SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Do you read more contemporary, realistic fiction or fantasy, and why?

Discussion started on

As a kid and a teen and still now, most of the books that I have really loved are fantasies - The Hobbit and LOTR, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Chronicles of Prydain, The Princess Bride, The Last Unicorn, Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time... 

But I have friends who never had much interest in fantasies. Instead, as kids they loved books that I didn't enjoy that much - Judy Blume books, and Beverly Cleary stories, and Little House on the Prairie. (I mean no offense here - these well-loved books just weren't a good match for me.)

So I've been thinking about why that is, and whether readers fall into categories based on what they're looking for in a story. For me, it really is about escapism - I want the story to take me to a time and place that I don't already know, a world that seems better in some way (or at least more interesting) than the everyday life that I live. (I confess that I've always found reality a little disappointing!)

As a kid, I usually found contemporary stories about kids struggling through the same sorts of problems that I had either boring or (more often) just painful to read - the situations were too close to home to be enjoyable. But I know that a lot of kids find great comfort in reading hopeful stories about their own situations, so obviously not everyone reacts like I did.

So I thought I'd ask the Blueboarders - what sorts of stories do you like to read, and what is it that you're looking for from the stories you love?
#1 - May 20, 2012, 07:29 PM

For me, it really is about escapism - I want the story to take me to a time and place that I don't already know, a world that seems better in some way (or at least more interesting) than the everyday life that I live. (I confess that I've always found reality a little disappointing!)

I'm exactly the same. As much as I admire the skill involved in crafting a realistic story, I personally enjoy reading as an escape from reality. There are some contemporary works that I love, but I don't obsess over them or re-read them to the same extent as my favourite fantasy books.

It probably helps that I grew up with a father who read the Discworld books and LOTR to me as bedtime stories!   :dragon:
#2 - May 20, 2012, 08:08 PM
MG/ YA Fantasy from PRH (Aus):

* ƇᕼAᔕIƝG ƬHƐ ѴALLƐƳ trilogy (2013-2014)
* Tɧe HµSɧ (2015)
* Aℊeηt NøмAⅾ series (2017)

http://twitter.com/SkyeOhWhy

Administrator
Poster Plus
  • ****
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region dakotas
I could have written your post, Karen! As a kid, I wanted a book that would give me hope--and reading about a kid suffering in the exact same way, in the exact same world as I was, was depressing, not hopeful. It meant that there really WAS no end--that this was what I had to look forward to in the real world. It's not that I wanted to run away from my problems exactly--more like, I needed some serious internal bolstering to give me to courage and strength to do what I had to do in the real world. The best books, to me, have a core of the same kinds of challenges kids might face in real life, but the externals are different enough to give kids a break from their challenges. I think it helps you see those challenges in a different way, and helps you find new solutions and new strength.

There are some realistic books that I love--but they have an unusually loveable main character, and they have an unusual dollop of hope in them, too. But I'm aware that not everyone feels this way--hence, many people, many different beloved books.
#3 - May 20, 2012, 08:13 PM

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region wpa
An interesting question, which I would have to answer *none of the above.*

Because I read mainly what would now be called historicals, but most of which would have been published as contemporaries.

We're talking about 19th and early 20th century books such as those of Louisa May Alcott; Frances Hodgkins Burnett; the FIVE LITTLE PEPPER books; the Betsy-Tacy books; the Dandelion Cottage books; Gene Stratton Porter; the PENROD books; even (when I ran out of other stuff) dated genre mysteries starring Cherry Ames (definitely a WW2 era gal) or Nancy Drew (before they were updated). 

As I teen, I added Tolkein and T. H. White to my favorites list. But my earlier preferences now steered me naturally towards Dickens, Bronte, Austen. And then to new titles that were born to be historicals (as opposed to staying in print long enough to have the *historical* tag thrust upon them). 

Propinquity certainly had something to do with my choices, as our family's bookshelves were crammed with hand-me-downs from ancient relatives.

But analyzing my preferences now, I see a quest much like what you all have described--the flight from reality; escape from the mundane problems of my zitty, paltry life.

(Modified because I accidentally posted too soon.)
#4 - May 21, 2012, 05:30 AM
« Last Edit: May 21, 2012, 05:41 AM by Susan »

I read for character first and foremost, and I like a world that feels real, and I guess I like the atmosphere of something a little different, because few of my favorites are flat-out contemporary, I like either fantasy or books along the lines of L. M. Montgomery, Betsy-Tacy and Little House. I guess I do like escapism too, and I like worlds that feel good to be in--that is, there might be terrible things that happen, but the overall atmosphere is not overly depressing; I do read dystopians or "problem novel" type contemporaries sometimes, but they are never my favorites. Actually, the dystopian genre is probably the one that appeals to me the least out of all genres.

