Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Factually Fanatic, a Followup

I ran into technical difficulties yesterday. Blogger was refusing to let me respond to a comment posted on my own blog! Apparently, my account "did not have access" to that blog. Oh yeah?

Anyway, in the comment a reader named Shannon raised some hard questions about what amounts to "going over the line" when one departs from known fact. (Check yesterday's post for Shannon's comment.) As I would have told Shannon if Blogger let me, my own opinion is that one can and should depart from fact when it's necessary to do so to tell one's story. But finally what's "over the line" is in the eye of the beholder.

I'll always remember a story a teacher of mine in graduate school told. A friend of his had a fictional story accepted by a major national glossy, one wealthy enough to employ a horde of "fact checkers." In the short story, the writer made mention of a "kidney shaped pool" in a backyard in the town where the story was set. The magazine's fact checkers told the writer that they could not publish her story unless she could prove that a kidney shaped pool actually existed in the town in question in the year in which the story was set. Can you believe that? If the writer had submitted her story as nonfiction, then sure go ahead and do the fact checking; insist on the literal pool. But for a short story? I'm afraid some people need to be reminded as to why fiction is called fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the response :) (your graphic made me think of German TV!Fail from not so long ago.)

    I wish I had something more to add to that, but thinking specifically about historical fiction isn't something I've done before. It takes a while for me to digest and consider new information, so I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question (I'd blame it on the fact that I have a four-year-old boy running around, but I'm not entirely certain I was any faster or brighter before he was born).