The Art of the Fact

The Art of the Fact

The Writer’s Corner

I love writing novels. However, I must admit that it is much easier for me to write a nonfiction book, like my just-released Enemies and Allies. The process of creating a fictional universe and having every page be intense and dramatic and full of twists and turns is truly a joy. I relish the ability to guide the action and control the world, even though there are times when characters rebel and do the unexpected. Often, though, it’s those unplotted moments when one character surprisingly betrays or kills another that make writing fiction so intriguing and the stories so unpredictable. I figure that if I don’t see it coming, it’s likely my readers won’t either. In fiction, I get to ask, “What am I going to make the world do today?”

When I put on my journalism hat, though, the question I ask is “What is the world actually doing today?” For me, that question makes writing nonfiction easier. It fits more with the way I think. Day by day, I am watching the real world and trying to understand it. When I get a grasp of what’s taking place, I explain what I’ve learned in a news site like All Israel News or All Arab News or on my Twitter feed. It’s very straightforward and factual—this happened; then this happened; then this happened.

Writing a nonfiction book like Enemies and Allies takes that fact-based journalism and lifts it to the next level by blending it with the innovation of storytelling. A book gives me the opportunity to piece all the individual details together in a way that makes sense and is also enjoyable to read. It reminds me of pointillism, the art form that uses dots of various colors and sizes and placements to create a picture. When viewed up close, it just looks like a mass of spots on a canvas. But when you zoom out, you can see how they all come together in one cohesive image. That artistic nature of nonfiction requires the same kind of creative inventiveness that thrills me as a fiction writer.

In Enemies and Allies you’ll find some dots that are the size and color of recent events that have taken place in the Middle East. There are others that take the form of geopolitical shifts of the last number of years. Then there are those that tell the stories of the many one-of-a-kind meetings that I’ve had with kings and presidents and other world leaders. Taken by themselves, they are all interesting facts. Arranged in just the right way, however, they tell the story of the fluctuating relationships in the nations of the world and the unexpected opportunity I have been given to witness many of these changes from the inside.

For those of you who enjoy my Marcus Ryker thrillers, I am so glad you do. I love writing them and you can expect more. However, I hope that the designation of “nonfiction” doesn’t scare you away from Enemies and Allies. I can promise you the same storytelling creativity that puts you next to Marcus Ryker as he’s in a gunfight on the Lebanese border will have you walking into King Abdullah II’s palace in Jordan wondering if he is going to compliment me on my novel or throw me into prison for using his real name in the book.

—Joel C. Rosenberg