This weekend I’ve been devouring a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder; it’s like a behind-the-scenes glance for this Little House fan to learn the “real” story behind the beloved children’s classics. It’s not surprising to learn, of course, that there were plenty of events omitted from the final narrative, for the sake of simplifying the plot, maintaining an overarching theme, and appreciating the sensibilities of a young reading audience. Some favorite characters are fictional (Mr. Edwards), some are composites of several historical figures (Nellie Oleson). The Little House series as we know it today is a complicated sort of fictionalized autobiography; as Wilder herself admitted, “This book is not a history but a true story founded on historical fact.”
I have written almost 500 posts here, and I understand all too well the fine line between true stories and “true” stories. I’ll fudge timelines, exaggerate details, adjust dialogue for the sake of telling a more concise and compelling story. In my mind, I feel the same justification as Wilder: these altered details don’t make my stories any less true, even if they didn’t happen exactly as I’ve recorded.
It’s worth remembering when you read favorite blogs or the status updates from the friend who has it all together that you’re always one step removed from the true history. Some people present images of themselves that are complete fictions, others are closer to the truth, but everyone is telling a story.
And while the written down story version may make a more interesting read, and may even go down in history as the “truth,” let’s remember that it’s real life that really matters.