Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Based on a True Story

You get your inspiration from life or from art.

Sometimes the spark comes from something I read in a novel or something I see in a movie and sometimes the spark comes from a true story.

Writing is what you do with that inspiration, how you make the points you want to make, draw the conclusions you want to draw or just to leave the questions you’d like to leave with the reader.

Nothing new there, writers have been doing that forever. Standard Operating Procedure, as they say.

And yet, once in a while I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of fictionalizing real people and their personal situations.

The next book I have coming out, Black Rock, is based on three true stories – what we call the October Crisis in Canada, the bombings, armed robberies, kidnapings and murder that went on through the 60s and came to a head in October 1970, the story of a serial killer named Wayne Boden who killed four women between 1969 and 1971 and the murder of a teenaged girl in 1975.

When I started the research, not sure if it would be a book or not, I’d never heard of Boden or his victims. I started with the idea of a murder not getting enough attention because of the huge investigation into the terrorism at the time. I thought that resonated with the world today enough to be relevant. For the murder, I didn’t have a particular one in mind, but I figured with all that police attention on the terrorists there had to be something that wasn’t getting enough attention.

I remembered a murder that took place in 1975. I remembered that one because the victim was a girl my own age, in the same grade I was in but at a different high school. Her name was Sharron Prior. She left her house in the early evening on a Saturday intending to walk a few blocks to a restaurant to meet her friends. Somewhere between her house and the restaurant she disappeared. I remember the searches over the Easter weekend and the story in the paper the next week when her body was found, a small story at the bottom of page five. The front page headline that day was, “Pincers near panicky Saigon.” I delivered that newspaper to about 60 houses that morning.

My intention was to fictionalize that story, move it back a few years and make it the murder that didn’t get enough attention because of the October Crisis.

But that murder is still unsolved. And Sharron Prior’s mother, Yvonne, is still doing everything she can to get it solved. There is still a reward for information.

So, as writers do, I felt that fictionalizing the story was invading peoples’ personal lives.

Would it be too much of an invasion?

Of course, there’s no definitive answer to that question, it’s different for every writer and every situation.

Then as I was researching the October Crisis I discovered Boden and his victims. Again, small stories buried deep in the paper. So, I felt if these murders weren’t getting much media attention it was easy to make the connection they also weren’t getting enough police attention.

I was (and still am, frankly) wondering about still fictionalizing the 1975 murder because it’s still an open case. I’m not sure I believe there is such a thing as “closure,” but I’m certain that an open murder investigation is still an open wound.

So I talked myself into the idea that maybe fictionalizing Sharron Prior’s murder would bring a small bit of attention to it, that it might help.

Ever go a week without a justification? (name the movie)




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