Wednesday, January 13, 2010

News vs. Novel

I'm in college to earn a degree in journalism (for the moment) and lately I can't help notice how different news writing is from fictional writing.

For example, an important part of every news story is a lead. The lead is the first sentence and it's meant to draw the reader in to continue the rest of the article. A weak lead can break the entire piece. The story will be buried somewhere in the back of the paper where no eyes will ever see it.

Needless to say, I usually focus on developing my lead for a good amount of time. The rest of the story has a way of falling into place after a strong lead, well, leads the way.

I know what you're thinking. "But, Mariah, the first sentence of a novel is important, too." This is true. I mean, which one of these would you rather read?

1) Call me Ishmael.
2) Hey, my name is Ishmael. It rhymes with whale, which actually reminds me of a really good story.

Here's another:

1) It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
2) It was a nice time. Yes, really nice. On the other hand, it wasn't. Not really.

It's important for a novel to have a strong beginning, but a novel can also be more forgiving. Chances are, if you don't like the first paragraph or so, you're not going to put the book down. Picking up a book is an investment. If you don't like a news article, you can always skip to the next one.

Next, if I'm reporting a hard news story (pressing importance), the goal is to get out the facts. No elaborate wording or sentence construction, just write the info!

This is how the article is set up:

To me, this seems like the exact OPPOSITE of writing a novel. Novels reach a climax near the end, but in the news, any interesting snippet is placed right in front.

Alright, I'm going to cut myself off, because I'm starting to sound boring and preachy. I guess that's what happens when my "career" and my "hobby" are on opposite sides of the spectrum.


Elle Strauss said...

Your insight is interesting though. Thanks for sharing.

inthewritemind said...

Ah yes, I remember classes like that. I originally majored in journalism, but changed it because my college required an obscene amount of graphic design classes--and I'm not a graphic designer in the slightest. :P I minored in it instead, but I still remember all the classes about news writing and strong leads--and even that diagram looks familiar.

I never actually thought about how different it is to writing a novel and you pointed it out so clearly. Thanks for the insight.

Sarah said...

I don't know much about journalism, but the differences between them are pretty interesting!

Melissa said...

No, you don't sound preachy at all. I've never taken a journalism class, so I didn't know you had to set articles up this way. Very interesting!

Mariah Irvin said...

Elle: Insight? I'm flattered.

inthewritemind: I don't have to take graphic design classes because my focus is on writing.

Sarah: You know nothing of journalism? For shame! Blogging is its own form of journalism.

Melissa: *fist pump*

Hayley said...

My guidance advisor said I should try journalism, but because of the whole climax first thing I'm not very interested. Is it fun? Should I give it a shot? Because I'm thinking about it, but haven't decided yet...oh and Mariah I have an award for you over at my blog!

Besides sometimes it's good to keep a hobby and career separate.

Lisa and Laura said...

I wrote for the paper in high school and still apply the concept of a lead to the books we write. Hook, lead, same thing to me!

I love that you're a journalist and a writer--you'll bring a unique perspective, plus you're always looking for a story!

Mariah Irvin said...

Hayley: I would definitely try it out. Their is more to write than hard news: profiles, features, opinions, etc.

LiLa: Sometimes there are too many stories!

inthewritemind said...

Yeah, my school was incredibly limited in the English/journalism department. There was one track for journalism majors, and it had tons of graphic design.

Of course you wanna know what happened last semester of my senior year? They decided to do the smart thing and make more writing classes and devote one track to writing and the other graphic design.

Yeah, I'm still bitter about that...

Oh well. I still have my general English degree. And I met my hubby at college so it wasn't a complete waste for me :P