Genre tips

#AtoZChallenge: Genres–American Realism

The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post 26 articles on a themed topic. It’s supposed to be every day except Sundays during the month of April but last year, I found it way to busy and decided to post this year ‘about’ twice a month. Yes, it’ll take me a couple of years. Sigh.

My topic, like the last two times I participated, will be literary genres.

a to z


American Realism


Stories that depict contemporary social realities and the lives and everyday activities of ordinary people. 


  1. The setting should be early 20th Century America.
  2. The story should reflect city life and an American population that is more urban than rural.
  3. The plot should concern itself with the here and now.
  4. The redemption of the individual lays within the social world.
  5. It renders reality closely and in comprehensive detail, even at the expense of a well-made plot.
  6. The character is more important than action and plot.
  7. Complex ethical choices are often the subject.
  8. Class is important and American Realism has traditionally served the interests and aspirations of an insurgent middle class. 
  9. The story avoids the sensational.
  10. Diction is natural vernacular, not heightened or poetic.

Popular Books

  1. A Modern Instance by William Howell
  2. The Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger
  3. Most novels by Mark Twain
  4. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  5. Summer by Edith Wharton
  6. Martin Eden by Jack London
  7. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

Click for complete list of these 26 genres

Click for a complete list of all genres I’ve written about

More A Genres:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Man vs. Nature saga, and the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Summer 2021.

95 thoughts on “#AtoZChallenge: Genres–American Realism

  1. Pingback: #AtoZChallenge: Genres–Academic Novels | WordDreams...

  2. So, do I understand correctly that you are going to follow the alphabet, but not the April schedule? It sounded like you mean to follow the alphabet throughout the year, only posting alphabetically a couple times a month. Is that right? (I was confused to be brought to your A post on 4/7)
    Thanks for visiting my Theme Reveal. I’m finally getting around to visiting AtoZ blogs.

    Doesn’t Speak Klingon

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  4. I have to admit I’ve never even heard of this genre, let alone knew what it was. It sounds quite interesting though – sometimes it’s nice to read something more character driven and based in reality

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for my slow response. Really, I have no excuse. Maybe sloth…

      Yes, American Realism surprised me too. When I researched it, I realize it is the type of story I like to read (well, with a tad more positivity).


  5. I’ve always wondered what American Realism was, and thank you so much for defining it succinctly. Interesting to note that it has some focus on class in particular the middle class, and it brings to mind how some of us have certain standards of living depending on how well off we are. I’ve read a few Mark Twain novels. Might need to re-read them and see if I can find the themes of American Realism 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love these sort of books and have read most of the ones on your list. I particularly love Edith Warton and Henry James. I just didn’t know they were considered American Realism but it makes sense. I wonder if stories like those of Charles Dickens would be considered British Realism.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jacqui, a great summary of American Realism and I now feel enlightened about this genre. In my twenties, I fell for Martin Eden and read the book so many times the spine has gone – I knew sections by heart. Reading your criteria for this genre I see how it fits perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Jacqui. Welcome back to AtoZ.
    Question: why more urban than rural? If we’re talking early 20th Century, the push/pull of big cities could easily be overshadowed by small town life not wanting to give way to the “evil” nature of the cities. At least, in my mind/knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s probably another name for rural realistic settings. This is to concentrate on situations more prominent in urban settings. I’d love for someone who actually writes this genre to offer their thoughts.

      Nice to see you! I loved following your posts last year and then, lost my way. I’m going to come over and see what you’re doing!


    • I can’t believe you’re doing two of them! Yikes Heather! I’ll visit as often as possible. Love your first one–on Assumptions. I will now worry about Rikk. Maybe another alphabet letter will tell us how he is doing.


  9. Jacqui,

    Thanks for the explanation of ‘American Realism’. Not being a reader, as you know, I tried thinking of movies that fall into this category but came up empty-handed. I read a little more about this genre at Wikipedia learning that this is not only used in literary work but mewsic and art – two of my favorite passions. 🙂

    I hope y’all will find time to check out my Little Mermaid Art Sketch series beginning with ARIEL on Curious as a Cathy!!

    Happy A2Zing!!


  10. I learn something new from your A-Z posts every year! This is a genre I’ll skip, though. I’m all for a tight plot and some action over agonising over description 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Of your list, I have only read some books by Mark Twain. The most powerful was Huck Finn, though Tom Sawyer was fun, and The Prince And The Pauper was a delight, though not contemporary, as was A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court. Those two novels in particular convinced me that if he was alive today he would be considered a passionate leftie – and would be having great fun sending up the current President on Twitter.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Jacqui – good start and I love the way you are thorough in your approach … the lists etc – and who’d have thought there were so many genres! Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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