Monday, August 20, 2007

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Everybody from Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz to The Clash has been put in that position where they are forced to ask: Should I stay or should I go? As a writer, you should be keenly aware of the power in these situations.

Sure, there is something to be said for the freedom in abstract or stream of conscious writing, but if you want readers to have an emotional investment in your characters, you need to put your characters in situations that require them to make difficult decisions. In many cases, the final decision will change the course of that character's life long after we have closed the final chapter.

Does Dorothy stay in Oz with her new friends or does she return to the Kansas that she was so eager to leave? In Sophie's Choice, Sophie cannot save both of her children, so she has to choose one. That decision stays with her forever. And Catch 22 has even become a common part of the everyday vernacular. If you are stuck in a story, think about aiming your character toward a difficult decision.

This works well for journalism as well. But first, a word from The Clash.

Man, I love those guys.

Anyway, now that the juices are flowing again, I was talking about how this notion a character having to make a decision works in journalism. Too often journalism gets confused with newspaper writing. They are not the same. Journalism is more expansive and tells a story. Like fiction, good journalism works best when there is a sympathetic character with whom readers can identify. As this person(s) face challenges, readers become more involved as well. This is what moves us in journalism.

And since the matters are based in reality can provide a challenge, as the right details, trials, tribulations, decisions, and outcomes need to be presented with attention to truth, negating a certain degree of creative freedom, but promoting another aspect of creativity that comes from working withing barriers.

Related Posts
Getting From Here to There
Tapping Creativity by Embracing Barriers

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