They were journalists and became novelists!
I can safely say journalists make good novelists. Journalists, reporters and editors, have the knack for good writing, or at least how to weave a good story together.
Most rely on years of experience in covering different news angles, from crime, culture, to politics, economics and society, though not necessarily in that order. Journalists have beats, and a crime reporter, may not move to covering political reporting, or economics and so on.
But the gist of the matter is all reporters are writers. Writing becomes the trait and the craft. It can be the stage to good, captivating story-telling, molding different pieces of fiction together.
Many great novelists have been journalists. Historically, journalism has been a way to supplementing their income to writing other pieces of fictions, different to what they cover in their day-to-day profession.
Charles Dickens was a journalist, so was Mark Twain, and the same goes for Ernest Hemingway. They become great novelists during their life-time, and produced books that long surpassed them after they were dead. They never became rich, unlike certain situations today.
Later on, the novels they wrote became great pieces of literature, read by a discerning public the world-over and taught in schools, colleges and universities, and pointing to the great depth of their writing.
I am not into labeling, but these writers were clearly realists in that they looked at every day events and captured the essence of good writing based on what they saw around them. Oliver Twist might be seen as such novel but the same might go for Huckleberry Finn.
Unlike the others, Hemingway was a war correspondent, and maybe this aspect of his career affected the way he wrote some of his novels like From Whom the Bell Tolls. It may have been one of the sources of his depression in the 1950s, something which lead him to take his life.
The connection between journalists and novelists continue today. One of the greatest novels I read was Celebrity by Thomas Thompson, a long-time editor of the now defunct Life Magazine.
The book was a semi-biography that meandered between Hollywood and journalism, intertwining the subject of stardom and the reality of being a reporter in a unique, realistic manner that was underpinned by a long-hidden murder.
Another great writer that captures the essence of storytelling is Ken Follett, a Welshman, Englishman who turned novelist after 16 years of working as a journalist. He as well drew on his extensive career as a journalist when he wrote back in the early 1980s Lie Down with the Lions, a captivating story about the CIA and KGB struggle over Afghanistan.
Follett went on to produce other great works of fiction but they were mainly historical, going back to the 19th century and later going further back to the medieval period with Pillars of the Earth and a World without Ends.
Its real, exciting and captivating. Follett literally makes the reader eat out of his hand as he weaves stories and anecdotes together. These later novels are also full of sex, bordering on the pornographic but on the other hand they are based on effective research with the author digging into the period he is studying as well as talking to experts.
This is why the final product, the novel makes such a fascinating read because it is based on much thought, character analysis, detailed description, and of course the plot, different plots, and the way the stories move forward.
In the final analysis there is a symbiotic relationship between journalism and fiction based on hours and years of reporting, writing and editing. It’s a process that involves much heartache but with writing flair. By I sign off, I should remind that before Thomas Harris wrote his chilling novels of blood and gore he was a crime reporter and thus some of the fiction he wrote, most famous is Silence of the Lambs, may have been based on threads of the criminally insane.
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