Contemporary or realistic fiction is simply a fictional story set in modern/contemporary times—pretty self-explanatory. You’ve probably read a lot of “contemporary” fiction without even realizing it. It’s a story that is entirely made up, but could take place in the world as we know it today. There’s no fantastical, magical elements, characters are usually simple and relatable, and the plot—again—is believable. It typically highlights its characters, focusing on their growth and development.
Sometimes, you need an escape, maybe to a world that bears no resemblance to your own. Personally, I wouldn’t necessarily want to be reading Stephen King’s The Stand right now. But for me—at least, most of the time—I find that I most enjoy stories I can relate to. It holds a deeper meaning when I read a book and can imagine it transpiring in real life. Somehow, the characters feel more real that way, more relatable, and everything that occurs in the story has more of an impact. Taking an in-depth look into a character’s growth and evolution or following him/her through everyday life has that sense of normalcy combined with an engaging plot (well, when it’s written well).
Unfortunately, contemporary fiction can get muddied with a lot of YA fiction that is not well-written and consequently the genre has garnered a bad rep. Contemporary fiction is here to stay, and I only see the genre growing in popularity rather than fading to the cobwebbed corners of bookstores as some predict. When executed properly, it holds a certain power I don’t think many other genres can replicate.
We tell stories and listen to stories everyday. From explaining that funny incident that happened at the grocery store to persuading our family members who to vote for, there’s no denying that stories at their core are necessary. Influential speeches don’t just rattle off facts and statistics (though that can be persuasive too), but they engage human emotions through the art of storytelling. People are more influential than numbers and fiction is equally persuasive as notable speeches. Most everyone has felt sympathetic or empathetic towards someone, whether a loved one or a stranger. The execution of words, when done properly, is a fascinating and powerful thing.
This is where contemporary fiction comes into play. If I read a captivating fictional story about a woman who is obsessively stalked and manipulated by her attractive, seemingly normal boyfriend (yes, I’m referring to Caroline Kepnes’ debut novel You), I’m not going to put it down, feeling nothing because it’s a work of fiction. Just because this certain story was fabricated doesn’t mean nothing similar could happen—the scary part is how realistic stories of this nature can be, while still retaining that fictional element. Most abusive boyfriends aren’t as intelligent and quick-witted as Joe Goldberg, but a lot of women suffer from the manipulation portrayed in this book. It’s self-aware and calls attention to a lot of rom-com tropes and draws a lot of attention to the prevalence of these types of relationships.
There are a lot of contemporary fiction pieces on my mind and I’m excited to explore and analyze their significance and influence in the world today.