Realism is trying to imitate actual objects in art as accurately as possible. Tricking the eye into thinking that what is on the page is real is something many artists try to achieve.
Although there isn’t actually some simple snap-your-fingers and the drawing comes alive step, there is something that even if your drawing isn’t exactly looking all that ‘convincing’, it can instantly bring the drawing to life and make up for the lack of realism in the piece.
What is the secret weapon? a shadow. This may seem obvious, but people often forget it especially when using a reference that doesn’t contain a shadow. A shadow makes the object drawn feel like it’s actually sitting right in front of you. It adds a whole other dimension to the piece.
You’ll notice that even if you were to just draw the basic outline of an object but give it a proper, realistic shadow, somehow the outline comes alive and looks real, even though the object doesn’t.
This is why a shadow is so important, and is a quick cheat for realism.
Go to one of your old drawings, add a shadow (from the correct angle of course) and see the difference. It will likely make up for a few flaws in the realistic aspect and make the object pop.
Let me know how it goes!