All terms

What is verisimilitude?

The concept of appearing true or realistic in writing.

The Art of Making Fiction Feel Real

Verisimilitude is the literary principle that concerns the art of making fiction feel real. More than objective adherence to fact, a writer achieves verisimilitude by giving coherence, congruity, and credibility to the narrative elements.

A well-crafted story requires the right balance of details, dialogue, tone, setting, character behavior, and motivations to create a willing suspension of disbelief for the reader. In other words, the reader should feel as if they are reading a true-to-life account, even if the events are entirely imagined. To achieve such a feat, the writing must achieve a consistent and believable tone, with logical choices and reactions that follow naturally from characters’ personalities and circumstances.

Writers can also use verisimilitude to add depth and layers to their writing. By referencing particular details, such as specific cultural references or historical facts, writers can make their work feel more authentic and grounded in reality.

Learning from the Greats: Two Examples of Verisimilitude in Literature

Verisimilitude is often credited as a hallmark of great writing, and it is easy to see why. Here are some examples of how writers have expertly demonstrated the importance of creating believable, realistic worlds within fictional narratives.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Despite being set in a fictional town in Alabama, Harper Lee’s novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is revered for its ability to recreate the social and cultural tensions of the era in which it is set. Through her realistic depictions of characters and events, Lee creates a world that feels entirely authentic, allowing readers to fully immerse themselves in the story.

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, “The Great Gatsby,” is widely considered a classic of 20th-century American literature. One of the reasons that the book has endured for so long is the way that Fitzgerald imbues his story with a sense of realism. Readers are transported to the world of Gatsby's parties and life of excess, made believable through Fitzgerald's evocative descriptions and portrayal of the characters and their motivations.