What Is Contemporary Fiction?

Many authors, both new and seasoned, struggle with genre selection. This is because genres are often so intertwined that it can be different to stick your winding masterpiece (your new book baby) into a particular category. Unfortunately, if you want your book in bookstores (both digital and physical) or libraries you will have to hammer down the genre of your book.

One of the major categories is Contemporary Fiction, and though it may seem straightforward, many authors are clueless when it comes to the characteristics required for this to be their selected genre. Today we will be taking a deep dive into what is contemporary fiction, its characteristics, what is realistic contemporary fiction, and much more. 

So, if you’ve been on the fence wondering whether or not contemporary fiction is the right genre for your book, read on!

What Is Contemporary Fiction?

What Is Contemporary Fiction?

Contemporary Fiction

Contemporary fiction refers to literature that rejects the conventional boundaries of literature by reflecting the realities, absurdities, ironies, comedies, and contradictions of post-globalization human cultures. As a flexible term, it encourages the expansion of boundaries over setting them. Writers of contemporary fiction can express themselves in any way that they choose.

In contemporary fiction, a story is set in modern times without incorporating any elements of fantasy. This is technically a form of realistic fiction, and the term "contemporary" distinguishes it from realistic fiction set in the past, which is also quite common and fairly popular. 

In contemporary fiction, people are usually given a window into ordinary life and shown what it is like to walk in someone else's shoes. While some stories are political or meant to raise awareness about social issues, others exist purely as entertainment.

Contemporary Fiction Characteristics

There are six main characteristics of contemporary fiction. These are:

  1. Personal Point of View
Personal Point Of View

Contemporary fiction often reflects the political and social views of its authors. These are conveyed in his works through characters, connections to events, and socioeconomic themes.

  1. Pressing Topics
Pressing Issues

Contemporary fiction is largely concerned with the crippling problems of the modern world, such as race, globalization, gender, climate change, terrorism, wars, and inequality. In addition to economics, politics, media, mass culture, morals, ethics, and international crime.

  1. Magical Realism
Magical Realism

A literary breakthrough in the 20th century can be attributed to the development of magical realism as a narrative technique. It is characterized by its social and political implications.

  1. Draws From Innovative Narrative

Narrative techniques are different from those used previously. Contemporary fiction uses avant-garde narrative techniques, such as the changing of time and presenting a character's inner world.

  1. Nonfiction and Fiction Superimposed

Crossings, or blurring of the lines between fiction and nonfiction, are common in contemporary literature. Contemporary fiction writers often draw their inspiration from authentic sources. Nonfiction writers, however, bring historical figures to life through imagined dialogue and scenes.

  1. Influence of World War II

Contemporary fiction has its roots in the devastation wrought by World War II, which influenced the prosperous lifestyle that followed.

3 Examples of Contemporary Fiction

  1. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

In Commonwealth, Patchett brilliantly ties together flawed families who have failed each other over the decades yet keep trying and trusting despite the disappointments.

Instead of villains, she presents characters with complex motivations, insecurities, and feelings about the past and how to move forward. She demonstrates loyalty, love, and forgiveness where broken, bitter relationships might be expected.

The subtle emotional tensions are what make this novel stand out. It is not an action-packed novel. 

  1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor's routine is as simple as science: work, weekly phone calls with her mother, and vodka weekends (and nothing else). Although she hasn't met him yet, she is ready to start dating a musician who seems like the perfect match.

She doesn't care about socializing, isn't friends with anyone, and says blunt, somewhat inappropriate, and awkward things. As she anticipates a future relationship with the musician, she begins to develop a self-improvement plan despite her mother's cruel discouragement.

When she helps an elderly gentleman after a fall, she forms an unexpected friendship with her coworker Raymond. Eleanor is slowly drawn out of her isolation by her friendship, but she is also challenged to confront difficult truths about herself, her past, and her future.

Eleanor's mix of self-awareness and oblivious awkwardness makes her a memorable character, while Raymond surprises us with his strength. Despite its sadness and heartbreak, this book is uplifting and funny at the same time.

  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

As a witness to a police officer shooting her best friend, Starr, 16, is torn between remaining silent and speaking out. There is a world of affluent private schools and a world of her black neighborhood shattered by a shooting. Starr lives in two worlds. 

