5 Realistic Fiction Story Ideas for Modern Storytellers

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.

drama in realistic fiction story ideas


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.


relationships in realistic fiction story ideasDivorce 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.


realistic fiction story ideasThis 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.


Your Turn!


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.

22 thoughts on “5 Realistic Fiction Story Ideas for Modern Storytellers

  1. Matthew says:

    I am pretty new to writing myself so I would love to learn how to engage my readers.I have a couple of books published on Amazon but they are just info guides about health and fitness but I would love to write a best selling fiction book someday but I have a long way to go for that.
    I love the ideas that you show here and it has given me a little inspiration to start my own
    What would you say is a good length book to write? I have heard that it doesn’t really matter how long it is but how good the content is.
    What do you think?

    • Theresa Hammond says:

      Hey, Matthew! In general, the word count is up to the author, but there are often standards for different genres. I would suggest at least 60,000 words if you’re writing a full novel, but you can also write novellas or even short story collections. I suggest looking at bestselling books in your genre to see if they tend to fall within a given range. 

      I still think that you should see what length is needed for your novel. You never want to fluff it up just to hit a word count. Some stories demand more space than others.

  2. Karen says:

    Fantastic post, thank you for sharing these ideas. I love the idea of these themes carrying their way through the story, yet as you say, these are just ideas in which to launch your writing from. The quote from John Steinbeck is awesome too… sometimes my head is so full of different story ideas I don’t know where to start! Cheers, Karen

    • Theresa Hammond says:

      It’s always better to have too many ideas than not enough! I like trying to combine ideas even if they don’t seem to go together. You can get some fresh ideas that way.

  3. Hari S Nair says:

    I love telling stories and I have a lot of interest in writing fiction, your blog is amazing. These ideas are quite interesting to write about, every person can write a new story based on these ideas and it will be well received because I find them all relative to the audience of the modern world.

    The first idea feels like a script hint for a soap opera, many people like these types of dramas because it connects with the daily lives of people. My favorite is the 5th one, such a story will give people a reason to accept their flaws and overcome the difficulties faced by them, it will be inspirational and it holds the potential to transform a person’s life.

    • Theresa Hammond says:

      You gave me a chuckle, Hari 🙂 Some fiction is soap opera-esque, right? I tried to present a range of ideas because my followers write different types of fiction. Thanks for reading! 

  4. Alblue says:

    Oh this is great idea! I have a ‘bank idea’ myself in my note application to write any idea popped up in my mind, although I haven’t have time yet to write it into fiction stories. Do you have some general ideas for fantasy fiction stories? I see that above ideas can be applied for drama fiction, but for fantasy stories, I think it will good for secondary plot.

    • Theresa Hammond says:

      I think you can twist these into fantasy stories. Let me think on that and maybe I’ll put up a post specifically for fantasy. Thanks for reading! 

  5. Paul says:

    Hi Theresa,

    I got great insights and ideas on storytelling, thanks a lot for this helpful article. Being a writer and a speaker your article means a lot to me.

    You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built in the human plan. We come with it. – Margaret Atwood

    Storytelling is the powerful way to put ideas into the world and by telling story we can engage our audience (readers). It will help in easy understanding. Once I read, Those who tell the stories rule the world and after reading that quote my whole perspective changed in my writing and storytelling.

    Great stories happen to those who can tell them. – Ira Glas

  6. Sonia Karel says:

    I really like this post; you offer a lot of great vague ideas for a solid foundation that a person could begin a realistic story with. I personally really like the idea of a positive opportunity that actually leads to more harm than good. Very realistic indeed…. And #5; personality flaw or personal quirk holds a character back from something great. That is what I think is the foundation of a lot of people’s dreams being shattered and people not living up to their true potential. We all tend to read and write stories about the guy with the flaw that makes him great, but more likely the case in life is that there is a flaw that keeps them from becoming great. I really love that you acknowledged that. 

    • Theresa Hammond says:

      I agree Sonia. It’s more intriguing to view things in reverse of the norm. A lot of realistic fiction is character based, so looking at flaws and character traits is a great way to drum up some conflict and make your characters work harder to reach their goals. 

  7. Rose says:

    Thanks for this post on how to covert the realistic fictions story ideas for modern storytellers, well I like reading stories a lot and I prefer reading the ones written from the true-life story , but I wanna ask if you convert a realistic fiction into a modern story, won’t they look too real or maybe the storyteller gonna add up some developed fictions by himself to make up the storyline??? thanks 

    • Theresa Hammond says:

      Hey, Rose! The goal is to take the general idea and give it your own spin. You can give 10 writers the same prompt or theme and they will all come up with a different story. We all have our own life experiences and creative ideas, so it all comes out different for every writer. A single writer could probably come up with a lot of different ideas from just one of these story ideas as well.

      Thanks for reading!

  8. Rodarrick says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. Writing stories cannot be more easier than the way it has been presented here. Thanks a lot for the story ideas you have shared here. Though developing these ideas is another case entirely but then, it makes a lot of sense. Thumbs up to you for sharing every bit of details of this too. I’d try my best to see the potentials of merging some ides together

  9. Shelley says:

    In all honesty and truth, It was when I read through this post that it dawn on me that most of the things I have read on these days are simply on these 5ideas. Only that the writers might decide to be unconventional in the manner of approach. Really good to see here. Thanks for this enlightenment.

    • Theresa Hammond says:

      There are genuinely “new” ideas, Shelley. It’s just the individual writer’s spin on it. I’m going to post an update with some new ideas soon, so there are others out there 🙂 

  10. Benny says:

    Exactly! you are right on spot with this post here. Though this often varies depending on the writer but most times, the plot and the storyline always revolve around these five subjects. This is really good. For you to have been able to come up with this, that means you have rad widely and well. Great one you have here. Thumbs up

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