Realism is stupid. There, I said it.
As a writer, I’m often told that things need to happen some way because it’s realistic, or that things need to be represented in a particular way because they are realistic, and every time I hear that it shows me the person talking to me doesn’t quite know what they mean. Realism means that most stories don’t start at all, that there’s no monsters or dragons or cool fights. Realism means depictions of violence that are disquieting and disturbing. Realism means noses bumping during kisses and noticing that funny smell on someone’s neck but not minding anyway and so on. Realism, essentially, is not what people turn to fiction for. That’s what reality is for.
Realism isn’t the goal, the impression of realism is. This is part of verisimilitude. Your story should avoid ever saying or doing something that makes the reader feel the reality of the story doesn’t exist.
What they usually mean though, is that there is something in the story, or something in stories like it, that pulls them out of the story. Realistic hacking, for example – anyone who knows how to hack things (which is a huge variety of different tactics using a broad array of different tools and approaches) probably sees the typical Hollywood Movie style ‘boop, we’re in!’ and laughs their ass off. That breaks the verisimilitude.
I originally was planning on writing more here about how this pertains to smut, but I think it’s better just leave it here for now.