The Key to Writing Good Novels? You Use the Reporting Skills of a Good Journalist
By Laura Elliott
Mark Twain was first a journalist, then a novelist, and here’s how he explained the difference: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but that is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Fiction has to make sense.”
It’s easy to imagine Twain making this pronouncement with a wry smile and an emphatic puff of his cigar. Real life sometimes makes no sense, and if a journalist has written a solid piece, he can legitimately shrug when questioned about the lunacy of his subject’s actions and say, “Just reporting the facts.” A novelist, on the other hand, will be attacked by critics if she hasn’t planted clues throughout a narrative that once strung together in a reader’s mind explain why a character acts as he does.