Realism and Antirealism in Writing

As a writer, I draw upon realism to create antirealistic worlds. As a reader, I have to accept truth on different terms when I immerse myself in a book and believe in the fantastical world the story is about. Versimilitude is the appearance of being real or true. It’s important when it comes to both writing and filmmaking, and is an art that requires skill and technique to make your reader believe that what they are reading is actually true.

Realism and Antirealism in Writing - Tea with Tumnus

You can have ideologies, plots, and characters that are realistic in a totally fantastic, extraordinary, antirealistic world or setting. Even if you are writing a sci-fi novel about robots and extraterrestrial beings and space and time travel, you can still connect with your readers on a deep, personal level. Strange as this may seem, you know it’s true. The characters and the experiences they go through in your favorite fantasy or sci-fi books resonate with you and your experiences. Once you relate with the characters and understand the problems they have, it’s easier to feel for them, to root for them, as well as appreciate the setting they are in. It’s just one of the many reasons why science fiction and fantasy is such a popular getaway or mode of entertainment for many of us. It’s one of the reasons how I, a totally mundane muggle and aspiring author, can write the most extraordinary, out-of-this-world, bizarre stories involving places and things and technology and super abilities that don’t exist or no one’s even thought of before. Not only do science fiction and fantasy temporarily provide us an escape route into a unique and immersive world, it also has what every single story and myth since the dawn of mankind has had: Characters. A problem. Strengths. Weaknesses. A hero. A villain. And a story that we all can connect with.

Antirealistic stories need something to build off of, and that’s realism. Sci-fi and fantasy take the struggles we all have, the fears and the joys and the triumphs and the horrors we humans have in common, and put those realistic traits in a totallly speculative, make-believe, magical, and unrealistic world or setting. The characters themselves may even be far from human, but if they have feelings, or experiences, and obstacles to overcome that remind us of ourselves, that will pull us into the story even more than the fantastical arrangement that conflict and the lives of the characters take place in.

It’s nearly impossible to write a compelling story without characters. You can create an amazing, unique, and well rounded world complete with different cultures, religions, and ways of living. You can make your own languages, build your own kingdoms, develop markets and economies and modes of transportation, communication, traditions, and systems in every aspect of life in that world. But no one will be drawn to it, immersed in it, or as interested in reading any of it unless it features a cast of characters with a hero and a villain, both with backstories, motives, relationships, and a problem they’re trying to fix and/or trying to defeat. Just like us. Just like our ordinary, normal, maybe even seemingly boring lives.

But none of our lives are boring. Heck, how is that even possible, when no one on planet Earth is exactly the same?

You say “life is boring, let’s go watch a movie and be entertained.” And sure, entertainment does come in the forms of CGI, action, violence, plots, settings, etc., etc. But I should say that most of that entertainment comes from the charaters who, deep down inside, are people just like us.

Every good and widely acclaimed science fiction and fantasy story features antirealistic elements, yes. But the main reason we are drawn to stories like these is because of the realism that we compare to our everyday lives. We see ourselves and our experiences in both the characters of superhero and the evil villain. And that draws us in. And, if the story has a deeper meaning behind it, perhaps we’ll walk away with an inspiring thought or something we’ve learned, and if that happens to a future reader of mine, my main goal as a writer will have been reached.


What are your thoughts on the subject? How do you use realistic aspects of life in your work of fiction, and how do you use realism to connect your readers to your characters’ story? Remember (and I can’t stress this enough): Characters are the most important thing in a story. A story isn’t a story without characters. And characters can be anybody, anything. As long as a story has characters, a story has creativity, a plot, a conflict, and a reason to keep reading, and writing, the story. And in this case, no matter how antirealistic your story is, realism counts.

Best of luck to my fellow writers and thank y’all for reading! Don’t forget to follow the blog and check out my other posts on writing! May the Force and your pen be with you.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Marrok says:

    This was such a cool read! I totally agree! I actually think the best characters are the ones in which the author bases their own struggles and life experiences on. Because even though they may be a fictional character their struggle steams from a real person and it is because of that, that we find ourselves in that character. And it is that, that makes them human to us. At lest that’s my thoughts on it (I could be wrong)


    1. Yes, I definitely agree!!! I think developing characters based on ourselves is a main element of realism in stories, and it does connect readers to the characters because fictional people are based off real people. Good point!! And thanks for reading!! πŸ˜€


  2. FC. Tait says:

    Yes, I think characters are the most important thing (and so the hardest thing) to get right. I find I can forgive a less-than-perfect plot or world if I’m invested in the characters, but not the other way around.
    I’ve heard people say that writing fantasy and sci-fi is easier than other genres because you get to make up the rules, but I think in some ways you have to work harder on keeping some things realistic because otherwise all the unrealistic elements become overwhelming and meaningless.
    Thanks for the great post. πŸ™‚


    1. Yes, that’s an awesome point!! I personally think that well-developed and rounded characters are the most important thing in a story, and a story without characters isn’t really a story at all. (At least, it doesn’t follow the standard narrative structure.) I also agree that it’s important to keep some elements of sci-fi and fantasy realistic, and in my experience, that is hard! There’s got to be some realistic elements for the reader to connect to, and having realistic characters in an antirealistic world is super important.
      Thanks for reading and for the awesome insight!! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an amazing post! “A story isn’t a story without characters.” AMEN. Being able to connect to characters is the whole point of a story. I love how you can connect on a deep level with characters that are hugely different from you if they are written well, because no matter how different they are, there are certain profoundly human traits (whether or not the character happens to be human is beside the point) that we can all relate to. Through these characters our minds can open to concepts that we may have never thought of on our own. I love how through fantasy, which people argue is the furthest from reality, we can gain a deeper understanding OF reality. And it’s because of the characters. In the end it’s not the flashy, outlandish elements that make the story effect you- it’s the characters. Placing the characters in bizarre worlds can help us to understand them better- because our minds are really bizarre places, and that’s kind of what fantasy is.
    I’m just rambling now, but again, great post!


    1. Yes, yes yes!!! You’re totally right and I love these good points you have! Fantasy/sci-fi writers may in fact have a better perception of reality BECAUSE we write fantasy and sci-fi, and those genres actually help us understand the world, mankind, and life in general. And yes, our minds are the craziest places, and yet that’s where understanding is fostered. That’s so ironic! Thanks for reading and for rambling. That’s what the comment section is for on this blog. Great stuff! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

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