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GUEST POST: Life In Death by Harlow Coban

HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL BASED ON A TRUE STORY

by

Harlow Coban, Author of Life in Death

My story isn’t a warm and fuzzy one.

My father was murdered when I was 12 years of age.

A few years ago, at my uncle’s urging, I looked into what happened to him.  The police had suspects, but no one was ever arrested and the case remains unsolved.

I learned a lot about police procedure when I looked into my father’s murder.  It was then that I decided to write a novel.

While my murder mystery novella, Life in Death, is not entirely based on what happened to my father, it draws from real life experiences I had with him.

Writing the novel was a cathartic experience for me.  What I liked most, and found particularly cleansing, about the experience was my power to spin the story as I saw fit.

We all love, hate, laugh, cry, and everything in between, so we’re never at a loss for stories to tell.

Here’s how you get started writing a novel based on a true story:

  • Determine what kind of story you want to write.  Talk to family and friends.  Look at newspaper articles.  I don’t want to be morose, but look at obituaries, too.  Take notes.  There are stories there.
  • Determine the story’s theme:  Good/evil, love/hate, birth/death, peace/war, etc.  Again, take notes.  This may be where the title of your book comes from or maybe not.  The title of my book came to me in a dream.
  • Construct a compelling plot.  I suggest creating a plot outline to start with.  I used the “what if” technique to determine what would happen in my chapters.  Basically, you ask yourself “what if” this or that happened to your character and expand from there.
  • Create dynamic scenes.  My advice is something has to happen in “every” chapter or scene.
  • Create multi-dimensional characters.  Many writers, including yours truly, base their characters on real people and then add nuances to create more complexity and depth.   This is one way to go.
  • Read, read, read.  The more you read, the better writer you’ll become.
  • Lastly, start writing.  “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.

Truth can be stranger than fiction, but maybe not as entertaining.  The key to writing a novel based on a true story is in how you spin the story to make it enjoyable for readers.

Cheers!

Harlow

Life in Death

by Harlow Coban

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Blurb:  When a girl that social worker Kari Marchant places in foster care is brutally murdered, she’s compelled to learn why. Her quest for the truth pits her against friends and coworkers. As Kari works to solve the horrific plot, more people die. She’s been targeted for death and she doesn’t even know it. How far should she go to learn the truth—even if it threatens her life?

When homicide detective Rance Nicolet meets Kari, his attraction to her is powerful—and the feeling is mutual. But things between them go terribly wrong when Kari’s old lover is found murdered with a letter from her in his pocket. The evidence against Kari is damning. Rance’s personal and professional lives collide. Does he blindly believe the woman he’s falling in love with or follow the evidence no matter where it leads?

EXCERPT

“Frost. Call on line one.” The voice boomed overhead and interrupted Scott Frost mid-climb. He jumped off his truck, pushed up the sleeves on his dingy green work shirt and walked to the phone mounted on the wall, his face a scowl of irritation

He grabbed the receiver. “Hello.”

“They found Patience,” his wife, Andrea, whispered.

Mammoth garbage trucks rumbled and shook the walls as they rolled out into the street for the day’s work, their giant bellies hungry for trash. Scott strained to hear his wife over the noise.

“I told you never to call me here.”

“Do you know what they did to her?” Her voice rose an octave.

“Hold it together.” He clenched his fist and resisted the impulse to smash it through the wall. “She’s the one who ran off.”

“She didn’t deserve that. Nobody deserves that.”

The phone slipped a bit in his sweaty hand. Tolerance had never been one of Scott’s virtues, and what little he did have waned with each whiny word his wife uttered. “It’ll all be over soon, you know that.”

 “They won’t let us out

He gnashed his teeth together until the noise in his head drowned out the roar of garbage trucks. The pumping of his heart escalated and Scott imagined he could feel his blood pressure rising.

“Damn it, Andrea, take a valium. These people are dangerous. They’ll kill us if we flake out.”

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Categories: Twitter, Uncategorized
  1. Mary Preston
    March 30, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    So moving. I am glad you were able to view the writing as a cathartic experience.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

  2. March 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Thank you for hosting Harlow today.

    • rasanaatreya
      March 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      My pleasure. What a terrible thing for a child to live through! I’m glad Harlow was able to get something good out of it.

  3. Momjane
    March 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I love the way you have used a terrible experience to write a story that shows how much you really were affected. I hope your life is wonderful now.

    I hope this story has a happy ever after. I think life is not always that way, so I read books to get the HEA,

  4. March 30, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Rasana, thank you for hosting me and your kind words.

    Mary/MomJane, thank you for your comments and for following me on my blog tour. Your support is much appreciated!

    • rasanaatreya
      March 30, 2012 at 8:21 pm

      My pleasure!

  5. Catherine Lee
    March 31, 2012 at 5:39 am

    I’ve generally been a non-fiction reader. My New Year’s resolution was to expand my reading interests (because I think a librarian should probably have a broader reading range). So, I’ve been trying out romance and paranormal and suspense, etc. Creative non-fiction appeals to me. Fictionalized stories that have a basis in fact really intrigue me. AND, you’re right…sometimes the truth can be stranger, and more unbelieveable, than fiction.

  6. Deb Pelletier
    March 31, 2012 at 7:17 am

    You’re right, the spin is what make it. Good luck with the tour.
    deb p
    r.d1@myfairpoint.net

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