Contemporary CAN work for me, though. For instance, I love the manga NANA, which is about two girls in their early who become roommates, one is just an ordinary girl who is very perky but a little lost in life, the other one is a musician whose ex-boyfriend hit it big and now she's trying to get a band together herself. It's set in Tokyo, the art is very fashionable, and the characters are great (although the plot goes off the rails after a while).  This story, although current, is transporting and glamorous. Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever are another example of contemporary I really liked, with the quirky characters and the old hotel and the sense of fun.
#5 - May 21, 2012, 05:44 AM
Author of the Magic Under Glass duology
& Between the Sea and Sky
Dark Metropolis, 6/14
http://jaclyndolamore.blogspot.com

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region socal
Contemporary doesn't necessarily mean suffering. My favorite reads are humorous contemporary or light romance, which also is mostly what I write. 

I find it hard to suspend my disbelief to accept a fantasy world. I guess I'm a big ole cynic/realist. So I read a little bit of fantasy, but mostly contemporary.
#6 - May 21, 2012, 07:15 AM
Author of SILVER PONY RANCH and ZEKE MEEKS series

http://www.DebraLGreen.com

Reader, reader, reader...
Administrator
Poster Plus
  • ****
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region rmc
As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on -- genre didn't matter so much.  However, as I got a little bit older (mid- to late-elementary aged), probably my most-read genre was mystery.  I read Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, all of Phyllis Whitney's kids' mysteries, The Baker Street Irregulars, etc.  My two favorite authors, however, were Madeleine L'Engle and Norma Johnston, and I devoured every book of theirs I could get my hands on.  And although I loved Swiftly Tilting Planet, I reread the Austin books at least once a year -- so I'd have to say they were my favorites.  Norma Johnston wrote historical-type novels, and I practically memorized some of hers.  I also really loved Mary Stolz...but as I ran out of new material, I always turned to mysteries (and eventually read all of Agatha Christie's books -- except the Miss Marple group) and discovered Mary Stewart, who is still a huge favorite.  I also read Mary Higgins Clark for a time in college, though I now prefer Linda Howard.

I love some fantasy too; but Harry Potter wasn't around when I was a kid (or teen), so my choices were limited.  I definitely loved The Chronicles of Narnia, The Tower of Geburah (a series by John White), and The Dark is Rising series.  And when I was an older teen, I discovered Tamora Pierce's books, which will always be favorites (and I reread them often, even today).  I didn't hear about Harry Potter until a couple years after the first one came out, and I was actually hesitant to read it -- but my SIL insisted, and yes, I ended up loving them (though I've only read book one once -- I didn't really get hooked until book two).  I've read books 3-7 over five times each.

So I think all this babble simply shows that I love to read!  I will admit that I don't enjoy literary novels (YA or adult) at all -- and I don't like any kind of edgy.  I definitely read to escape, and a good mystery (especially with some romance) continues to be my favorite way to go.  I won't watch depressing movies, either, no matter how thoughtfully done...
#7 - May 21, 2012, 07:44 AM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
Website: www.robinprehn3r.com

I did also enjoy mysteries and historical fiction. Andracill, I loved the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series - so glad to hear that someone else did too! And I read every Nancy Drew book there was, and a lot of Agatha Christies. I was also a big Anne of Green Gables fan, and I loved Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

These were all books that distracted me from my own life, in a good way. And I agree completely with Olmue - I was always looking for hope. The best stories were the ones that not only provided me with a little mental vacation from my problems, but left me renewed and inspired and gave me the courage to keep going. The ones that somehow managed to convey that life is worth living. (Not that I had a terrible life, but it's never easy to be a teenager!)
#8 - May 22, 2012, 07:46 PM

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region wwa
Quote
reading about a kid suffering in the exact same way, in the exact same world as I was, was depressing, not hopeful

I was the opposite. When I was in 4th grade, I got the flu and threw up on my classroom floor. That night, my dad offered to go to the library and pick up a stack of books for me to read while I was stuck in bed. I asked for Ramona Quimby, Age 8 because Ramona throws up on her classroom floor in that book. It was the best comfort I could think of.

But I've always loved to read across genres. If I read too many of the same kinds of books in a row, I find myself missing other kinds of books. If I read a lot of realism, I start to crave some epic sci-fi. If I read a lot of dark stuff, I get a hankering for humor. It's like food--I love it all, but if I eat Mexican one night, I want sushi or teriyaki or a salad or something the next night.
#9 - May 22, 2012, 08:04 PM
Twitter: @MelissaKoosmann

Trench Bunny Caretaker
Member
Poster Plus
As a kid I read everything. I mean everything. I even read all my brothers' Hardy Boy books, even though I didn't really like them, just because they were books!

