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They were journalists and became novelists!

Updated on June 20, 2016

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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    • profile image

      Joni M Fisher 19 months ago

      Thompson above is actually Les Standiford. Photo caption incorrect.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Being a reporter, at least in earlier days, exposed a person to the varieties of life, the rish and poor, educated and uneducated. A reporter usually learned about the organizations that made society run--possibly on a scle as small as a farm town or as large as Chicago. In other words, they had an exposure to life that most folks do not have. I am not sure it is so true now with the big news organizations.

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Cheers Kimberly you should read Follet. The flow of the narrative is simply brilliant. Simply pick up a book and start.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 6 years ago from California

      This was an interesting Hub. I has some Follet books I have been meaning to start, those books are now next on my list. Thanks! Your Hub was well written and flowed well. Voted up.

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Cheers zoey. As one digs up further he finds that there is really a distinct relationship. You start off as a journalist and move on to become a published author. I think what I wrote up is only the tip of the iceburg. Thanks

    • zoey24 profile image

      zoey24 6 years ago from South England

      I found this very interesting. I recently researched the poet and author Thomas Hardy, for an article i am doing. The article was originaly to be based on crime and punishment in the 1800's. However i discovered that Thomas Hardy started of as a journalist and witnessed Elizabeth Brown being hung. Hardy then went on to write his popular novel, Tess of the D'urbervilles which many believe was based on Elizabeth Brown. I am now of course reading the book. Voted up thanks for sharing :)

    • Lorenzo27 profile image

      Lorenzo27 6 years ago from Pistoia, Italy

      Very interesting hub!

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Cheers Vinya. They are very good aren't they. You should really try Follet as well, you may thank me!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 6 years ago from Nepal

      Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Hemingway and V S Naipaul, my favorite writers, were journalists. Thanks for this illuminating article.

    • klanguedoc profile image

      Kevin Languedoc 6 years ago from Canada

      This is a very interesting article. Thanks for sharing

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Cheers, all of you. Robie, I am glad you like Follet, he is one of our favorites, me and my wife. I am sure if I dig more, I'll find there are lots more people who are journalists.

      Thanks William for your insight. The money-driven economy will probably be the death of us in the end!

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Nicely done, marwan asmar. Journalists always have been writers, but few have gained recognition for their work until they produced works of fiction or put their skills to work in book form. Writing for newspapers offers young writers the discipline and training necessary to write the next best seller. It's unfortunate, however, that newspapers and objective reporting appears to one of the victims of today's money-driven economy. Thumbs up!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

      What a fascinating read-- I had not idea that Ken Follett was a journalist. I've been a fan of his for years. Of course I knew about Charles Dickens and Mark Twain and Ernest Hemmingway and wasn't Edgar Allan Poe a journalist for awhile as well?

      In any case I really enjoyed this one-- thanks