5 Thoughts: Fiction- v. News-Writing

1. YOU STOP WRITING A NEWS piece when you run out of facts. But when do you stop writing fiction? When you run out of story, I suppose.

2. In news, the most important information goes up top. In fiction, it’s in the reader’s head — at least with genre pieces. There has to be some connection between the reader’s mind and the writer’s expression in terms of shared assumptions or expectations. A science fiction author knows his readers are unfazed by three-headed alien bankers, so doesn’t need to waste valuable real estate on justifying same beyond adhering to strict internal consistency. Someone writing for a general audience needs to adjust their bankers, but touch not the consistency!

3. Both news and fiction require a suspension of disbelief on the part of the writer. The newswriter must disbelieve her own narrowness of perspective; the fictioneer, the narrowness of his publisher’s pocketbook. And both must believe that they offer an important, if not indispensable, message.

4. The task/mechanics of newswriting can be visualized as assembling a Tinkertoy set: all the pieces are there, and it’s the writer’s task to assemble them in as compact and easily recognizable a form as possible. Fictioneering feels more like holding one end of a handful of ropes which fade into the misty distance; the idea being to draw in the slack and tighten the lines until the sails fill of themselves.

5. Dialog. In fiction, it advances the plot or builds character or atmosphere. In news … well, it can also advance plots and build (or tear down) character and atmosphere. Perhaps news and fiction are less dissimilar than they appear (no FOX or MSM jokes, please); the difference may be whether we corroborate with our senses or our emotions.

4 comments for “5 Thoughts: Fiction- v. News-Writing

  1. 2010.07.05 at 1034

    Dude, you speak-a my language!

  2. 2010.07.05 at 1050

    You nailed it, sir! Right down to the part about fictioneering. I will be sharing this.

  3. 2010.07.05 at 1220

    Hey Neal! Thanks for this. You wrote:

    In news, the most important information goes up top. In fiction, it’s in the reader’s head — at least with genre pieces.

    I suppose then in fiction the important information comes from “up top”. 😀



  4. 2010.07.05 at 2354

    @Alan (both o’ youse): Thank you, sir. Scanning your http://users.lmi.net/fiction page, I’m glad to see it’s not Just Me. Have you read http://metaphorager.net/posse-commentatus, along the same lines?

    @Maerian: WOW! Wonderfully put. It does have to come from somewhere, doesn’t it?

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