function helps you to choose the best categories when you publish your book on Amazon. This is very important for visibility!
This tool does the heavy lifting for you, searching through Amazon to bring you information on keywords, categories, and competition. Learn more about Publisher Rocket here.
Realistic Fiction Story Ideas: Final Thoughts
Each writer has their own writing process, but the prompts and tips above should help you get into the creative flow. Whether you use a prompt as the spark of inspiration for a full-length book or for a short story idea doesn't really matter. Many great realistic fiction writers got good with short stories before moving on to novels. What matters is that you stay consistent and keep writing. The more you write, the better you'll get!