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Telling the Reality Behind Fiction

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How much (or any) of their research should writers of fiction for children provide? That interesting question, posed by blogger Betsy Bird yesterday, provoked a fascinating conversation. The prevailing sentiment seemed to be that the text should speak for itself and that author notes are not necessary --- ever. Yet I have to wonder, is all fiction the same in this regard? Or nonfiction for that matter? In fact, as a reader, critic, teacher of children, and author of a forthcoming work of fiction I find that line between fiction and nonfiction to be very porous, one that writers move between all the time. It happened to me. Feeling it was important that child readers know that it really happened, I tried to tell the true story of a child on the Amistad as straight nonfiction, but it turned out there wasn't enough material to do that. And so I fictionalized the story using all the carefully researched facts from my nonfiction version. So now, although it is a fictionalized true story, I still plan on the same sort of author note I'd had in mind when it was nonfiction.

As I wrote to someone who commented on my post of yesterday on this topic, I've learned through many years in the classroom that kids want to know what is real and what isn't. Heck, I want to know that too in fiction about real people and events. So to ease my frustration here's a chart that roughly shows the continuum between nonfiction and fiction. It by no means is a comprehensive list of all the types of fiction or nonfiction, just a handful to show what seems to me the somewhat arbitrariness of insisting all fiction doesn't need back matter while all nonfiction does.

2010-10-30-continuum.jpg

Also at educating alice.