Don't let the truth get in the way…
Leada Gore, Editor
Several years ago, I was chatting with a group of reporters as we all covered a trial. The jury was out and we didn't know how long it would be and the talk soon turned to side projects.
As most reporters are frustrated novelists, several mentioned they were working on books. One liked writing for magazines and had picked up an assignment writing for a national publication. Another, with a sheepish grin, said she was freelancing for a supermarket tabloid.
"You're kidding," someone said. "You actually write that trash?"
She wasn't kidding. For several years, she had been writing stories for one of the low-end supermarket tabloids. This wasn't a publication that wrote about celebrities or Hollywood gossip. This was a publication that specialized in bizarre stories such as the baby who was being raised by elephants or the covert government plan to have a space alien serve as our next vice president.
"But none of that stuff is actually true!" someone protested. "You're just making things up."
Not exactly, she explained. All of the stories she had covered for the tabloid were, at least in one person's mind, absolutely true. You could always find someone who claimed they were from outer space or knew of someone who knew of someone whose second cousin who gave birth to a poodle.
We all smiled. She wasn't working as a reporter for this magazine as much as she was serving as a novelist. Her job was to take a minutia of truth and turn it into something much more interesting. The fact that it wasn't an actual fact didn't slow her down.
If you think about it, it would probably be a pretty fun job. Let's say you knew your local government was working to lengthen the runway at the airport. Neighbors begin complaining about the loud construction noise and the bright lights used by the crews at night.
Using a little creativity, you could turn this into something much more exciting. All you have to do is turn "local government" into "undercover special forces group" and "lengthen the runway" into "expand the runway to accommodate flying saucers."
The loud construction noises are caused by backfiring UFOs which have been damaged as they made a last-ditch escape from their burning, no, make that exploding, planet. The lights? Those are easy. They are the signals they are sending to their alien friends to let them know the airport runway will soon be able to handle their large saucers.
Suddenly, you have taken a simple story of a government project and turned it into something worthy to be read in the supermarket check out line. It may not be true, but it sure as heck is interesting.