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Procrastinista
06-25-2010, 08:10 AM
In my WIP I need a group of bad guys/gals (maybe terrorists) from a foreign country. I haven't read any thrillers in a long while, but if I remember right, most authors tend to make up a fictional band of terrorists but place them in a real country, but maybe a country that doesn't make the headlines much.

It seems like this might be a good choice, because a real country makes the story seem authentic, but creating a fake group of terrorists frees me up as author to have them behave however I see fit.

My WIP is a middle-grade novel; not sure if that affects this issue.

Obviously, I need to read more thrillers, but in the meantime, have you wrestled with this issue? In short, should I select a real country? If so, do you think it helps to pick an obscure one? Should I select a real group of terrorists?

I know the answers might depend on my plot line, but sharing your experiences with your novels will likely help me sort this out. I'm more interested in why your choices best serve your story more so than what choices you made.

Kitty Pryde
06-25-2010, 08:26 AM
Unless you're writing about specific events/situations, like 9-11 or something, make it up. And unless you're writing about specific events/situations, in a MG novel any real peril is going to be greatly diminished to kiddie proportions. If you're writing a mystery/thriller, I suspect you aren't going to write about real events--the main purpose being to entertain rather than to explore the feelings surrounding scary real life stuff. Using a made-up country makes it easy to write a good adventure without worrying about real-life politics of real places.

Procrastinista
06-25-2010, 08:35 AM
Unless you're writing about specific events/situations, like 9-11 or something, make it up. And unless you're writing about specific events/situations, in a MG novel any real peril is going to be greatly diminished to kiddie proportions. If you're writing a mystery/thriller, I suspect you aren't going to write about real events--the main purpose being to entertain rather than to explore the feelings surrounding scary real life stuff. Using a made-up country makes it easy to write a good adventure without worrying about real-life politics of real places.

I'm not writing about specific events/situations, but the story will take place in a real place (NY city). I don't think any scenes will take place in the foreign country; it will be part of the backstory and serve as an outside threat. Will it be bizarre to have the story take place in a real place but reference a made-up foreign country?

Exile87
06-25-2010, 08:35 AM
I too would suggest to make it up.

Terrorists play a very large part in my latest novel. In fact, they're pretty much collaborating with my protagonists for the entire duration of the story! I call them The Black Death, and they're mainly based in Lebanon.

Jilly McGilly
06-25-2010, 08:53 AM
Procrastinista,

I started my WIP with a made-up group of bad guys who are part of a real indigenous group in a real conflict in a real country. I made up a post-Zapatista group in a conflict against the government of Chiapas, Mexico. I went somewhat insane in research, trying to make everything as accurate as possible. Then I got concerned about placing my fictional bad guys in the real world. So I changed the real towns and locations into fictional ones, and added a lot of characterization to some good guys from the same indigenous group as bad guys.

I was worried about putting fictional bad guys in a real conflict and having them "stand in" for the real people of the region. Basically, I did not want it to look like I was saying Indigenous Mexican = Bad Guy. Does that make sense?

My book isn't a thriller, but it's got thriller and suspense elements, and it's not a MG novel, so please take all this with a grain of salt.

kaitie
06-25-2010, 11:57 AM
If it's middle grade, I'd make one up. Kids are going to have a higher suspension of disbelief and accept that whatever country is a bad one than an adult might. Well, I'd think anyway. I certainly accepted a lot more when I was a kid than I would now.

That being said, if it was a real country, I'd personally avoid being cliche about it. I.e., chances are I wouldn't have Muslim terrorists, or Iranian terrorists. I know there's an element of reality there, but to me personally whenever I read a book or see a movie with this, I can't help but roll my eyes and think that not every bad guy has to be Muslim, or Russian, or Chinese, or whatever the bad guy of the moment is. I'd much rather read a book about home-grown terrorists, or someone with an original agenda.

Granted, it also bugs me because I personally feel like always having the same country/group be a bad guy in movies and books contribute to the way the public sees those groups/countries. If all you ever see is the Iranian terrorist shouting, "Death to America" and being all evil and bad, it's easy to associate Iran with that alone. People don't realize that an awful lot of people in the country disagree with those attitudes and even the strict religious influence in the way the country is run. There was a fantastic bit of the Daily Show that dealt with that a year ago or so, actually.

I'm gonna step off my soap box now...

