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'Leave the novels to me'

2 June 2008

'Like any novelist, I'm a sucker for a good story. Yet fiction and non-fiction are shelved in separate sections of a bookshop for good reason. However imaginative its variations, fiction conforms to amazingly strict narrative criteria. Novels begin with an instigating event, develop complications and plot tributaries, build to climax and proceed to a swift, satisfying resolution. Novels employ heroes and villains, red herrings and suspense. Even contemporary literary novels still need to make a point or teach a lesson. And all novels require an element of surprise...

Journalists have to remain committed to keeping reality intact, even if the real story is flat. Because that is their job. My job is to make stuff up. My job is to concoct stories that work in their own narrative terms, and I try to craft proper page-turners. Like many literary novelists, I may blur the distinction between hero and villain, but I still furnish conflict, a climax and thematic resolution. So leave the novels to me. That's what capitalism calls division of labour.'

Lionel Shriver, author of We Need To Talk About Kevin, on the Madeleine McCann case, writing in the Sunday Telegraph