Fiction Ed’s Blog: What We Mean By ‘Gritty’

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If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you may have seen a recent update from ‘Friend’ Editor, Stuart, asking for ‘grittier’ stories.

We’ve had a positive response from our contributors, and also some queries.

I’ll try to answer those here.

What Exactly Do We Mean By ‘Gritty’?

As we move into 2024, we’re looking for stories which reflect modern life, and modern family life in particular.

Challenging situations, or ‘grittier’ topics – such as bereavement or divorce – are welcome, handled in a way that will appeal to ‘People’s Friend’ readers.

To give an example – in our 8000th issue, we featured a story from a 1940s issue – ‘Century’.

This story featured an 100-year-old lady, who had lived to see her ‘century’.

Although it featured loss, a broken relationship, and personal sacrifice, the story focused on the joy of living, and the closeness of family.

The tone was overwhelmingly upbeat, hopeful, feel-good and life-affirming.

Challenging Situations, Handled Sensitively

It’s a good example of how the ‘Friend’ has actually always tacked tricky subject matter – in an ‘Friend’-appropriate way.

Another example of a difficult situation dealt with in a positive light is a book I’ve just finished (given to me by Fiction Team’s Tracey) – Claire Keegan’s ‘Small Things Like These’.

The backdrop is heartbreakingly sad, but the story focuses on a decent man, who acts with kindness and integrity.

A great example of a ‘grittier’ storyline, which still has ‘Friend’ values at heart.

Would We Now Consider Stories Set In Nursing Homes?

Writers have asked if we’d now consider stories set in a nursing home.

Yes – if the stories themselves are upbeat, feel-good, and not predictable.

Richard Osman’s ‘Thursday Murder Club’ stories are a fantastic example of stories featuring protagonists who are older in years, but not in attitude.

Is There Anything That’s Still ‘Off-Limits’?

The ‘Friend’ is often bedtime reading, so anything that would alarm the readers, anything TOO violent, distressing, frightening, or disturbing, would still be a definite ‘no’.

Any crime must be in the ‘cosy crime’ genre – not too grisly, or detailed, and the focus must be on solving the crime; we’d never feature murder ‘as it happens’.

Think along the lines of  ITV3 crime dramas – Marple, Morse, Poirot.

The occasional ‘spooky’ story is welcome, but we’d never feature anything with an overtly supernatural nature – and direct contact with ghosts is a no.

Stories must still feature appropriate language and tone.

Whether you’re trying a conventional ‘Friend’ storyline or something more gritty, keep the ‘Friend’ reader in mind.

Do Stories Still Need Happy Endings?

Previously, ‘Friend’ stories would be expected to feature a happy ending, or at least a positive resolution to a problem.

Happy endings remain welcome; we’ll also now consider stories where the ending isn’t a conventional ‘happy ever after’.


Our refreshed guidelines will be available soon; we’ll post here once they’re online.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!