Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Writing Words for Nerds #AtoZChallenge--N is for (use the) News

The news can be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it can make you more aware of what’s going on, which is good. For a fiction writer, it can inspire ideas for stories. It was a news story that inspired my YA romantic ghost story, Ride of Your Life, and science news helps inform the science in my teen science-fantasy comedy series, The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer.

But then there are the drawbacks: being obsessed with the news can gobble up time that would be better spent doing other things, like writing. The news tends to focus on bad news, too, which can be depressing and troubling. There’s also a lot of misinformation and bias. The news rarely gives you the “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” There are always those who will manipulate the facts, or even blatantly lie about what the facts are. You can get media burnout just trying to find out what the real story is.

I know about the news from both sides. My family has been in newspapers for five generations, and I don’t mean we ate fish and chips in the UK (where it used to be sold wrapped in newspaper). No, I mean we’ve been working in the newspaper business that long. I was a consumer columnist and arts-and-entertainment for the Jerusalem Post. Before that, I was an editorial cartoonist, a job that requires a deep and current knowledge of the news. My mom edited the women’s section of two different newspapers between the fifties and the start of this century. Her father was a newspaper writer and editor. Her grandfather (on her mother’s side) was a newspaper writer and editor. And finally her great grandfather on her mother’s mother’s side was a newspaper writer and editor. Five generations all leading up to me.    

I’ve seen both sides of that sword. It’s been a blessing and a curse. I love the news when it’s honest. Today the journalists with integrity stand out, because they’re very much in the minority. I also love little stories about ordinary people accomplishing great things, humorous news, and learning about scientific discoveries and breakthroughs. I hate the news when it’s deceptive and manipulative, and that just seems to be getting worse and worse. Most people don’t trust the media nowadays, and to the most part I can’t blame them.

Today’s news gives you a lot of material for writing fiction, most of it in the area of satire and dystopian science fiction.

Want to know how to write either?

For satire, check out my post: Writing Words for Nerds #AtoZChallenge—H is for Humor. I came up with my House of Funny formula when I was an editorial cartoonist, which is basically like writing political satire in a drawing or two and ten words or less.

For dystopian fiction, you only have to take one bad or even potentially bad news item, look at it through a microscope so that the tiniest thing becomes huge, and then project it into the future. Of course, you better hang on tight, because that is going to be one scary ride. Or you could just listen to the current presidential candidates. They all seem to have doomsday scenarios for what’s going to happen if you don’t vote for them. Although I think it’s probably smarter to trust your own gut over what any politician tells you.

My name is Shevi, and I’m a news-aholic. 

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