What is realistic fiction? Stories that could have happened with real people in a real setting. Fictional characters that react similarly to real people. Realistic fiction books focus on personal events or issues that mirror real life, such as marriage, falling in love, overcoming adversity, accomplishing one’s goals, etc.
Is it based on a true story?
While the story itself does not need to be based on a true story, only well-researched stories, based on facts, have realism. The better researched, the more realistic it is—real stories are often the source of inspiration.
‟In writing an adventure story a writer has to know that he is adventuring for a lot of people who cannot. The writer has to take them here and there about the globe and show them excitement and love and realism. As long as that writer is living the part of an adventurer when he is hammering the keys, he is succeeding with his story.
‟Adventuring is a state of mind. If you adventure through life, you have a good chance to be a success on paper.
‟Adventure doesn’t mean globe-trotting, exactly, and it doesn’t mean great deeds. Adventuring is like art. You have to live it to make it real.ˮ —L. Ron Hubbard
New York Times bestselling author L. Ron Hubbard was a renaissance man who traveled the world and studied 21 races and cultures. He had a vast canvas of raw material with which to create realistic characters and settings, and considered this a vital part of writing, “I believe that the only way I can keep improving my work and my markets is by broadening my sphere of acquaintanceship with the world and its people and professions.” —L. Ron Hubbard, Search for Research.
While he is well known for his science fiction books, he wrote realistic fiction books above all else. Even his science fiction was well researched and populated with realistic characters, bringing the human element to the genre at a time when it was dominated by machines and bug-eyed monsters.
Mr. Hubbard’s true-to-life adventures and thorough research were the backbone of his realistic fiction books—he was always “trying harder to make every word live and breath.”
Living the Stories
He wrote over ten stories set in China. As his father was stationed abroad for a time, the young L. Ron Hubbard traveled twice to Asia.
In June 1927, Ron embarked on a voyage to Guam via Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. The following year, he travelled from San Diego to Guam aboard the USS Henderson. While there, he journeyed inland to the western hills of China, back to Japan, down to the Philippines, and south to Java, where he met people from many varied cultures and backgrounds. He also helmed the twin-masted coastal schooner Marianna Maru and plied the waters off the China coast.
Stories like Spy Killer were brought to life with a realism that would not otherwise have been possible.
Spy Killer: In the midst of the Japan and China contention between World War I and World War II, Kurt Reid, an American soldier, was wrongly accused of murder. He escaped to the exotic and mysterious city of Shanghai—only to be caught in a deadly web of intrigue, blackmail, and betrayal. While true to the reality of the time period, it portrayed the realism of life, strained loyalties, and love.
L. Ron Hubbard was a barnstormer at the dawn of American aviation and earned an early glider license (#385) in 1932.
As a glider pilot, he set a national soaring record for sustained flight over the same field. And as a powered-flight pilot, he barnstormed across the Midwest. “You’ll probably hear the name of Ron Hubbard mentioned (also known as ‘Flash’), accompanied by such adjectives as ‘crazy,’ ‘wild,’ and ‘dizzy.’ For the flaming-haired pilot hit the city like a tornado a few years ago and made women scream and strong men weep by his aerial antics. He just dared the ground to come up and hit him.” —H. Latane Lewis II, The Pilot magazine, July 1934.
This realism can be seen in Sabotage in the Sky as well as throughout the 15 aerial adventures in the Stories from the Golden Age.
Sabotage in the Sky: The planes built and tested for use in World War II were crucial to America’s strength in the war. This story centers around two test pilot rivals, Bill Trevillian and Kip Lee, whose very fiery relationship hit a boiling point while they fought for a government contract. However, unknown to them, a greater danger was at work—deadly German saboteurs threatened both the planes and their very lives.
In addition to the two trips to Asia by sea during his youth, L. Ron Hubbard also led the Caribbean Motion Picture expedition in 1932. This was a two-and-a-half-month, five-thousand-mile journey aboard the two-hundred-foot, four-masted schooner Doris Hamlin, that returned with reptile and floral specimens for the University of Michigan and photographs that were sold to the New York Times. Later that year, he went to Puerto Rico on the West Indies Mineralogical Expedition where he completed their first mineralogical survey as an American territory.
