Coming up with successful realistic fiction story ideas is challenging because you want your readers to relate to your characters and storylines without getting bored. You want them to analyze their own lives and connect with your characters, but you also want your work to offer something unique. You want to stand apart from the crowd by embracing modern trends and presenting voices that are often ignored.
You don’t need an elaborate plot with lots of twists and a shocking ending to stand out, and trying to come up with a story idea that has never been used before certainly won’t work. When you look at the fiction that has been published over the years, it’s easy to recognize some realistic fiction ideas that have been used over and over again by many successful authors through the decades.
Each of these ideas feel fresh and new in each book because the writers add their own creative punch to the storyline. Fresh characters that could live next door or across town in the modern world can give new life to a well-used story idea.
To give you a jumping off point for your own short stories, consider five timeless realistic fiction story ideas that have been used many times before, but which are still relevant today.
1. An outsider causes drama in a family unit.
Mama has a new boyfriend, or perhaps she thinks her children love her boyfriend only to find that they’re unhappy once he proposes marriage. Little sister falls into a romantic relationship with big brother’s best friend. The well-behaved, college-bound high school student falls in love with an older rebel, and the quiet, mundane life at home becomes chaotic.
There are so many ways that a newcomer can turn family dynamics upside down, and some of the best realistic fiction story ideas are born from the resulting chaos.
2. The trials and tribulations of growing up take one character on a wild ride.
This is one of the best realistic fiction short story ideas because there are so many ways to make it modern. While there have been many coming-of-age stories that deal with first sexual encounters, rejection and other general themes, modern trends are moving in the direction of gender identification and confusion, sugar daddies, genital mutilation, identity after immigration and many other complex topics that are experienced by many modern teenagers and young adults.
What if that first sexual encounter is less than traditional because it’s with a boy who lives as a girl but hasn’t openly revealed that information to your main character? What does growing up look like when you take someone who doesn’t speak English and drop them into a modern, big-city high school in the U.S.? What about that young girl who wants to sell her virginity to a sugar daddy rather than give it away to a boy who has nothing to offer in return?
There are so many possible realistic fiction stories and book ideas if you combine this timeless theme with modern realities. Start with a young adult or teenager, identify their struggle in our complicated world, and see where your writing takes them.
3. The end of a relationship reveals the true character of one person or a family unit.
Divorce may come instantly to mind, but that isn’t the only relationship change that can cause tension in a family or force a character to see the world differently. What happens to a teenager when her mother forbids her to speak to her favorite aunt? How does a family pull together or fall apart when a grandfather is accused of molesting his grandchild?
Identify a powerful relationship, and then break it in some way. For instance, two friends who feel more like family are driven apart by a difference in political opinions. Think about the step siblings who grew up together but now ignore one another at school because their parents are no longer speaking. Maybe ponder the son who can no longer see his mother in the same light after discovering she pays for his college tuition through prostitution.
4. A positive opportunity leads to unexpected problems.
Someone just landed a new job with a big salary and corner office with a view. A young man hits the lotto jackpot, or a drug dealer tired of hustling is showered with an inheritance he didn’t know was coming. A girl’s high school boyfriend has just returned from his first tour of duty with the military, but her excitement is quickly shattered when she realizes he’s not the boy that he was upon leaving.
Good things don’t always bring happiness, so they’re often the foundation for amazing realistic fiction story ideas. The stories resulting from a good-turns-bad plot are often the most fun to write because you get to take your characters on an emotional roller coaster. You often have a variety of ending options, so you can decide which emotion you leave your characters holding.
5. A personality flaw or personal quirk holds a character back from something great.
This is the ultimate setup for a story of courage and grit. We’re talking about the boy with severe social anxiety who becomes an applauded and very rich actor. What about the prettiest girl in school who wants to go to college but cannot pass a test to save her life due to a learning disability?
We all have our flaws, and there are millions of disorders and personal quirks that you can use to come up with amazing short fiction story ideas. If you want your story to have some modern edge, go with quirks or flaws that weren’t always recognized in generations past.
How can you spice up some of these tried and true realistic fiction story ideas to make them your own? Maybe you can combine some of these short fiction story ideas to create new varieties that haven’t been used as often. Remember, characters are critical if you want any story idea to come alive for your readers.