Tag: truth

truth

B.O.A.T.S. (Based on a True Story)

 I heard information today at work that made me say to myself, “That would make a great movie.” (No details here–it’s an active project.) It got me thinking about other true stories that would make gripping fiction. The art world provides a plethora of material suitable for a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller. Art isn’t nearly as sedate as those 6th grade field trips to dim, musty museums led you to believe. A search of Artsy turned up an article about an agoraphobic photographer who uses Google Street View to take screenshots of the people and landscapes she encounters in her virtual world travels. What if she grabbed a screenshot of a crime committed thousands of miles away? What would this homebound woman do? A deeper dip into Artsy’s archives turns up several articles on the hunt for, recovery of, and restoration of Nazi-looted art. What’s been described as the world’s greatest art theft has already inspired novels, movies, and TV shows: Portrait of a Woman in White, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Woman in Gold, and episodes of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Father Brown, and Agatha Christie’s Marple, to name a few. Newspapers and magazines often feature stranger-than-fiction stories. The Telegraph and Business Insider report on professional mourners hired to grieve at funerals. (Rent A Mourner is a legit UK-based business offering “discreet and professional mourners”.) Turns out, this isn’t a new thing. Mourners for hire date back to ancient Greece and are traditional in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. They’re called moirologists and in 1910, in Paris, threatened to go on strike, complaining of not being paid living wages. Imagine an experienced moirologist noticing something odd about the deceased she’s been hired to mourn. An unusual Mark on the body? A bruise not hidden by the undertaker’s makeup? A face she recognized? I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the Internet and good, old-fashioned eavesdropping as sources for strange-but-true material. Last week I listened, fascinated, as the man at the table next to me recounted how his brother witnessed a massacre during a coup and developed PTSD so severe he suffered violent outbursts that eventually led to a life-or-death fight with the storyteller. Literally life-or-death. Think broken bones, manual strangulation, and bystander intervention. Drama fit for a Man Booker prize. Google “can’t make this stuff up” and get 18 million hits: links to newspaper articles, listicles, blogs, and Facebook pages. Here’s a recent one from FB: a woman breaks into a celebrity’s house (Drake, if you must know) and steals Pepsi, Sprite, Fiji water, and a hoodie. What if an obsessed fan broke into a celebrity’s house and found Nazi-looted art or witnessed his idol committing a crime? What life-imitates-art stories would you like to see fictionalized?

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The Danger Of Too Much Truth In Fiction

Thriller writers must be careful about being too honest about the extent of human depravity lest we be accused of unbelievability. In truth, human beings are capable of far more horrific behaviors than most of us thriller authors could ever write about. Today, for example, I read a story in the Washington Post about people who brutally murdered a former friend for allegedly attempting to steal their marijuana smoking device. The brothers presumed responsible made the victim consume kitty litter before posting photos of the brutal attack on snapchat, an online messaging platform. If I had a villain who I had not established was a psychopath or drug syndicate enforcer perpetrate a similar crime, I’d certainly be accused of taking too much license. How could readers believe that individuals, not under the influence of some psychosis-inducing PCP-type drug, would be so horrible to another human being, especially a person they had liked enough to invite into their home?  In my last book, The Widower’s Wife, a few readers took issue with a character sneaking back into America via a cruise ship. They said that coming into the U.S. without papers couldn’t possibly be that easy and that human smugglers wouldn’t have acted in the way that I portrayed. I had gotten much of my information for that part of the book from a New York Times expose in the 90s called “Loophole At The Pier” in which human smugglers did what I described. To satisfy these readers, I should have probably made sneaking in seem more treacherous than it actually was according to well-respected news sources. What do you think? Has truth ever been stranger than your fiction? 

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