1. jacktheknife
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    jacktheknife Member

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    Non-fiction character development

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jacktheknife, Sep 9, 2011.

    Gentlemen,

    My book is non-fiction.
    It is finished but for the next to last chapter, the trial chapter, and I can't write that till they have the trial. It is personal memoir of 30 years in my life. I live alone but for my girlfriend who used to come out on the weekends. There are not many people in the story but for Marci, and my connection at i-universe told me to "develop the characters".
    Now there are my hounds and they were all very personable, real characters they all were. But since women buy 90% of books and hounds buy none, and my i-universe connection Stephen, told me to "develop the characters", I am in an area that I have little experience.
    I understand this and will add more description of Marci's character. I just read here that a paragraph describing a character's hair and such is boring, and I agree. Marci is not a fictional character. She is my girl friend of 20 years and by 'developing her character' this doesn't mean a description of her hair, but her personality, her history and family ties. Her business and her likes and dislikes, her soul.
    I understand this but except for Marci, Carol, and myself the only characters in the story are the bad guys and there are a bunch of them. I have no idea what kind of character they have except that they are cowards. Short, fat policemen who like to hurt people. Or white trash who like to poison hounds, horses, steal land, rape children, lie, and are all basically the scum of the earth, all of them died in prison in 2002. The short, fat cops will die in prison too, they won't last a year, the prisoners will kill them too. That is the trial I am waiting for.

    I have read that an Author should have characters who the readers loves whether they are good or bad. I see the one but not the other.
    How and why would one write about a character as evil as the ones in my book in a way the reader loves them? I can see no good in them and am at a loss as to how to describe them in any way other than "pure, naked, smirking evil". Ayn Rand.
    So making the reader love them is out of the question. I can describe the characters but who cares. They are evil and have no redeeming characteristics, they are all short, fat, viscous, cowards. So the only people in my book who are not that way are Marci, Carol, a few friends from the 4th grade and me. I guess the Sheriffs deputies who helped me, the people in rehab were all 100% good people too. All the Doctors of course, and my disability Judge but this memoir is about a thirty year period and the people in rehab, the Doctors and Sheriffs deputies are only in the book for one of those years. The story is as I said non-fiction. I live alone and almost always have so I guess I should develop the characters I have, as well as possible and leave it at that.

    Most of the information on character development here on the forum is for fiction, but these people are real. How would I, or why would I even attempt to develop the character of the scum who killed all my hounds 20 years ago or tried to kill me 10 years ago?

    I guess I answered my own question again.


    Thank you...


    jacktheknife
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    There are lots of villains who people love even though they're awful: the Joker from "Batman," Count Olaf from "A Series of Unfortunate Events," Darth Vader, Dexter from the show, and loads of others.

    These villains have qualities that make them fascinating. Give your villains unique quirks; logical thought-processes; relatable opinions; etc. Flesh them out, and focus on what they want and what makes them tick just as much as you do for your protags.
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Jack, you must live a life that is even more sheltered than you describe if you think only men use the internet.
     
  4. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    Have you ever heard of the phrase, "Love to hate?" You essentially need to create that sort of effect. You need to make the character interestingly evil, such as a graverobber instead of a thief. This'll make them much more interesting than just someone that picks pockets, as their targets will commonly have a link elsewhere in the story.

    Of course, you did say that you were writing nonfiction. Do some background research on the criminals, and incorperate their backstories. I find myself thinking of Capote's In Cold Blood. Two murderers who kill for no apparent reason isn't that interesting. When one is reading about a half-Cheroke guitar player that lied about killing a negro before he landed jailtime, then he becomes much more interesting. Everyone has a backstory, and even if you hate the character outright, it's important that they remain three dimensional. Even if they killed your pets and tried to take your life, there is almost always a story behind the person. Do some digging and maybe a new point of view will appear. That view will lead to another, and like almost every non-fiction novel, it can reveal a web of information that will be exactly what people are looking for.

    Whatever you choose to do, just remember that everyone you write about is supposed to be equals. Bias is one thing that will kill a nonfiction book. You can present your case, tell of the incidents, but you should never call anyone outright evil. It's one of those things that will show that you don't care about anyone else's point of view, and in a nonfiction novel, the stories of the criminal's view is often one of the biggest hooks. Reporters will almost always dig for information besides what's given to them, and you should approach writing nonfiction in a similar fashion.

    Best of luck to you, though, and I'd enjoy picking up your book if you're able to get it published.
     
  5. jacktheknife
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    jacktheknife Member

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    madhoca, I am sorry, Ladies and gentlemen sounds like a circus announcer.
    I will think of another intro to my posts,
    I am sorry.

    jacktheknife
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ no probs! (Actually, 'gentlemen' sounds like you are the proprietor of a pub.)
    You can have all your evil characters as long as they do not degenerate into caricatures, IMO. Then they become a bit boring. Like Mallory says--a great example--even the Joker has his moment of pathos. It doesn't make him any nicer to be with, though. Also, I would gradually build up the feeling of evil. Don't ladle everything onto us too much, too soon. You may need to prepare the reader a bit, even if it's a true story. You've obviously been through a lot and learnt much--it seems to me that you do have a character for the reader to like--YOU! Or at any rate, you are the character of hope in the tale.
     
  7. jacktheknife
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    jacktheknife Member

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    JPGriffin,

    Thank you very much for your very helpful post.
    I don't have any other way to learn the bad cops point of view, than the coming trial. And during the trial I will pay particular attention to just that. Not good points but interesting ones in the phychological makeup of the five former cops. I seriously doubt if anything in their lives is interesting but I will look.
    I realize that you are right about bias being a non-fiction book killer.
    "the stories of the criminal's view is often one of the biggest hooks".
    This is brilliant!


    Thank you very much


    jacktheknife
     

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