As I’m starting a new project and have gotten feedback on it, I’m beginning to wonder if one aspect of my book idea is going to come under fire for being “unrealistic.” The unrealistic part in question is central to the plot and revolves around an actual activity and job teens do. But one that’s heavily regulated by the law and has many safety concerns (i.e. there are certain aspects of the job that might look unrealistic in the book, if teens are given the chance to do).
Now I know there are books about teens doing various jobs, such as being teenage spies, that aren’t entirely realistic. Despite the fact these jobs do exist for adults. And to me, it’s okay because it’s a given that it’s stretching the truth slightly for the story’s purpose, especially because people know that teenage spies generally don’t exist (or at least not that I know about). And it’s just plain fun.
But how do you handle the situation if it’s an actual job that teens can do? Are you under different obligations in fiction to keep it as realistic as possible? Only allowing them to do aspects of a job that someone their age would legally be allowed to.
Or does it even matter?
Normally, I don’t really care about how realistic stuff is in contemporary fiction. The more outlandish, the more I generally like it. But lately, I’ve been watching a few TV shows (cough, Men in Trees, cough) that just seem to get the facts about certain industries blatantly wrong. And it’s kind of annoying. If they only did it one episode, it would be okay, but so many errors regarding multiple industries it often feels like they aren’t fact checking. And as a viewer it makes me want to lose interest, because it pulls me out of the story to think about the facts (which generally is a bad thing).
In that example, it could be just the execution of it. And the fact, as a viewer, I don’t think they “need” to change the truth, so it doesn’t work for me personally or seem to fit the character. So if it feels realistic and necessary to the story, maybe the reader won’t question or care if it’s unrealistic?
Now that I’ve probably used way too many question marks in this entry, I’m going to run wild with it and use more. What do you think? Do you think it’s okay to fudge the truth in fiction? Does it depend on how it’s done? Even if the character should know better, if the general public doesn’t, doesn’t it matter if it’s not exactly correct?