Monday, August 24, 2009

My Friend the Murderer


No, not a character in my latest book. She's a real life murderer. She drugged and stabbed her husband, then tried to kill herself. Got a friend like that? I hope not.

While I don't know her real well, for instance I've never been to her house, I did talk to her 3 to 4 times a week at the gym for over 10 years. We talked politics, we talked kids, we talked about her fabulous vacations. She loved going to exotic places in style.

She was a mortgage broker during the real estate boom and seemed to be doing well. I'd always see her in the gym with nice workout clothes, brand new shoes, and expensive jewelry on her wrist. Then of course there was all the plastic surgery. She had enormous silicone breasts, many face lifts, her lips done at least a few times, liposuction everywhere, and massive hair extensions. It seemed she could never look "good enough". Over the years I watched her do procedure after procedure, shaking my head a little each time. She wasn't a knockout, but all the work did help.

I never really thought about dating her, I was married at the time, and frankly, she wasn't my type. Although some of my friends would argue that female was my type, she had an attitude that didn't appeal to me. She used to tell me, "Well, you know Doug, I don't date guys that don't make at least 250K a year." No, I don't make that, and even if I did, her attitude was a problem anyway.

So why am I talking about her? Because I'm thinking of using her as a character in my next novel. I have some interesting stories that I could use, and I kind of know what drove her. It wouldn't be that hard to integrate her as a murderer, after all I could just use the truth.

I thought about writing her actual story, but I'm not sure I am a True Crime writer. I'd rather write what I like, which is fiction.

The problem is that I am not sure it won't change my story in a bad way. As I try to integrate some of the stories, I am worried that it might take the novel into a direction that I wouldn't be able go with an invented character.

I also think that while the stories are interesting to me, because I know her, they may seem plain to someone who doesn't.

In case you want to read about the real thing, check out this link.

While I don't expect that you will have friends who are murderers, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on whether you think she would hurt the story, or help it.

10 comments:

  1. If it were me, I'd write down some thoughts, memories and character traits about this person while they are still fresh in my mind, but I think I'd wait a good while before using her in a story. Emotional distance from an actual person might help fictionalize the character and force you to add your own elements to the character and story.

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  2. Sounds interesting and scary at the same time. proceed with caution.

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  3. In the the late 80's, I was a summer intern who took a commuter van from my dorm to my internship, about an hour away.
    One day, the van didn't show up.
    Turned out the van driver was wanted for questioning in the violet death of his wife who was stabbed like 50 times.
    I never got to know the guy that well, but I can say I knew a "murderer". I've also known people who have been murdered.
    I just wish this stuff would stay in the fictional realm.

    Have you considered visiting her? She might appreciate it, and you could gain some additional insight. Heck, she might even want you to write her story :)

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  4. Use. Extreme. Caution.

    Okay, with that warning out of the way . . . I think I'm in line with Michelle's idea about characteristics, traits, etc., and then just let your mind go where it wants to go with the writing. Use bits and pieces of her story and then cleverly wrap the fiction around those bits and pieces. I used this technique with one of my projects and it seemed to work pretty well. Best of luck.

    S

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  5. Be very careful. If she or her family is able to prove this character is her (even if you change her name and hair color), you could have a major lawsuit on your hands. I'd use her as a base for a character, but change why she did it or how... something significant.

    Good luck.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  6. @Lynnette, @scott, @T.Anne, yes I am being very careful. I talked to a friend of the family about writing a book and they were initially against it. They wanted to keep everything quiet. But I think they succumbed to the money because her story is going to be on the TV program Snapped in October. I think proceeds are going to help raise her kids.

    @iapetus999 it's scary that someone you know could be that dangerous

    One other thing. I knew the victim. That's actually harder to think about. Again, not a close friend, but it's weird to think of him full of stab wounds and laying in a grave.

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  7. I would use her as inspiration for a character, but then let the story stray as far from reality as it wants to.

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  8. In my creative writing class we did a writing exercise similar to what you're thinking about doing. We followed other people around for about twenty minutes, made some notes about their dress, traits, quirks, and all that fun stuff. Then we were told to merge those traits with someone we knew well to create a whole new character and write a scene about them.

    On the topic of knowing a murderer, I didn't know a killer, but I knew his kid. The father lost it and killed his wife and younger son with a shotgun then tried to kill himself. He died three weeks later I think it was. Its never a good thing for me to think about. They lived less than a mile away from my house.

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  9. Interesting story. I think you can probably base a fictional character on this person, becasue as you said, you know what was driving her. But I would alter the story to some degree.

    My first boss was a murderer. I got along with him fine, then one morning I went to work and learned that overnight, he had driven across state lines to murder the other boyfriend of his mistress. In one night he threw it all away: his family, his career, his house, his freedom, and for what? Jealousy?

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  10. wow! crazy and interesting stories here... so glad i lead a "boring" life ;)

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