Tag Archives: fact and fiction

Separating fact from myth

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

In a number of previous posts I questioned the importance of getting the facts right in fiction, especially for young children. Obviously there is a lot of fiction that is pure make-believe and fantasy and the facts don’t have to match those of the “real” world. However they do need to hold true for that imagined world.

The posts (links provided at the end if you wish to read) incited a great deal of discussion. A variety of opinions were expressed ranging from it doesn’t matter at all to it matters a lot. It seems many are willing to forgive inaccuracies in fiction if the book’s positive qualities make it more appealing. If the book as a whole is good, what is a little inaccuracy?

On the other hand, a book that “fails” for other reasons such as inadequacies or inconsistencies in plot, poor sentence structure, incorrect punctuation and spelling errors would fail regardless of the accuracy of the “facts”. Perhaps it is easier to accept one fault in an otherwise worthy product than it is to accept a faulty product with one redeeming feature?

The number of posts I have written on this topic indicates how much energy I have expended thinking about this topic. It is no surprise that my interest should be piqued by the post entitled The Irony of Believing Humans Use Only 10% of Their Brains, written by Paul Thomas and shared on his blog the becoming radical.

Thomas begins the post with a quote by Barbara Kingsolver from her book High Tide in Tucson.

“Write a nonfiction book, and be prepared for the legion of readers who are going to doubt your facts. But write a novel, and get ready for the world to assume every word is true.”

In the post Thomas refers to the movie Lucy, released in July 2014, which explored the effects of using more than 10% of our brains. Of course we do use more than 10% (100% in fact) but there is a commonly held myth that we don’t, and the movie served to perpetuate it.

In his post Thomas questions “when is fact, fact, and when is fiction merely fiction?” similar to the discussion in my posts. He says that the 10% of our brains myth is still widely accepted despite advances in neuroscience and understandings of how our brains work. He refers to the way “we” seek out information that supports our beliefs and ignore that which doesn’t. Mind you, in his article he mentions some myths related to education which I am going to ignore for now. I’ll leave those for another time.

Working towards his conclusion Thomas states:

“How much of our brains we use seems pointless if we remain a species characterized by closed minds, unable or unwilling to build on evidence to form new ideas, unable or unwilling to check our existing ideas against evidence.”

I’m inclined to agree.

What do you think? Do you accept the 10% myth or do you know it to be untrue?

Did you watch the movie Lucy? If so, how did your understanding of the 10% premise affect your enjoyment?

I’d love to know what you think.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I do appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Links to my posts exploring false “facts” in fiction:

Revisiting the Very Hungry Caterpillar

Which came first — the chicken or the duckling?

Empowerment — the importance of having a voice

Finding power in a picture book — the main event

Searching for truth in a picture book — Part C

Searching for purpose in a picture book — Part B

Searching for meaning in a picture book — Part A


Which came first – the chicken or the duckling?

First of all in this post I would like your opinion, if you are happy to give it, about a story for young children I have been working on.  This is it:

Ten Little Eggs


I recently revisited a series interrogating whether it is important for authors to ensure the correctness of information in picture books, and where the line between fact and fiction should be drawn.

I questioned the inaccuracies in Eric Carle‘s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar and whether it mattered that what emerged from the cocoon was a butterfly rather than a moth (butterfly caterpillars don’t spin cocoons, moth caterpillars do).

Responses varied greatly, but seemed to be evenly divided, from it doesn’t matter at all to it matters a lot. You can read the responses on the posts here, here, here, here, and here.

I realise that the comments are subjective and personal and greatly dependent upon the readers’ experiences with the book and attitude towards the well-known, highly respected and prolific author.  I wondered what the attitude would be to my less worthy story.

My intention was for an amusing twist at the end with the realisation that the 10th hatchling was slow because it really was a chicken, not just “chicken” as in scared.

However, when I researched incubation times for chickens and ducklings, I discovered that ducklings take longer to hatch than chickens. Therefore the story not only doesn’t work but, if I was to publish it, I would be misleading readers. While it is also unlikely that a chicken’s egg would turn up in a duck’s nest, it is possible and I am not as concerned about that inconsistency. However I stopped working on the story because of the inaccuracy and have let it sit.

A suggestion made by Steven during the cocoon/chrysalis debate was that a page of facts at the end of the book would overcome any inaccuracies in the text. This made me think that perhaps I could include a page of facts about chickens and ducklings to counterbalance the inaccuracy in the story,  for example:

Chickens and ducklings - Would you believe

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.