Role of the writer

This week was Adelaide Writers’ Week and as usual I took time off work and sweated my way through several days of interesting writer chats. Unfortunately there weren’t a lot of authors I had heard of, and no long-held favourites, but it was interesting to attend none the less.

A discussion I found really interesting was between two crime authors who had both previously worked as journalists, Jennifer Clement and Margie Orford. When asked why they tackled certain subjects through fiction rather than journalism both women said the great benefit with fiction was being able to present the whole story and let the reader draw their own conclusions.

Journalism is usually slanted in a specific direction and is limited to less than 2000 words, whereas fiction allows you to get to know the victims, the perpetrators and how they came to make the decisions they made. You get a much more holistic and detailed view.

It is very easy to see the actions of a bad guy as wrong, but when you see where that bad guy came from, you realise the solution to these issues can be to take away what causes the bad guys to go bad. You can also see that the true bad guys are often people we see as good guys. Or worse, us.

I found it really interesting how both women talked of the dynamic between reader and writer, and that the story is not complete until it is read. They appreciated that each reader would take away different feelings, beliefs and emotions around the topic.

The authors also felt that books generated wider discussions and could have a greater impact as they travelled in a different way to journalism. Both writers had experienced their articles having a brief, but minimal impact, while their books took them to writer’s festivals and conferences all around the world, and in one case, to the United Nations. That certainly helps for getting your message out there!

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