I want to talk about nonfiction for a moment... since that's what I do. I must wonder why I do it since it takes a lot more work than fiction. Anyway, when you get down to it, a lot of historical nonfiction is fiction in a way. When all the people you're writing about are dead it becomes a he said she said kind of thing. What is the truth? Even now, when things are videotaped (you'd presume it to be the truth) IS it?
The other day I was flipping through Palin's new book while at work. I know I know, but I was bored. Don't judge! Anyhow, she wrote about the video that went viral--the one where she was interviewed in front of a turkey being beheaded last thanksgiving. She said she didn't know that there was a turkey behind her and that they turned the camera to an odd angle to catch it. I thought--how awful! What a terrible thing for a camera man to do! I felt bad for Palin. So, of course, when I got home I promptly hunted down the video on YouTube. Boy did my opinion change! It was not shot at an angle. The scene was shot with her straight on and the turkey directly behind her. Yes, the camera man knew what was going on but she should have as well! It did not look like they were trying to one up her at all. So what's the truth? Did she or did she not know about the turkey? There was a lot of noise going on, too--cries for help via the turkey and that sort of thing.
When I did research for Strong Man I got all sorts of conflicting information about when exactly Atlas died. Was he 79 or 80? His grave stone said one thing, his official website said another... and his obits were all over the place.
Now that I'm working on a book about a dog. Was he black or brown? All the kids' book covers illustrate him as brown but it turns out that he's stuffed i a museum (odd, I know) and he's brown. Did he age and turn brown or was he always brown? Perhaps the old news articles made him look black because they were in black and white.
So what I must conclude is that there is no one truth for anything. It's all a matter of perspective. Nonfiction writing is a job of taking what people say and then making your best educated guess as to what the truth really is. Perhaps if I were writing about math then things would be different... but I can promise you all now that me and math are like fire and ice. We don't get along. So I will continue to make educated guesses and hope that kids can learn to do the same as well.