Starr, who is under attack from police and local gangs, feels the need to share her side of the story and defend her friend's character as the case quickly makes national headlines.

Taking inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement, this novel explores the shootings of unarmed black people by police officers, the lack of justice that follows, and white privilege. It is not just for young adults, but it is a must-read for everyone. One of the best novels of 2017.

What Is Contemporary Realistic Fiction

In contemporary realistic fiction, the stories are based on real-life scenarios. These books do not belong to any other genre. As a rule, they are set at the same time that the reader is living (the present), with events that are occurring or could happen at the same time. 

Also included in the contemporary genre is informal and conversational dialogue, and sometimes even regional dialect. Characters act as they might in real life. With most fiction, the fantastic element has been suspended, limiting the characters' actions to actions they would do in real life, making them and the story more realistic to the reader.

Three Examples of Contemporary Realistic Fiction

  1. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli's novel Stargirl is about a girl named Stargirl and told from the point of view of a boy named Leo Borlock. Stargirl stands out from the other students at her school, and although they are initially curious about her, they soon become bullies. Even though he is embarrassed by her actions, Leo finds himself in love with her. Teens face a variety of issues in Stargirl, including conformity, kindness, bullying, and love.

  1. Holes by Louis Sachar

The concept of curses is complete nonsense, right? That's not the case in Holes, where curses are considered normal. The story's main character, Stanley Yelnats, comes from a family cursed by a gypsy who goes by the name of Madame Zeroni generations ago. The curse was imposed on Stanley's great-great-grandfather, Elya, for failing to follow the gypsy's instructions while trying to win the heart of the girl he longed for.

  1. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Caitlin, a 10-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome, lost her mother years before; her brother Devon, a teacher, and another student were killed in a shooting at their school. Her loss of her beloved brother pushes Caitlin to the edge of insanity. It is often difficult for Caitlin to reach out emotionally to her surviving father due to his grief and pain. This novel features a great deal of detail and compassion in the portrayal of the horrifying effects of gun violence.

Contemporary Fiction vs. Realistic Fiction

A realistic novel is a work of fiction that is set in the present day or the past, without the use of magical, fantastic, supernatural, surreal, or science-fiction elements.

A subset of realistic fiction, contemporary fiction is set in the present day, contemporaneous with the time of publication and not too far before.

Time periods do not have to be exact. I consider anything set in the decade preceding publication to be contemporary, which would be 2010 onwards, in 2021. A period between 50 and 70 years earlier, but less than that, does not have a name. A period spanning more than 50 to 70 years is historical fiction. 

Popular characteristics of realistic fiction include the following:

  • It would be historical fiction if you were writing about Spartacus, the Buddha, or World War II.
  • Historical fiction would be set in the 1950s or 1960s.
  • Something set between 1970 and 2010 would be in that recent time that has no name.
  • From 2010 to today, we could call it contemporary realistic fiction.

Histories are shaped not just by dates, but also by events. A narrative about the World Trade Center's destruction in 2001 might be considered historical. In addition, the significance and exactness of the novel's publication date may or may not matter much. 

Important: In some genres, such as thrillers, dates and technology need to be accurate. During this era of cell phones and 911 calls, racing across the city in a speeding car makes little sense.

There is also no doubt that the current pandemic (2019 - 2022) will be a defining event for contemporary fiction - whether before, during, or following the year of the mask.


(4) What is the difference between realistic fiction and contemporary realistic fiction? - Quora

Mockingbird Summary & Study Guide (bookrags.com)

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli | Summary & Themes - Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com

What Genre is the Book Holes? - Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com

Contemporary Realistic Fiction Definition - Book Genres (book-genres.com)

30 of the Best Contemporary Fiction Books Everyone Should Read (mindjoggle.com)

Contemporary Fiction: 14 Notable Contemporary Fiction Authors - 2022 - MasterClass

what is contemporary literature definition/characteristic/genre - EngloPedia

k12_curriculum_documents_english_biblio46_genre_definitions.pdf (gov.nl.ca)

What Is Contemporary Fiction? (with pictures) (languagehumanities.org)

(4) What is contemporary fiction and how is it different from nonfiction or fiction? - Quora

What Is Contemporary Fiction? (reference.com)

What is Contemporary Fiction Anyway? - Bookaholic Belle (bookaholicbeller.com)