Bryan Burrough Q&A #5

Author or PUBLIC ENEMIES

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Bryan Burrough Q&A #5

Unread postby Liz » Fri Mar 21, 2008 11:26 am

Before I post today’s Q&A I want to point out the post that Emma made on the Porch yesterday about Bryan’s blog, in case you missed it. He gives the Zone a mention in it.

http://www.johnnydepp-zone.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=39352


ONBC: How do you keep all of your characters straight when researching and writing your books? Do you have a giant bulletin board on which you post an index card for each character? Or do you have a flowchart on your computer so that you don’t accidentally forget and drop out a character?

Bryan Burrough: Yeah, I know it’s sometimes hard to keep everyone straight. For me it was easy. Just did it in my head. When you get into a book like Public Enemies, it just kind of takes over your life, in a very nice way. I wish all books were as much fun to write!
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Unread postby Lucky13 » Fri Mar 21, 2008 12:15 pm

I'm convinced Mr. Burrough's has a photographic memory. I keep thinking about a million pages and five years :-O I would imagine the desire to write such a book would give you the inspiration needed to keep eveyone straight. As I mentioned before, absolutely mind boggling.... WELL DONE !!

What a nice compliment regarding The Zone. :hatsoff: to everyone that makes with wonderful site possible for all of us to share !! :grouphug:
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Unread postby teacher » Fri Mar 21, 2008 12:16 pm

Honestly, I saw that everyone said it wasn't always easy to keep track of the characters, but I didn't find it all that hard. In fact, when Burrough would describe someone's behavior or actions before revealing the name (if, naturally, that character had been introduced before) I knew who it was. My point is that he made them all seem like real people by paying attention to detail and describing gestures, backgrounds and aspirations. They're all three-dimensional to me.
Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion. - Tom Wingfield, Glass Menagerie

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Unread postby Parlez » Fri Mar 21, 2008 1:00 pm

Since I fall into the 'mind boggled' camp, I'm just glad to hear Mr. Burrough say he thought the whole endeavor was FUN! :writer2:
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Unread postby Sheri » Fri Mar 21, 2008 1:36 pm

I agree, teacher. After an initial period of looking back in the book to get to know everyone, it was pretty easy sailing. It was also very helpful to have the pictures of all the players grouped in their respective gang or law enforcement position in the beginning of the book. It was easier to keep track of people once I memorized who went with who. Also, the maps were helpful....is this where I confess to keeping track of which gang was where at any given time? :blush: It helped me keep everyone and every event straight.
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Unread postby Endora » Fri Mar 21, 2008 1:47 pm

I'm just astounded he could do this in his head. I couldn't grasp the characters at all in the first part of the book, and like others had to look back all the time. Maybe he read up on one character first and wrote some parts of the book, then researched the next, and at the end slotted the sections together to be chronological? Whatever he did, it's some feat.
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Unread postby teacher » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:56 pm

Sheri wrote:I agree, teacher. After an initial period of looking back in the book to get to know everyone, it was pretty easy sailing. It was also very helpful to have the pictures of all the players grouped in their respective gang or law enforcement position in the beginning of the book. It was easier to keep track of people once I memorized who went with who. Also, the maps were helpful....is this where I confess to keeping track of which gang was where at any given time? :blush: It helped me keep everyone and every event straight.

Yes, that really did help. I took a good look of everyone before reading since I wanted to compare them to the actors when they were all presented and that made them more real. The maps helped big time, too.
(On a side note, since Burrough didn't have the carefull layout to help him, the effort of putting all that together must have been herculean!)
Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion. - Tom Wingfield, Glass Menagerie

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Unread postby Liz » Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:33 pm

I agree with you, Teacher & Sheri. He did have a way of telling their stories that made them real and unique individuals that, after a while, I could actually keep straight. I don’t think that really happened until all of the major players were introduced—which was quite a few pages into the book, though.
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Unread postby suec » Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:14 pm

Well, I felt the need to keep my own notes as I read the book, which is something I quite often feel a need to do, to make my own sense of a book. In this case, I definitely needed to do this.

But at the end of the day, we had the information presented to us after extensive research, sorting, absorbing, synthesising and re-presenting to us by the author, all over a long period of time, so I guess I can see how he would have been able to hold all of the information in his head that way. I can imagine how he would have found it easy, especiallya s he was so fascinated and aborbed by it himself. Hats off to him, all the same! It was a huge undertaking.
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Unread postby gemini » Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:39 pm

I think being interested in the characters helped keep them straight. I had no trouble with the main yeggs, I had to consult the gang photos a couple times to keep some of their side kicks straight. The main FBI heads were no trouble but some of the officers who were in several main investigations I had to go back and reread a bit to keep straight. The footnotes helped there a lot. As for Mr. Burrough doing it all in his head, I am impressed.
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Unread postby Linda Lee » Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:40 am

I'm impressed that Mr. Burrough was able to keep so many characters straight without using aids. I'm glad he enjoyed writing this book since there was so much research and time that went into it. It was an interesting book, and one I will reread. My DD has already borrowed my copy.
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Unread postby stroch » Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:03 am

When I first read BB's response, I didn't quite believe it, but after reading all of the posts, I can see what he means. I used to be fascinated by British history, and after all of the reading and research, the Plantagents, Yorks, Lancasters and their minions were as familiar to me as my own family.

They key to success is motivation, so if he was enjoying the work, it wasn't really work.
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Unread postby nebraska » Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:37 am

I did lots and lots and lots of underlining, hoping to fix the various names and places in my mind. Of course, I ended up underlining many minor characters as well. Taking notes or creating a chart might have been a better solution. I did go to the photos at the front of the book several times to refresh names and alliances. I think I was overwhelmed because I didn't know much about any of these gangsters. A second reading would be a much different experience.

Hats of to Mr Burrough for being able to carry this in his head!!!! I am sure a passion for the work helped, but it is still an amazing feat.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:13 pm

Once I got into the flow of the book I had a much easier time. I too was very impressed that Mr. Burrough could keep all the characters and such detail in his head. After reading that his research spanned 5 years I can see how that would be easier as opposed to a couple of weeks just reading the book.
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