Thursday, January 22, 2015

Novels are just expanded feature stories

My posts about my early days in journalism were fun for me to write. There were great memories, and even greater people. But those journalism stories contain little clues to my current work as an author. Those clues tell what I wanted to become in journalism.

That's what I wanted to become and not what I eventually ended up doing.

I was a simple goal. I wanted to become a features writer. I loved nothing more than to meet people, pull up a chair, have a good cup of coffee and slowly learn about their lives. I loved meeting Tintype Gordon in Guerneville, Calif. He was a former corporate middle manager who left that life and started taking pictures of people in period costumes, one of those photographers who create sepia-toned final prints. I loved talking to police officers. I loved talking to Forest Service employees about their lives and projects. I tried to treat them fairly as I wrote my stories.

But that feature story writer never had a chance to develop. The need for reporters and editors in other areas interrupted. I knew sports, and I heard there was a full-time job for a sports editor. I applied, and I got the job. That got me on that job track, and I stayed on it almost to the end of my journalism days.

But there is a strange phenomenon in journalism. As I worked my way up the job ladder, the jobs got more limited in their scope. My first couple of sports jobs involved reporting, photography, editing, staff management, and layout and design. My next sports job involved editing and staff management. My next job, which covered 16 years of my career, involved editing, and layout and design. My final sports job involved only copy editing and headline writing. I talked to an acquaintance once about my final job, and he said my skill set wasn't very wide-ranging. Where does someone go when that is their job skill? I told him about my earlier years, but he still wasn't impressed.

Of course, I have been the victim of two reductions of workforce in recent years. Unless the sky opens and someone drops a good job in my lap, my days in journalism are over. But that has enabled me to get back to being a features writer. It's just that my field of study is literary fiction and not the Tintype Gordons of the world. To a degree, I sit down with my characters and learn about them. I create characteristics, and problems, and intricacies they must face. Writing fiction is nothing more than writing features. It's just that I control all the facts.

I love that part of the job.

I must apologize for not posting to this site recently, but I have been working on two writing projects and planning for two more. I also have been active in my job search, which has been an interesting experience. I have blended a couple of incidents in my recent work history into my novels. I think certain people will laugh when they see their words in a work of faction. Well, maybe they'll laugh.

But I must go back to being a features writer. I can't leave my story subjects hanging for too long. And I promise to do blog posts on a regular basis. Really, I promise.