Anyway, in terms of writing I think believability and realism are important, but can be stretched. I mean, I'd believe a group of French terrorists if you gave them a good, logical reason, you know? I just think originality is also important, so I'd avoid things that were overdone (even without the soapbox effect mentioned earlier haha).

heyjude
06-25-2010, 03:33 PM
Procrastinista, I'm going to whisk you away to the Experts (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=66) forum for a wider audience. Hang on to your hats!

Noah Body
06-25-2010, 04:06 PM
I've never felt the urge to "make up" terrorist organizations or their sponsors, as there's a wealth of data out there about real ones... and chances are high that 99% of your readership won't be particularly sympathetic to them anyway. So why not add gravitas and go for the reality quotient?

shaldna
06-25-2010, 05:14 PM
as someone who comes from a terrorist country i can tell you that there is a wealth of information out there in terms of research etc, but please don't relax into stereotypes.

waylander
06-25-2010, 05:49 PM
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/8755663.stm

lenore_x
06-25-2010, 07:04 PM
Thirding (?) the request to avoid stereotypes. I would also suggest you don't use a fake country. When I was a kid, that would have annoyed me, because I probably would have thought it was real at first and then gone to look it up... :rant:

RJK
06-25-2010, 07:28 PM
I know nothing about writing MG. For my adult suspense novel, I used A real jihadist from Algeria and changed his name, to prevent slander suits. I selected Algeria, because it's not in the news very much, but has active extremists. The terrorists were headquartered in Washington, DC.

pilot27407
06-25-2010, 08:24 PM
It all depends how much role the terror group has in your story and how believable you want to make it. You can always refer to a group (make up a name) which is started by a known terrorist figure, part of a major terror organization.
For example: Abu Sisal al-Karbala (made up name), cousin of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq (real), forms the Sword of Allah terror group (made up) and operates out of Ad Qila, northern Yemen (real).

Drachen Jager
06-25-2010, 08:46 PM
Make them American anti-government types. Much more realistic on American soil, the McVeighs have a much easier time slipping by unnoticed because they don't have the same sorts of documentation on them that a foreign born citizen or a visitor would have.

My 2 cents.

Mac H.
06-26-2010, 11:11 AM
I second the idea of making them American.

That's because one of the cool things about reading novels like this is learning something new. There really are some pretty bizarre groups in the USA so it seems a shame to use one of the stock standard ones.

Good luck !

Mac

DavidZahir
06-27-2010, 02:50 AM
Yeah, there are plenty of home-grown movements here in the USA who're prone to violence, from the nutjobs longing for Texan (or Alaskan) independence to religious fanatics, survivalists, and/or conspiracy theorists. Get the right (or wrong) alignment of those together, with a little competence vis-a-vis military training or the like and there's a domestic terrorist group. Think about a cult of Timothy McVeighs.

Noah Body
06-27-2010, 08:02 PM
I would think the Mechanistas would also be deserving of a mention. :D

DrZoidberg
06-28-2010, 12:30 PM
I'm not going to call myself an expert but I've read a fair bit on terrorism. There's usually some specific event that turn people from generally annoyed about a situation into terrorists. Pick any conflict where there's one dominant side that has nearly all the power and throw in some sort of overstepping of bounds from the authorities, and you've got yourself a terrorist cell (comprised of representatives of the powerless group). Based on what I've read terrorists tend to be motivated by great personal loss from this one critical event (or events), rather than fuelled by the ideology itself. But they will officially claim they're motivated by ideology alone. Of course there's exceptions, but I think they're fairly rare.

The pattern repeats itself in all similar conflicts, be it religious (Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, KKK) leftism (RAF/Napalese Maoists) or self rule (IRA/ETA). All over the globe.

A few months ago I read a BBC article that quoted a study on Muslim terrorists stating that they were very often well educated middle-class. So they're not destitute or fooled into terrorism. And they're not simply bored kids. I have no clue if this applies to other kinds of terrorism.

Drachen Jager
06-28-2010, 11:22 PM
I'm not going to call myself an expert but I've read a fair bit on terrorism. There's usually some specific event that turn people from generally annoyed about a situation into terrorists. Pick any conflict where there's one dominant side that has nearly all the power and throw in some sort of overstepping of bounds from the authorities, and you've got yourself a terrorist cell

Most common precipitating event for Muslim terrorists: Torture.

Yay Bush!