Writing Books/Fiction or non-fiction
Dear Ms Rand
I am a lawyer recently involved in very interesting case. I think it would make a great book (marriage, infidelity, death, fraud, theft, personal tragedy etc, etc), but don't know whether I should stick to the facts adn document the case or write it as fiction and "embellish" it where necessary.
Is there any rule of thumb, especially for a first time writer?
Hello Matthew Esq.:
I am a dedicated watcher of Court TV and I know there are many interesting and involving cases in our courts that would make marvelous books. Just ask John Grisham!
There are no rules of thumb that I know of, but you probably know more about the problems inherent in a non-fiction work of this type than I do - getting releases, disguising names, etc. Or, you can forget all that and just lay out the facts. The trouble with this is that if you're not careful, it ends up reading like a trial transcript. Readers want to know about the people involved.
For that reason, if I were considering such a book, I would write it as fiction ("Based on a real case"), disguise the characters and use other names, locate it elsewhere, etc. This way, you can draw your characters as you like, giving them the background/reactions you want them to have. Where the story needs drama you can add it, and you can leave out all the stupid stuff. I would use the testimony pretty much as it is, with the cuts as mentioned.
I trust you have read the greats in true crime: Capote, Ann Rule, Aphrodite Jones, Grisham, etc. Capote, of course is credited with inventing "creative non-fiction," I don't think you could go wrong using IN COLD BLOOD as a model. James Frey (that James Frey) has written some wonderful books on writing, the one I'm thinking of is HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL. You might consult that.
This sounds like it will make interesting reading and I do hope you persevere with it. If you have more questions, please come back. I'd like to help if I can.
I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 800 questions.
And good luck with your writing!