Thursday, October 05, 2017

Storyteller’s Rulebook: Would a Reporter Really Care?

In one book I read, a social-science professor at a big-city university was found to have fudged his research. Whenever he leaves his office, he’s hounded by a horde of reporters, demanding to know the truth. Really?

This is a problem I run into all the time: Authors often overestimate how newsworthy their characters are. Of course, this was a classic trope of movies from the 30s and 40s: The hero’s exploits would be summarized by a series of blaring headlines that would all spin toward the screen in a big montage, even if many of these headlines don’t actually seem all that newsworthy.

This is why I love the props pictured above from The Goonies. The kids find a stack of newspapers from the 30s with articles that pertain to the mystery. But the guy in the prop department who was tasked with making these phony newspapers clearly balked at this assignment. Would any of these stories actually be the big headline for the day? So rather than just put up a big splashy headline that takes up the whole front page, he actually figured out what days these stories happened on and what else was going on, and then nested the relevant photos in between those. I appreciate the effort, prop guy!

It’s not a big deal, but it does strain your hard-won credibility with your audience. Not everything your heroes do will be big news!

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