He had much first-hand experience with the sea by the time he penned Sea Fangs, one of several sea adventures in the Stories from the Golden Age.
Sea Fangs: Bob Sherman, stripped of his Venezuelan oil fields through a double cross, and imprisoned by pirates while trying to regain his fields, was bent on revenge. He signed on as crew of the yacht Bonito, where he needed every ounce of his strength and courage to overcome the forces arrayed against him. His fate soon became intertwined with a woman whose father stole everything he valued. Sherman discovered that there’s one force as powerful, unpredictable, and dangerous as the sea itself … the force of a beautiful woman’s love.
ROLE OF RESEARCH IN REALISTIC FICTION
Mr. Hubbard understood the importance of research and accuracy of the story details in both authenticity and sincerity—the hallmarks of literary realism—as evidenced in his statement: “A man cannot write a story unless he is deeply interested in it. If he thinks he knows a subject, then he instantly becomes careless with his technical details.”
While preparing the story Phantom Patrol, Mr. Hubbard met with a Coast Guard commanding officer and a chief petty officer. He also spent time aboard a Coast Guard patrol boat to learn enough of their life and work to make the story live and breath with reality, as he described here:
“Summoning up my nerve, I walked up the plank and rapped on the commanding officer’s door.…
“He informed me with some heat that lieutenants were never in charge in seventy-five-foot patrol boats. Only chief petty officers captained them.…
“Another Coast Guard boat was in, a slim greyhound. The deck watch was headed by a chief petty officer, a grizzled soul with a salt tang to his speech. Johnny, another C.P.O., escorted me through the vessel. He explained about engines in terms which made me squirm. He showed me everything, including how to fire a one-pounder. He told me that dope runners were bad eggs. Why, once up in Maine he had… And so passed the afternoon.
“I skittered homeward, mentally afire.” —L. Ron Hubbard, Story Vitality
The Phantom Patrol: Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Trescott unexpectedly diverted from his drug-busting mission, risked it all to save a millionaire, a beautiful woman, and his reputation. This story was inspired by real men in the Coast Guard tracking down drug runners.
Read The Phantom Patrol free eBook download.
L. Ron Hubbard often took it a step further in researching realistic fiction—he did in-depth research to discover not well known, and often forgotten, aspects of a subject:
“I want one slim, forgotten fact. From there a man can go anywhere and the story is very likely to prove unusual. In one old volume, for instance, I discovered that there was such a thing as a schoolmaster aboard Nelson’s ships of the line.
“That was a weird one. Why should Nelson want a schoolmaster?
“When did this occur?
“Answer: The Napoleonic Wars.
“Ah, now we’ll find out how those old ships looked. We’ll discover how they fought, what they did.
“And there was the schoolmaster during the battle. Where? In the ‘cockpit’ helping hack off arms and legs.
“Next lead indicated: Surgery during the Napoleonic Wars.…
“Complete after a few days of search, I had Mr. Tidwell, Gunner, which appeared in Adventure.” —L. Ron Hubbard, Search for Research
Mister Tidwell, Gunner: At the height of the Napoleonic Wars, Mr. Tidwell, an Oxford professor, was forced into service as the ship’s schoolmaster aboard Lord Nelson’s legendary British fleet. With a repulsion to ship’s “cockpit” (hospital) duty during times of fighting, Mr. Tidwell soon found himself directly in the deadly line of fire.
This is only a glimpse of the more than 200 tales that appeared on the pages of the legendary pulp magazines, where for two decades L. Ron Hubbard created realistic fiction to educate and entertain people.
This was best summed up by the editor of Thrilling Adventures:
“I guess L. Ron Hubbard needs no introduction. From the letters you send in, his yarns are about the most popular we have published. Several of you have wondered, too, how he gets the splendid color which always characters his stories of the faraway places.
“The answer is, he’s been there brothers. He’s been, and seen, and done, and plenty of all three!”
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