As a teen, I started reading fantasy, and read that almost exclusively (with a bit of historical thrown in), until I was in my early twenties.

As an adult, I find myself drawn to contemporary fiction.

I do have to say, as a teen, I was going through a pretty tough time and escapist fiction was a lifeline. But now that my life has settled down and is pretty happy, I don't find myself seeking it out like I used to.

Hope that helps!

Rue
#10 - May 22, 2012, 08:31 PM
WIP: ETBs 10687/35000 (30.5%)
WIP: IWWP 12045/35000 (34.4%)

updog

Guest
My favorite has always been fantasy for much the same reasons as you described. I blame C.S. Lewis and his wardrobe. As an adult I read widely, but if I could only ever read one genre for the rest of my life I'd pick fantasy. But contemporary, historical, modern or classic, I really just love seeing the world through someone else's eyes. The only thing I almost never pick up is chick lit and detective novels, and even then there are exceptions.

#11 - May 22, 2012, 08:47 PM

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region iowa
As a kid I read just about everything, but I never enjoyed fantasy. I especially liked biographies, National Geographic, and anything historical.  I never felt limited to reading just books aimed at my own age group.  I also made a practice while growing up of reading both Charlotte's Web and Treasure Island at least once a year.

I write contemporary realistic fiction, so that is mostly what I turn to when I'm reading kids' books.  I still can't get into fantasy.  While there are occasional fantasy books that do turn me on (Susan Cooper's King of Shadows tops my list which should be no surprise to anyone who knows me); I mostly find fantasy a chore to read.  Vampire stories leave me cold and I've never even looked at Harry Potter; I guess some things never change.
#12 - May 22, 2012, 09:38 PM

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
As a kid, I read everything, including the encyclopedia. Now I tend to gravitate more towards historicals, realistic, and nonfiction, written on the literary side. The reasons are the same though ... wanting to know things, enjoying new ideas, experiencing things I would never do (or could do), being in someone else's skin, being transported out of my world, and also being wrapped in beautiful language.

Vijaya
#13 - May 23, 2012, 05:45 AM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region sfnortheastbay
Echo Vijaya... :yup
#14 - May 23, 2012, 09:07 AM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520

www.mirkabreen.com
http://mirkabreen.BlogSpot.com

Trench Bunny Caretaker
Member
Poster Plus
I loved reading the encyclopedia AND the dictionary!

Rue
#15 - May 23, 2012, 10:03 AM
WIP: ETBs 10687/35000 (30.5%)
WIP: IWWP 12045/35000 (34.4%)

Administrator
Poster Plus
  • ****
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region wisconsin
The encylopedia, dictionary, and phone book!
#16 - May 23, 2012, 12:48 PM
Adventures of Jenna V. Series
Caroline Grade Mysteries
The Journey of Emilie
Anne Bradstreet: America's Puritan Poet
www.marciahoehne.com

Trench Bunny Caretaker
Member
Poster Plus
How could I forget the phone book? ;)

Rue
#17 - May 23, 2012, 01:01 PM
WIP: ETBs 10687/35000 (30.5%)
WIP: IWWP 12045/35000 (34.4%)

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region midsouth
I read fantasy more than realistic. Basically, escapist literature. This could be over-the-top contemporaries, high fantasy, alternate world or timeline fantasy/sci-fi, sci-fi, dystopian, futuristic thriller, etc. I live in reality; I read fantasy.

This wasn't always the case. I grew up on classic children's literature and contemporary fiction. The thing is, I never really identified with contemporary stories, especially since I was homeschooled as a kid/teen before it became mainstream.

I do read the occasional contemporary, but it is the exception, rather than the rule. (The last one I can think of that I really enjoyed was Sarah Dessen's Along for the Ride. I liked how it addressed grief and transition and hope, as I've had a lot of those emotions/situations in the past few years.)

