1. glenpalmer
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    glenpalmer New Member

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    Would creating a character work for non fiction?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by glenpalmer, Jun 25, 2013.

    Hi all,

    I've been thinking about this for a while now.

    I want to write a non-fiction book about keeping and breeding nile monitor lizards. You see herpetology has been in my blood since I was a kid. I've successfully bred and kept nile monitors for over two decades and I want to share what I've learn't over the years.

    However, I read somewhere that by injecting a character into a non-fiction book helps get the message across.
    So my question is this, would it be wise for me to do this and if so, how would I go about doing it.

    I would love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks in advance.
    Glen.
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think you should do it if you don't feel strongly that that is the way you can best get your message across. Just hearing that it can help isn't really useful advice if it doesn't spark an idea in you -- a eureka moment.

    I know that I've seen this done, although I can't recall a lot of specific instances. I think the For Dummies books often use this sort of approach. The only book I can remember is from many years ago, and it was a book about taking standardized tests. They created a fictional character who was supposed to be an exactly average person. So the book would analyze various types of questions -- into easy, medium, and difficult and talk about how this character would attempt to find the answer. Because he was typical, the conclusions he would reach in the easy questions was correct, and on the difficult questions, wrong. Then they would explain the tricks for seeing why what he would choose is wrong, and therefore you should not choose that answer.

    I'm not so sure this approach is needed for a book about keeping lizards, unless it is geared toward children.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you mean having a fictional character be either a lizard owner or the person telling readers about how to keep them, i agree with liz that it would only make sense if the book is aimed at children... i don't see it as a good idea for the adult market...
     
  4. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    See: Creative Non-Fiction

    Fictionalizing a person or parts of a story to make it more imaginative is one thing. Introducing a fictional character as described by liz and mammamaia is something entirely different and, in my humble opinion, wrong for a work of non-fiction. Just think: After your book on herpetology sells a million, what will happen when readers and critics find out that Bill the Nile Monitor Tamer doesn't exist?
     
  5. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. It would be fun for little Jonny to read how Little Bob and Little Mary look after their animals but for adults? Not so much.
     
  6. edamame
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    edamame Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think a fictional character would work for a non-fiction book. I'd read a non-fiction book expecting that everything I read would be based in truth. If you want a character in your book, why not write it in 1st person? You can be more subjective that way and you don't have to maintain such a distance with your reader.
     
  7. glenpalmer
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    glenpalmer New Member

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    Wow, you have just given me a eureka moment just there, thanks so much. I think I'm going to create a series of books for children that want to keep reptiles as pets. Simple so that both the children and parents can understand.

    Thanks so much.
     
  8. glenpalmer
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    glenpalmer New Member

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    I was thinking of basically making the character me telling readers how to keep them, but now that liz has given me an idea, I think I want to make the reptiles the actual characters. Something along the lines of "hey kids it's Nelly the nile monitor here. in the wild I live with my family along the banks of the nile river in Africa...'' Then go on to explain the right way to keep breed and feed these wonderful creatures.

    I think I may be onto a winner here...
     
  9. glenpalmer
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    glenpalmer New Member

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    Ah Anthony, but Glen the Nile Monitor Keeper and Breeder does exist. :)
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just wanted to say, personally I love your idea :D Write it and see how it goes, can't hurt to try! Do some research and see how other authors have done it, make sure you know how to write for children. Research also for what the market currently lacks - what is there that you think kids should know but that other books often miss out on? It may also help if you researched for how you should format your manuscript for a book like this, because I imagine lots of graphics will need to be involved - that way you wouldn't be left with a manuscript in bad format and then have all the work of correcting that later. For non-fiction, it's best (or perhaps essential) to have a proposal where you have a chapter-by-chapter outline. I don't write non-fiction myself so can't give you much detail, but google it, it'll pop up :)

    I'm not sure what the procedures are for non-fiction, esp non-fiction for kids. I am under the impression that you do not need a full manuscript before you approach a publisher as long as you have a proposal (and this is one of those cases where you may or may not need an agent as it'll be a very niche market). However, I'm not sure if this is different for first-time authors. With fiction, you always need a full MS regardless.

    Hope all goes well!
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    since this is a book for children by a new and unknown writer and not a full-sized how-to book by an acknowledged expert for the adult market, you'll most likely have to submit the completed ms...

    with fictional characters as the focus/narrators, it would be fiction, not non-fiction, so i don't see you needing to present a book proposal... just a query letter, if you want to try for an agent, or cover letter and the ms, if you submit directly to publishers...

    there are many books like this for children, so if you can't get an agent to rep it, you can check similar books to find publishers to submit it to...
     

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