Johnson comments on the strain of realistic fiction he witnesses growing up around him in 1750 and gaining popularity. Its characteristics are, first, showing events that arise from ordinary circumstances in everyday life and, second, depicting characters who act as real people do. He states that these works of modern fiction:
exhibit life in its true state, diversified only by accidents that daily happen in the world, and influenced by passions and qualities which are really to be found in conversing with mankind.
Johnson contrasts this kind of fiction, which he calls comic romance with the heroic romances that were popular in prior generations. The heroic romances hold our attention because they deal with unusual characters or events, such as hermits, shipwrecks, and battles. In these works, it is not important that the characters behave with psychological realism because it is the fantastic plots that drive these stories.
But precisely because modern fiction relies on realistic characters and is read primarily by impressionable young people, Johnson argues writers should ensure that their characters are morally upright, so that readers don't end up admiring and imitating characters who are evil or morally problematic.