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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How Important is "REALISM?" - Comment Giveaway!

How important is realism?
If you read fantasy or scifi there is a lot of room for the author to stretch realism.  But if you read historical or contemporary romance how important is it for the plot/facts to be completely realistic?  Is it okay if the events are possible even if they may not be probable?  Would that effect how you like or rate the book?

This is a real snowman but how likely is it?

Picture from Bing Images -

Actually - I have had lack of realism effect my rating.  I read one story where the circumstances were so improbable to me that it ruined the rest of the story.  Now in that instance, I recall I had some trouble with liking the characters and felt there was lack of consistency. Every thing felt flat as well as unbelievable. So the lack of realism only compounded an unhappy read for me.

On another occasion the circumstances of the story were on the edge of believable - it could happen but not likely! But I liked the characters and the intent of the story so much that the "stretch of the circumstances" didn't bother me. I still found the story engaging, upbeat, sweet and fun and therefore overlooked the improbabilities!  I would however mark the story down by at least .25 because of the realism issue.

Now on to a more technical area of accuracy: what about a historical romance that has a feature definitely out of time? For example buttons before they were in use?  Would you notice? Would you care?  I for one wouldn't know when buttons began to be used without looking it up (probably at a good historical author blog!) So I probably wouldn't notice that type of detail. But I know there are some historical readers who would definitely notice!

So tell me what you think?? How important is realism to YOU in the books you read?

Leave a comment to win a book from the Friday Picks!  Winner will be randomly selected from all comments made through Thursday midnight and announced Friday with the Friday 1/15 pick winners!

This is my SaSR Tuesday topic today.


  1. I don't think that affects my rating but of course it depends on the book. If the book is interesting and the characters grab me then I'm ok with suspending a little disbelief.

  2. Hi, Martha! I love attention to detail in historical romances. Those commonplace aspects of lives past are what helped to shape the behaviors of the day, and that would affect the thinking and actions of the characters. In a historical/fantasy/paranormal work, I would expect a blend of realism and imagination. I applaud those fabulous fiction writers who strive to fully develop their characters and story lines. The more schooled one is in the language and customs of an era, the more you will appreciate the accuracy of the work.

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  3. Realism isn't that important to me. If something was ridiculously unlikely and out of place then I would have a problem with the lack of realism, but overall I like a little bit of fantasy.

  4. I don't need to know all the details of the period but I do need some kind of authenticity to make me believe that the author cared enough about what she was writing about to do the proper research. If she doesn't care, then why should we as readers care?


  5. MY YA series was set in the here and now, so I tried to keep it very real - character behavior, locations, etc. (Now, I did make up a few business names, but half the time I used real ones.) It does require some research, but that's half the fun!

  6. In historical fiction I wouldnt mind veering from the absolute facts (which is what happens in lots of stories) - I am not a huge form of sci fiction or paranormal so it doesnt effect me.

  7. I generally read to escape so as long as the story gets me and I become attached to the characters (that happens *a lot* with me), I don't pay any attention to realism. I read a lot of fantasy and supernatural stuff so I have to suspend my sense of realism.

    I suppose if I was reading something that I had some knowledge about and there were inaccuracies, it would probably bother me and lessen my enjoyment of the story!

  8. Realism is important to me in the fiction novels I read. I am not a fan of sci fi or fantasy novels for the exact reason that they are not realistic! I like historical fiction, mystery, suspense, thrillers, classics, as well as contemporary fiction novels, and I prefer them to have plausible plot lines, realistic characters, and similar facts if based on historical or current events.

    For example, a recent Ken Follett novel I read, Hornet Flight, about a Danish couple who escaped to England from occupied Denmark during WWII, had such an outlandish, unimaginable, and unrealistic event occur at the height of its suspenseful ending that I failed to pass the book on to others to read and gave it a lower rating. The scene in the book reminded me of watching an insanely performed stunt in a movie that could only be achieved with special effects... rather than something I could imagine regular people performing successfully and surviving.

  9. Realism is important to me because if the story isn't believable, I have a terrible time enjoying the book. That said, if the author writes the story in such a way that a highly improbable or even impossible scenario seems completely logical and likely to happen, I'll still enjoy the story and admire the author for their ability to make the unrealistic feel realistic. Suspension of disbelief is awesome if done correctly. :)

  10. if it is something I don't know from a certain era or period it wouldn't bother me; even if someone pointed it out to me after.

    Most authors try to be as accurate as possible so if a few little things are overlooked or over stated it is not a problem.

  11. The last movie about Queen Elizabeth was totally ruined for me when they killed Mary Queen of Scots something 20 or 30 years early. I couldn't see why they did it either. I can take some small fudging of reality, but not the big stuff. I start out *wanting* to take the ride with an author. I'm there. If they knock me out of the story I don't go back. Too many books, too little time to read.

  12. Since the majority of the books I read are paranormals, realism flies out the window quite quickly. Vampires, shapeshifters, witches and wizards, and magical beings tend to eliminate realism. Having said that, I do feel that if I'm reading a book, and even if it is paranormal, there are places for realism. If it is contemporary in setting, I would be disappointed to see less than current dress, language and background in a story set in , say 2009 or thereabouts. If the story is not a paranormal, but straight contemporary, then yes I need the reality based plot, with a bit of leeway to meet the plot line.


Your comments are always appreciated!


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