Types of Realistic Fiction
stories have been around since Victorian days when
they were the mainstay of a girl's reading.
stories frequently rely on episodic plots, since they
are built around the daily details and activities, the
squabblings, the schemings, the reconciliations, in which
families are normally engaged.
Many of the
early family stories plumbed the depths of Victorian
sentimentalism. For example, the family is portrayed
destitute but virtuous, the self-sacrificing and dutiful
children always ready to do more than their fair share for
the family's well-being, and their widowed mother draws
strength from their unfailing togetherness.
family stories, the family was a haven from the troubles
of the world, whereas modern family stories often
portray the family as the source of trouble. Today's
family is characterized by working parents, single parents,
neglectful parents, ungrateful children, sibling rivalry,
and a general breakdown in communications.
Women" (1867), presenting a realistic portrayal of
mid-19th-century American family life with all its ups and
of Green Gables" (1908), an early family story about an
orphan and her new family.
Stories of Social Realism
This type of stories deal with
friendship, self-identity, racial prejudice, child abuse,
sexual abuse, homosexuality, and other social issues that
may involve in human growth and development.
Classis example: Mark Twain's
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1884), depicting young
people struggling with unlikely friendships and dealing with
a troubled society.
The authors of this type of
stories believe that it is better for young readers to learn
about the harsh subjects of life from a capable and
sensitive writer than from ill-informed friends or a bad
Adventure and Survival Stories
Adventure stories, often
romantic, have long been popular with children. Many
adventure stories are, in fact, survival stories,
which depict individuals pitted against the forces of
nature or, in many modern works, the forces of a
cruel, insensitive society. They are usually
coming-of-age stories depicting individuals rising above
adversity, facing forces that are greater and more
formidable than they are, and discovering themselves.
One key element in survival
stories is their detailing of the means of survival -
the protagonist's locating food, providing shelter from the
elements, and securing protection from threatening forces.
Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure
Island" (1883), the classic pirate tale with an exotic
setting, mysterious characters, and an action-packed plot.
Daniel Defoe's "Robinson
Crusoe" (1719), the classic survival story depicting an
individual taming the wild tropical paradise.
Scott O'Dell's "Island of the
Blue Dolphins", one of the first modern survival stories
conveying the message that in real life survival means
sacrifice, suffering, adaptation, and
or Detective Stories
The mystery or detective story
is a form of romance, escapist fiction creating a
world more exciting, more dangerous, and more beautiful than
we imagine our own to be.
The mystery first popularized
in the early 19th century by
Edgar Allan Poe. It always involves the solving of a
puzzle - usually a crime. The success of a
mystery depends on the clever planting of clues and the
ingenuity of the puzzle and its solution. The mystery writer
must keep a delicate balance, knowing just how much to
reveal and when.
This type of stories hinge on
the premise that animal characters share certain human
traits - the capacity for love, loyalty, jealousy, fear,
Realistic animal stories first
appeared in the late 19th century and early 20th century and
they were most popular in North America. The animals in
these stories live as animals, behave as animals, and do
Animal stories often portray
the relationship between an animal and a youthful human
companion. One serious theme recurring in many animal
stories is that of animals falling prey to the savage
insensitivity of human beings.
Animal stories have proved to
be among the most enduring of modern children's
literature and are the frequent inspirations for the
cinema. However, animal stories also have the reputation for
being tearjerkers and lack appeal for older readers
who like to go beyond such sentimentality.
Classic examples: Anna
Beauty" (1877), Jack London's "White
Fang" and "Call
of the Wild" (1903).
Sport stories originated in
the boys' magazines of the 19th century, but they became
full-blown books in the 20th century.
Sport stories promote high
moral character and good sportsmanship. They are usually
coming-of-age stories, particularly when the protagonist
gains self-knowledge through participation in sports.
Most sports stories hinge on
the excitement of the game, the necessity for teamwork and
fair sportsmanship, and the interpersonal problems that
develop between the players. They are popular because of
their subject matter, although too often the plots are
predictable, the characters are stereotyped, and the
dialogue is trite.
Historical fiction is set in a
time period that is earlier from the time the work was
written (at least a generation - 20 years - earlier).
Early historical fiction
sprang from the Romantic Movement and appealed to the
Romantic desire to escape from the frantic pace of modern
life. In the later 19th century, historical fiction became
popular with young readers who were drawn in by the exotic
settings, colorful adventures, and heroic figures of the
early historical novels.
The requirements of good
Recreating the historical
Avoiding overloading the story
with historical background information.
Making credible dialogues and
using language suited to the historical time.
Viewing history with
sensitivity and objectivity.
This genre is now recovering
its popularity and some very fine historical fiction is
being written for children with an emphasis on
reassessing and understanding the past, rather than
Reading historical fiction is
one way to broaden our horizons, to learn more about the
people and places of our world by reading about the past.
Another important reason is to learn to avoid making the
mistakes of the past.
Classic example: Charlotte
Dove in the Eagle' s Nest" (1866) and Howard Pyle's "The
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood" (1883)