It seems like a fiction book would be much easier. You can make the characters do what you want: make them smarter, taller, more evil, or make a sweet person grow angry. You can erase an entire chapter and turn the story to what you
feel should be correct. I have written short stories for a long
time. The story is your own. You as an author have free reign.
With a nonfiction crime story, you check your facts – over and over. When one person gives you his or her view, you back up what really happened by talking to everyone who was also a witness. If you can, you go to all places where events took place. Memory, personality, and personal reasons of those interviewed alter the story; can change the reality of the story. The “characters” are real people. This is difficult: finding that delicate balance of telling their story while remaining respectful. The serial killer Paul Reid in my book, “When Nashville Bled,” was a despicable person; but if the author spent pages of the book rallying on in personal disgust, you the reader would quickly shelf the book. What would we learn -- except people like Doug Sims (“The Devil You Know”) commit horrible crimes?
When writing fiction, you check your facts – over and over. For example, this new book is about the relationships between people and animals; and asks if evil is “nature” or “nurture.” The storyline: a vicious man with a horrific past of abuse gets a dog with a horrific past of abuse – a breed known to have a vicious personality. He begins to change as his dog changes. Then his dog becomes the master, and the reader attempts to decipher: are some born evil? Or is evil imprinted by our surroundings? This means I have to become an expert in new subjects: the breed of dog is Russian, so a course in Russian history is in order. I do know some things regarding dog psychology, as I have taught dog obedience since childhood, but I must delve more into the psychology of a dog. I know it is “blame the deed / not the breed” but how does one take a dog with a loving personality and turn them into a fighter, using only psychology?
(Refreshing myself on child trafficking and illegal mailings, added to the above, I realized my “digital thumbprint” could get me a visit from the FBI at any time: my computer history reads child trafficking, dog fight terminology, Russia, pornography sales…)
I cannot just make the characters do as I please. I have to stay true to their personality, their history, and they become real. Writers use what they know and whom they know (the characters are loosely based on real people, or a mix-match of real people; events from cases I have either worked or have intimate knowledge are used here and there).
So, what is easier: fiction or nonfiction? Each has its own challenges. Each has its own time when you say, “this is easier!” Both are rewarding. I hope my readers will enjoy the new book.