Let's Get Real With Fiction Writing!

Realistic fiction is a genre that doesn’t get the attention in writing programs it deserves. It’s there under our noses, yet we are frequently drawn towards other genres.

Interestingly, much of the fiction that students have read to them or they select for themselves, incorporates this genre. So they are quite familiar with its structure and features.

Realistic fiction involves stories that are true to life. Students quickly realize that you don’t have things such as talking animals and cars that fly in realistic fiction. If students are taught to ask the question, ‘Could this actually happen? It will keep them away from potential pitfalls as they develop a text.

It’s perfectly legitimate to use a real event as a starting point for a realistic fiction writing piece. I have put together some possible ways to use a real event as a launching pad for a fictional piece.

Ask students to:

Make a list of at least five real life events (funny, exciting, weird, scary) that have directly affected you, the writer. Choose one to use as the starting point for their ‘made up’ story. This becomes the impetus for the writing that follows:

· Find a real problem for the characters to solve
· Change the names of characters.
· Add additional characters to a real event
· Change how characters talk, behave or react.
· Change the setting where the action takes place.
· Change the beginning.
· Change the way the event begins and concludes
· Add more to the story

Using such a framework provides great scaffolding for the young writer to use and develop ideas.

Another strategy is to use ‘brainstorming’ to discover a possible ‘problem’ that will guide the writing.

Here’s how it works:

List one or two problems that may be linked to the following categories:
Schools, friends, holidays, neighborhoods, families, sport.

Then have students decide if the main character they have in mind could possibly solve one of the listed problems. If not, think of a problem that character could adequately resolve. If that fails –change the character to someone more able to deal with such challenges!

*Listing ideas as a pre writing strategy may prove helpful to many young writers. It will assist them to see more clearly if they have covered the basics.

Realistic Fiction Planning Sheet:

Characters: Who are the main characters. What do they look like? How do they speak? Behave?

Setting: Where and when the action takes place.

Problem/s: what problems does the main character need to overcome?

Story Scenes: What are some of the things the main character may attempt in order to solve the problem? This is where the writer needs to stretch out the problem. The solution needs to be stretched out in the same way.
*Many young writers resolve these issues with inordinate haste and this lessens the tension of the writing.

Purpose: Will the story line be dramatic, humorous, scary, sad, This will guide the writing

One of the great things about teaching this writing genre is that there is an abundance of great literary models for students to read. Encouraging them to read as writers and notice particular techniques employed by other writers will significantly improve the uptake of ideas. These ideas can be readily applied to the student’s own written pieces. So try getting real!


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