Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Ask Why

As some of you know I have a day job as a financial journalist. By night, weekend and any other time I’m an aspiring author. Recently a great journalist, Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” fame, passed away. I was lucky enough to hear him speak when I was in college. He was the guest speaker at my college newspaper's annual dinner. When I heard he had died I thought a lot about some things he said and how his advice can be helpful for authors and readers.

Rooney talked about what sounded like a golden age of journalism. He told us about a time when every major city had at least one daily paper that had correspondents around the world. All of the reporters practiced what I consider real journalism - interviewing people, establishing relationships with sources and breaking news. He also told us about a very important experience he had during his first job as a war correspondent. An older, more experienced correspondent seemed to ask the simplest questions. Most of them began with "Why..." Rooney was flabbergasted. He expected the conversations on a war to be deeper and somehow more sophisticated. After some time he learned that "Why?" is one of the most powerful tools a journalist can use to open doors and get sources off of their prepared statements and into what they really think.

I've been reflecting on who I can apply that to my writing. In my opinion, it's a basic question for an author. Why does that character do that? Why does that happen? Why is that even in your story? Asking those same questions as a reader make what you're reading more impressive and meaningful.

This week I'm giving away an advanced reading copy of Winter Town by Stephen Edmond. It will be available in early December and it takes the journey teens go through when they change their appearance and thoughts. It can be yours if you tell me (in the comments below) what speakers or experiences have changed your view of some things.

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