By Julie Daines
I've been following the story of Greg Mortenson and his book "Three Cups of Tea." So sad. And yet, it is the perfect reminder to me of why I tend prefer the novel over nonfiction and memoir. How do I know what the author wrote is true? Everyone is prone to embellishment. But when it's out there in a book, it doesn't feel like embellishment, it feels like lies.
So then I started wondering ... is there room for embellishment in fiction? We watch TV and movies where stuff that could never happen happens all the time. And we say, "Cool! They just figured out who the killer is and saved the world based on a grain of sand." Or "Wow, that car just did a triple back flip over a cliff and the driver didn't get hurt at all." We accept it and move on. Maybe with film, seeing is believing.
It seems harder to get away with stuff like that in a book. I don't know why. Maybe the printed word carries more weight. Maybe we don't have that "real life" visual image to help us suspend disbelief. Instead, we read with skepticism, questioning the "reality" of what is happening in a book of fiction. Then we scoff and say, "Ha! I don't buy it."
Every genre of fiction has different standards of realism, of course. And things have to fit into their specific realm of reality--all with some sense of believability.
But it makes me laugh when a child looks up from a book and says, "Mom, I don't think a giant, poisonous worm would actually be strong enough to crack the mountain like that."
So why is it that fiction can't just be fiction?