This month’s TCWT blog post question got me thinking about why we read contemporary fiction:

Which fictional world would you most like to be a part of, and what role do you think you would fulfil within it?

People love to read. Books offer an escape from everyday life, a new world to explore, one more magical or futuristic or in some way different from the one we live in. Readers can forget their own problems when they read about the hero’s struggle to slay  dragon or revolt against a tyrannical megacomputer, struggles which (most likely), none of us will ever face.

So where does that leave contemporary fiction?

Contemporary, realistic, call it what you like. I’m talking about books set in the real world, with characters like you and me facing real problems that we or someone we know has probably faced. There are no fantastical elements. There’s no magic. This isn’t a travel story. Some people don’t like these kind of books because of this, preferring instead to read about worlds and problems unlike their own.

Yet for others, these stories provide an escape unlike speculative fiction. Can I honestly say I’d like to live in the worlds of writers like Melina Marchetta, Sara Zarr, or Dana Reinhardt, facing the same struggles and heartbreak their characters face? Maybe not, any more than a fantasy fan can say they’d really love to slay a dragon, or face down an ogre, or run from a megacomputer, in constant fear of their lives.

Whether I like it or not, however, I do live in the world of a contemporary novel. I will face setbacks. And character flaws. And heartbreak. The difference is that, in fiction, an author can take the most tragic events and weave them into a meaningful whole. They can make sense of the trauma, art out of the unbearable. That is a world worth living in. It’s a world I believe is possible, though it’s often hard to see. This is the gift of storytellers, no matter their genre, to show the world as it is,  to show how to find the character arch in life’s scattered events, and to remind us every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

For your reading pleasure, fav contemps:


What We Lost (formerly Once Was Lost)

By Sara Zarr


A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life

By Dana Reinhardt


On the Jellicoe Road

By Melina Marchetta



By Jessi Kirby

Now, go check out all the other posts in the blog hop:

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