I think one of the reasons that fantasy speaks to me, and other readers, is because the plots have the opportunity to be sweeping, heroic, and out-of-this-world (whether in scope or setting). It's one of the reason kids and adults like to play video games. Sometimes life just seems to beat you down, but in fantasy fiction there is usually a way to rise above circumstance... and it can be pretty epic. Just my musings on the topic, of course.  :unsure
#18 - May 23, 2012, 01:23 PM
« Last Edit: May 23, 2012, 01:31 PM by andregirl »
www.andreabrame.com  |  Twitter: http://twitter.com/Andrea_Brame  |  Instagram: @andreabrame

Member
Poster Plus
I think the only things I don't read are hard SF, epic fantasy, erotica, or inspirational fiction.  My taste has always been omnivorous. As a kid, I read whatever I could--including the Dictionary (did the rest of you dictionary readers play the "see also" game where you used the "see also" entries like a map of sorts?).  I read weight-lifting & fitness magazines (Mum's), the Farmers Almanac (Dad's), folklore (Gram's), literature (Uncle was a prof & left boxes of classics every visit).  My family didn't impose any restrictions, so I was reading my father's water-stained Hardy Boys and Stephen King and Janelle Taylor alongside Milton.

What I want for a book is the variety, the character, & the travel-to-new-places or inside-different-bodies.  I loved the Little House stories & Sweet Valley High bc they were so different than my life (and each). I loved Shakespeare and Faulkner for the same reasons. I'll never be a midwest child, a cheerleader, a prince haunted by his dead dad, or any number of other people, so I want to read them.

What I don't want is the technical, jargon-laden hard SFF that explains in painstaking detail exactly WHY that could work or the epic fantasy that lists the history of every race, as well as the minutia in each character's pack.  I want character & world. My other can't read is erotica. Reading the minute details of other folks' getting their kink on is just as dull as the list of provisions in that stalwart knight's satchel or the specifications that make that gadget work. 

Very fun question. I enjoyed reading the rest of the replies. 
#19 - June 01, 2012, 09:45 PM

Liz
Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region indiana
I started reading at four, and haven't stopped.  As a kid I read everything I could get my hands on cereal boxes (lots of interesting facts on those boxes even if I didn't understand all of them), phone books were great, dictionaries, Children's encyclopedias, regular encyclopedias, any mystery my dad might be reading (as long as he didn't know about it), magazines (back to front), and at age 10 I was allowed to ride my bike to the library downtown by myself.  The entire children's room was open to me at four books a week, and I read them every week.  I read mostly horse stories and mysteries.  Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon were my favorites.  I also read Cherry Aimes.  Hardy Boys, Alfred Hitchcock Three Investigators, Donna Parker, mind going blank - I have the books here somewhere in a box- a series on mysteries at a horse stable.  Any books that my parents had as kids, my older brother had and my younger brother had, I read it. 

I hated books were animals talked, I could never wrap my head around talking animals.  I also did not like books that were about people from other planets or spaceships.  I would read about ghosts if it wasn't too spooky, but not monsters.  I wanted more realistic type stories although Edgar Eager was fun to read. 

I could and can read historical books, but I do not do well with futuristic books.  I still do not like any form of monster books, vampires, etc.  Some ghost stories are okay, too many get dull. 

Mysteries will always remain my favorite form of book to read, but whenever I travel, the first thing I do in a motel is pull out the telephone book and read through it.  :book4
#20 - June 04, 2012, 06:49 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

http://www.lizstrawwrites.com/

I've always loves contemporary realistic. I never really thought about why but I know I loved reading about real kids overcoming things or real kids who reminded me of my friends and made me laugh. Even in adult reads I gravitate more toward realistic. There have definitely been some fantasy novels I've enjoyed but I'm a contemporary realistic girl at heart.
#21 - June 04, 2012, 08:26 PM

Admin Emeritus
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region houston
New!
I love contemporary, historical, sci-fi, fantasy (high and urban), mysteries, detective stories, thrillers, literary, ghost stories, animal stories (talking and realistic) adventures, and narrative nonfiction. I rarely enjoy a book that is primarily a romance and I don't usually read horror (though there have been notable exceptions in both cases!). Anything with characters I can love and a story that keeps the pages turning.
#22 - June 05, 2012, 08:23 AM
« Last Edit: June 05, 2012, 10:10 AM by Vonna »
http://www.vonnacarter.com
twitter @VonnaCarter

Owl Princess
Admins and Mods Emeriti
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region canadaeast
Now I concentrate on MG and YA novels, but I'll read fantasy or contemporary. I especially like humour, whether the book is funny or just that the main character has some wit. I find that I enjoy books that have a satisfying ending with some hope and that I'll often put down a novel that is too dark and depressing. There are a few subjects I tend to steer away from.

In adult books, I often choose biographies, memoirs, books on history, and mysteries.
#23 - June 05, 2012, 09:16 AM
ANTIQUE PIANO & OTHER SOUR NOTES
http://decoowlpress.com

Barb  :owl

Website: http://barbaraetlin.com
Blog: http://owlsquill.blogspot.com

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.