1. Kerin
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    Kerin New Member

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    I Need Help With My Story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Kerin, May 1, 2014.

    Hi everyone, I'm new here. I have written a story about a true even that took place in New Zealand in the 1950s. A young man from England, living there at the time, was hanged in 1955 for a crime he didn't commit. The first draft is around 500 pages. I am writing it from John's perspective from prison as he waits his date with the hangman. He writes his life story down for prosperity. While there, he wrote letters home about his innocence and he hoped that one day his innocence would be proved. I believe he was innocent of murder, guilty of manslaughter. It was a horrific mistake but he was sentenced to death by the government for his sexual activities (New Zealand was in the grip of being taken over by alleged Communism, American movies and film actors, music, pulp fiction, fashion, milkbars (drug stores), hairstyles, and gleaming motorbikes - all of which the country thought was degrading and an extremely bad influence on their youth and they wanted it stopped). I have been told by a critic to write it in the third person narrative, but I am not happy about that. This is John's personal story about what led up to him being in prison. The Prologue informs us what it was life was like in repressed, conservative New Zealand, the politics of the time and capital punishment.
    Is there any other way to write this without it sounding academic? I am looking for the personal touch in that I want the reader to know the sort of man John was.
     
  2. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    Read Truman Capote's In Cold Blood if you haven't. He expertly brought us into the minds of real people, in a true life crime story. Being that your book is based on actual events, it (dare I say) seems to be a bit presumptuous for an author to 'become' an actual person for the purposes of storytelling. I think credibility would be much greater written in the third person.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi, welcome to the forum. I'll have to get back to your questions later, just wanted to say hi for now.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    First of all, welcome to the forum and congratulations for taking on such a compelling topic. Also sounds like a great opportunity for painting a backdrop of social history without making it sound like backstory. You don't say whether you want to write this strictly has history of if you want to write a fictionalized account of history. Inherit The Wind was fiction based on an actual event (the Scopes trial). This would certainly give you more latitude.

    You have several options here, of which a 3rd person narrative is only one. I can think of several good ones for you. One is to use 3rd person limited and create a few major characters from whose points of view you can weave together the story. Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novels, such as The Sum of All Fears, do this really well. You can also use 3rd person limited exclusively from John's POV. Or 1st person from John's POV (which is where it sounds like you're leaning). It's a personal choice, because pretty much anything you can do in 1st person, you can do in 3rd limited. You can also use 1st person with a few different POVs, but you must make it absolutely clear to the reader whose POV is being presented at any one time. Another issue with multiple 1st person POVs is that you have to craft the writing to reflect the personality of the character being presented. That is, each 1st person character has to sound different from the others to the reader. Elizabeth Kostova presented 3 different 1st person POVs in The Swan Thieves, but other than when they discussed their work, their voices were very similar. It was the one negative point that several critics seized upon in an otherwise very solid work. Then again, if you are writing a straight factual account, you really can't use first person because you're not John.

    I would avoid using a prologue for the purpose stated above, even if it's a strictly factual account. Better to bring John directly to the reader's attention, and add the background as you feel the reader needs to know. If it's to be a fictionalized account, you can introduce your characters in situations that give a flavor of what you want to portray, while at the same time setting the stage for the main drama that is to come. You want to engage the reader, especially at the outset, and simply setting out the facts of the time will only get it done if the reader has an interest in modern history to begin with. You want to engage the reader who has never been interested and make him/her want to know.

    Best of luck.
     
  5. Kerin
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    Kerin New Member

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    Thank you everyone for your comments - they give me food for thought. I agree the information in the prologue should be in the story itself. This will be a story based on the facts, a fictionalised account. In Cold Blood is an excellent book. I will read the other books you've all noted. I really appreciate everything everybody's written. And think that perhaps I can write it in the third person and come up with a great story. Thanks again! :)
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @Kerin - one thing I would suggest is that you regard this site as something akin to a study group. Very few of our members are published writers; most of us are, like me, in the "aspiring" category. We are all learning together, and are at various stages. After a while, you'll get a sense for whose advice resonates the most. After a while, you'll give some yourself.
     
  7. Kerin
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    Kerin New Member

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    Hi EdFromNY, thank you for the advice. Of course, I am only too happy to help with advice. My website is: www.kerinfreeman.webs.com if anyone likes to contact me. What you guys have given me is a fresh outlook on my story. Before all your help, I was at a bit of a loss. Its great to be on here, and thanks for having me :)
     

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