Writers Tools: Newspapers

I go through the morning paper front-to-back. Granted, so much of it is now online that it takes no more than half an hour to go through the paper version, but still. I don’t read every article, but I scan all the headlines and read a lot of the articles. And, of course, the comics, the advice column and the pro football scores. (Go COLTS!)

In what way does it help me as a writer? Oh, so many ways!

As I said in an earlier post, the classified section is packed with useful stuff: pictures of cars, houses and pets my characters might have, listings of jobs I could use in stories, personal ads that could be a plot or a sub-plot.

Obituaries sometimes give long accounts of people’s lives. A character could have all or some of those experiences, or could be related to someone with some or all of them. If nothing else, it’s a great exercise to take an obituary and write a character study from it or a paragraph exploring a moment in that life. The three words, “Pearl Harbor survivor”….

One of my favorite exercises is to take a story from the front page of one section and a story from an inside page of another section and write a scenario in which they’re connected. Sherlock Holmes used to do this sometimes. Well, not write stories, but see the connection between separate news items.

As someone who sometimes writes science fiction, I’m interested in the science section. There was a story today NOT in the science section that I loved: They’re talking about providing a football player who is now paralyzed from the waist down with robot-like legs. So I’m leaping into the future and thinking: What about robotic braces, strong and thin, under the skin, Powered and manipulated by the body’s own electrical impulses, so paralysis is a thing of the past? Or has that already been done?

Anyway, you see why I–as my husband says–“memorize the paper” every day. Just doing my job, sir.

WRITING PROMPT: Memorize the paper.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Writers Tools: Newspapers

  1. Nancy Williams

    January 3, 2011 at 3:39pm

    An interesting thought Marian. I know they believe they can heal paralysis with stem cells, but if you did robotic implants like hip, knee and shoulder replacements are done now, than you have the potential for wonderful things and terrible things all at the same time. Great concept.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author
    I leave my link on Golden’s blog all the time.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      January 3, 2011 at 5:32pm

      Thanks, Nancy! I have two young friends who are quadriplegic. I would love for something to make them mobile again.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Carol Kilgore

    January 3, 2011 at 11:27pm

    I never thought about it, but I think you could build character and plot quite nicely combining two news stories. Fictionalized, of course. I may try that. Oh … Go Jets!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      January 4, 2011 at 7:56am

      Yeah, go Jets, go Giants, go Saints…. I have a lot of favorite teams. 🙂

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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