Let’s be honest: not all fiction can be the swashbuckling adventures of a pirate, the gallant adventures of the knight, the daring exploits of a thief, or the tale of how a ragtag group of warriors banded together on a quest. Sometimes, a story must be more simplistic.
Not every tale is a zombie apocalypse, an alien invasion, or a Frankenstein case. Maybe it’s a story with average, day-to-day people. It has average, day-to-day “heroes” like cops and firefighters, with “villains” like shoplifters and vandals. What? Where are the swords and shields, the magic, the laser guns, and epic battles?
If you’re smart, you may already know the answer–in plain sight.
This may sound like I’m trying to say something like “cops and nurses are the real superheroes” which is ridiculous. Cops are fantastic, of course, but whoever heard of a cop who was superman? Whoever heard of a nurse that lifted mountains and crushed the enemy? And, we all know what happens when everyone’s a superhero (Hint Hint, Syndrome).
So cop’s aren’t superheroes. However, that’s the whole point: if cops and firefighters were superheroes, they could root out every shoplifter and vandal and singlehandedly save the world. This would be great for the world at large, but if some giant cosmic being was reading our book, they’d grow bored because there was no real conflict.
However, that’s not at all what I’m trying to say. In Contemporary Realistic Fiction (CRF, or as I like to call them: “sensible stories”) the cops may as well be superheroes. They’re just as able, mortal, and skilled as the villains they combat. Therefore, if you write a cop novel, You can have real, meaningful conflict.
I say this all to say that just because a work of fiction doesn’t have laser guns, space battles, etc., that’s not a reason to not write or read them. Works of CRF can be challenging, and just as well they can be the finest works of literature. Ergo, if you have a story that doesn’t quite seem fantastical enough to make a realm of fantasy, you may want to consider using it as a form of CRF.
But how does one do this? Usually, if you were planning on your book being a certain genre, how would you know that the genre doesn’t suit it very well? Well, for starters, just look at the plot: does it seem bland or dragging? Are the conflicts too commonplace?
Here’s an example: If I wanted to write a science fiction novel about a man who is on the run from the authorities because he couldn’t pay rent, I could just as easily write the science fiction bit out of it. When your conflict, characters, setting, etc., can be easily found in the real world, you may want to consider converting the genre of your book.
Be on the watch for “ordinary”-looking characters, places, and problems. Here’s the deal: if you place ordinary conflicts into a extraordinary situation, one will overpower the other. Either your conflict will overcome your situation and your sci-fi world starts to look more like a world found in CRF, or the situation will overcome the conflict and you’ll be left with a conflict that looks weak or irrelevant.
Both are undesirable places to be, and both can be remedied easily: one, spot the danger and prepare to do something about it. From there, you can go one of two ways: you could change the conflict (make it more suitable to the situation or genre) or you could change the situation.
You probably have one question at this point: why CRF? Easy: we live in a world that is both temporary and realistic. Heck, we envision clearly false fictions about our future and strive to make them a reality. To the point, reality is something that we know. We live in it. Hence, writing CRF is the simplest way to go. Of course you could convert your sci-fi problems into a fantasy setting, but I doubt many people have that problem.
Good luck, and happy writing!