The truth is messy, and that's a fact!
When writing Insane Inventors I wanted to let children know that scientists often take great risks in their research and creative process, and because of this people believed they were crazy. Alfred Nobel blew up his laboratory trying to invent dynamite. Lawrence Patrick was a human crash test dummy and broke nearly every bone in his body. And then there was Nikola Teslsa - brilliant and in love with pigeons. How much truth should I include?
I firmly believe that authors have an obligation to tell the truth about a subject, but I also believe that we can leave some facts for readers to investigate when they are older and better able to process information. Authors need to sift through the facts. Which ones are necessary to explain the story? Did children need to know that Nikola Tesla claimed to love a pigeon as he would a woman? I didn't believe that was necessary in a middle grade book. But I did tell them that he spent his final years living with pigeons. When they are older they can investigate further and draw their own conclusions. They will still be able to look back at my writing and know that I told them the truth.
It's a fine line. We need to be honest with readers and not cover up the more difficult parts of history, but we also need to be sensitive to the developmental age of our audience.
Great to know the author can leave out information that may be difficult for a young reader to process. As you said, "It's a fine line." Thank you for sharing!ReplyDelete
It's a balancing act! Good luck with your projects!Delete
Interesting people often have "interesting" details to their lives. Thanks for sharing how we must define that line of what to include.ReplyDelete
Sometimes it makes me want to write "older" to be able to include those "interesting" details! But kids are so much more fun than adults!Delete
This is great information. I'm currently working on a nonfiction bio that covers a touchy subject. It can be a struggle on where to draw the line.ReplyDelete
It is hard, isn't it? People are multi-dimensional and do both good and bad things in their lives. As kidlit authors we have to be truthful and gentle at the same time.Delete
Love this. You pick a theme for your story and that plot will navigate your journey. But I do find that I can so go down a deep rabbit hole when researching. That is why I am so excited about February's Nonfiction Fest event. Ready!ReplyDelete
I love a good rabbit hole!! And sometimes those rabbit holes turn into stories of their own.Delete
You make good points, Stephanie. Readers trust you to tell the truth, and teachers, librarians, and parents trust you to consider the child's sensibilities and age when you share your truth.ReplyDelete
The truth always comes out, I don't believe in hiding it, but I do believe we need to be gentle in telling it.ReplyDelete
Your point is well made. In such a short format it is going to be a challenge to decide what information to keep. I guess this is where back-matter can help. Thanks for your insight.ReplyDelete
YES! You can explain much more detail in backmatter.Delete
Fascinating! I want to read about all these people (and I'm not in middle school!) Thanks.ReplyDelete
Solid advice... Investigating one of my characters I find hints that his adult life was marred by alcohol and business failure. That gives me clues to character but not something I'd bring up in the slice of life I'm writing about.ReplyDelete