Truth in Fiction?

How much is too much truth in fiction? Isn’t the point of fiction to be able to make up a brand new “world” – even if it’s the exact same world we live in today?

Recently I read a 1 star review for the book I read the other day – Life As We Knew It. I don’t want to give out too much of the plot here and ruin it for anyone, but basically the reviewer was mad that the townsfolk of the community the protagonist lived in didn’t act like “real” people would. Just to give a bit of an overview of the novel – the moon is pushed from its orbit closer to Earth, which causes weird weather patterns, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes erupt covering the entire planet in ash to where they can’t even see the sun anymore. Then there is no weather, followed by a completely arctic winter (it takes place in Pennsylvania, USA). Meanwhile, people are fending for themselves. Neighbors don’t speak to neighbors, no one tells anyone else how much food/wood/blankets they have. And so on. It’s a pretty bleak existence after the moon is pushed closer to Earth.

Anyway, the 1 star reviewer (which you can read on Amazon, though it will give away spoilers!) referred to the novel as doomsday light. I don’t know, first of all, this is a kid’s book for all intents and purposes. And while Harry Potter dealt with a lot more death on a personal level than this novel did, I can still see not wanting to kill of every single living person there is. Secondly, and my main point in all of this is, who would even want to read the dead kid’s novel? The girl who fought for a week then died. The point of reading this novel from this character’s point of view is to see how she pushed on, how her brother’s and her mother fought to live and survive – is it really so hard to believe that if the world suddenly went into turmoil right now  like the moon coming closer to Earth, that there wouldn’t be at least one family out there that fought and struggled and lived? THAT would be the story I’d want to read, not the one about the kid who fights for a minute then dies of the flu halfway through the winter.

Not to mention the whole thing is fiction anyway. It’s not real, so what if the neighbor lady is super sweet and never tries to steal their food? She’s not real.

Ok…I feel like that rant made a lot more sense in my head, but there you have it!


15 thoughts on “Truth in Fiction?

  1. People get very passionate about the “truth-in-fiction” argument . . . but I agree with you. Many times we read fiction to get away from reality and truth. Sometimes, all you want to do is get lost in a good story without worrying about the mysteries of human nature.

    • That’s how I feel as well. The main character in this novel was honestly a whiny brat at the beginning, and sounded pretty real to me! The story was told through her journal entries, as she was mostly stuck in her home – she she wasn’t out there in the world really seeing what was going on anyway, just what was going on in her own home.

    • You got it! I think honestly .. going back to Harry Potter…even though it was a fantasy novel, it might have portrayed life and death in a more realistic way than Life As We Knew It did, but that’s apples and oranges and nevertheless I still enjoyed the “end of the world” aspect of the book enough to keep wanting to know more and more about what it was like for these character’s to try to survive the end of the world.

  2. I’m wondering if maybe the person had an issue with the believability of the characters and badly articulated it? One star seems way harsh if the characters weren’t real enough for the reader.

    • Maybe so. Honestly the main character bugged me in the beginning of the book, she was a real whiny brat at times when her mom was struggling to keep them all alive. But as the book went on she got along more and more with her mom, and realized the severity of the situation. I think the 1 star reviewer felt she should have experienced more death than she did, but I never thought she wasn’t suffering enough – they had it pretty rough. And everything that happened was told through her journal entries so if she didn’t see it, she didn’t know about it (like the flu killing folks for example).

  3. I agree with everything you’re saying, Laura, as someone who also has read the book. It imprinted me enough to remember it. I even remember, especially remember in fact, most of the scenes the 1-star reviewer mentioned.

    The girl whined. What 16 year old, obvious by the crowd of friends she had, wouldn’t whine.

    Not trying to spoil it, but that ‘church’ was a CULT not a church.

    I think seeing a like the girl lived it, because of the nature of it, would have seen less rioting and less hatred. Though imo they probably would have banded together more, as a person who lives in one of those towns. If I’m remembering right.

    • Yep you nailed it. That church in the book was unlike any church/pastor that I have ever encountered in my life. I have had friends like this girl though, both the crazy one obsessed with the pastor and the one who just wanted a new guy each day and know where she was coming from there.

      I come from a pretty small town and I’m not sure how life would really play out if this happened in real life. Folks where I’m from pillage each other for drugs or money/things to sale for money to buy drugs as it is so probably if this were to really happen it could get ugly. But even if there was pillagers running through the town (which she did encounter when she went to town that once) she woudln’t have even known in order to write it down because after a while she was basically stuck at her house or the woods.

      • I forgot the part where she was stuck in her house at the end – that’s true. I would only be concerned with my house when that happened to.

        Pfft. I’m pretty much that way already, usually. Not like I get out much.

      • Yeah same here! If this happened today I’d be keeping to myself and not bothering with anyone else. I live in an apartment building and I don’t even know who my neighbors are, and we share walls!

  4. Unfortunately, I think the art of fiction is sometimes lost in a society that has become obsessed with reality. Take television and movies, for example–at one point, these were meant to be vehicles to escape the reality. Now people are obsessed with reality shows, movies–even animated movies–are trying harder and harder to look real. It’s leaking into literature now, and people expect that in a fictional world of fictional people should mirror a real world of real people. They forget that for everyone, the world is perceived differently, and that writing isn’t about writing the world as someone else sees it, it’s about writing the world as we, the writers, see it or writing about the world as we want to see it. Sometimes it’s about creating a new world altogether, and no one but the creator can decide who and what is realistic for that world.

    Personally, I’ve come to a point where unless there are a significant amount of one- and two-star reviews on an Amazon item–book or movie–I read them only for amusement!

    • That’s what I was thinking too – that more and more people want reality even if they are watching movies or reading fiction. I think for me the reality just has to make sense for the novel. I like to read 1 star reviews when I have really liked a book, just to see what made someone else really hate it. I dunno why I do that to myself.

    • Isn’t it though? I will agree I wanted mom to shut up about her hatred of G.W. Bush in the book , but what the 1 star reviewer took as the author’s anger toward our past president, I took as a character quirk on the mom’s part. That was one thing about the mom, no matter how bad things got she still hated the president, which I thought was pretty funny.

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