The Importance of Tabloids and the Stay-at-Home Writer by Avantika

Friend: What’s that you’re reading?
Avantika: A magazine.

Friend: I can see that. But which magazine?
Avantika: Just a magazine. You know I read anything and everything I can lay my hands on.

Friend: What do you mean just a magazine? What’s the name? Why such a secret?
Avantika: No-lah. No secret. Just shy to tell you.

Friend: So, which one is it?
Avantika: Errr … Hello! magazine.

Friend: W-h-a-t?
Avantika: Don’t shriek! I knew you would react badly. Stop laughing at me.

Friend: OK. OK. I’ll stop now. But, do you know how funny it is? I mean, you the oh-so-serious-writer reading a Hello! magazine. And what else do you have here? What? The Daily Mail and tabloids? What’s wrong with you?
Avantika: I told you why I read these magazines. They help me in my writing.

What I’ve listed above is an actual conversation I had with one of my friends just last week. Ever since I was in college, I’ve been reading the tabloids and also what others call ‘trashy’ magazines. I have benefitted from the detailed descriptions of the journalists, the raw emotions of everyone in the story recorded and the facial expressions of the people photographed. Those that fascinate me the most are printed copied and filed away in a suitable place. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example.

The following is a tragic story which appeared in the online version of The Telegraph.

Teenage A-level student stabbed to death by suspected robber
A teenage A-level student, Asha Muneer, was stabbed to death by a suspected robber as she walked home along a canal footpath. The 18 year-old was discovered by a passer-by lying face down on a path beside the River Kennet in Reading, Berks. A post-mortem found she died from multiple stab wounds. Witnesses said some of the contents of her handbag were strewn nearby.

A 19 year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of her murder. He has not been charged. Miss Muneer was studying for her A-levels at Highdown School in Caversham, Berks, and hoped to go to university, it was disclosed. She was a part-time shop assistant at a Laura Ashley store, and was attacked as she walked home after an evening shift at the Reading Gate retail complex. It was thought that she took a short cut home along the towpath and that her killer ambushed her from behind and stabbed her to death. Her body was found under a bridge at about 9.15pm on Monday by a jogger. Police carried out a fingertip search of the area but were not believed to have found the knife used to murder Miss Muneer.

Forensic officers removed a small kitchen knife that was found about 150ft from where the body was discovered. It will be tested for forensic evidence, but officers played down the possibility it was the murder weapon. A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said that the girl’s death was being treated as murder. “We continue to keep an open mind as to the motive for Asha’s death,” said Det Supt Karen Trego last night. “A team of detectives working on the investigation are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry. “This is obviously a deeply distressing time for those who knew and loved Asha.” Supt Jim Weems, area commander for Reading, added: “I’m confident that someone out there knows how and why this happened.” Last night, family members gathered at Miss Muneer’s parents’ three-bedroom terraced home in Reading. The family were too distressed to comment.

Friends paid tribute to Miss Muneer on Facebook. Rebecca Stanton wrote: “A beautiful young girl doing her A-levels and preparing for uni, taken by pure evil. Words can’t describe what a loss you are.” Janet Patewa said: “R I P Asha, you will truly be missed and loved. I will remember you for your charm and fun persona. You were fun to be around, always making everyone laugh.”

The canal is popular with dog walkers, cyclists and fishermen. But residents out walking near the murder scene, close to Reading’s Madejski football stadium, yesterday said they tended to avoid the area at night because it was badly lit. There are several CCTV cameras in the vicinity, however, and their footage will be examined by police.

Kathryn Hilliard, 28, of nearby Kennet Island, said: “That part of the footpath is a bit scary. I would never go down there in the dark on my own.” Margaret Ward, another resident, said: “It’s quite picturesque, but it’s not somewhere I’d walk in the middle of the night because there’s no lighting there. Even with my dogs, I wouldn’t walk under the bridge.”

The footpath remained sealed off with police tape yesterday.
This story is approximately 500 words long. It gives the facts of what happened. More often than not, the victim is described as ‘Ms. Muneer’. Some information about the reaction of family and friends is provided. There is one photograph of Ms. Muneer in this article. As I read it, I tried to imagine the scene of the crime and Ms. Muneer’s workplace. I had in mind that the Laura Ashley department store that she worked in was a small shop in a row of shops on the High Street of Reading – much like the one I used to go to in the UK.

Take the same incident and observe how it was reported in the Daily Mail.

19-year-old is held for knife murder of teenage Laura Ashley shop girl as she walked home from work

Murder investigation: Asha Muneer died of multiple stab wounds.

A 19-year-old man was today being quizzed by police on suspicion of murdering Laura Ashley shop worker Asha Muneer. The man was arrested at 10pm last night following the discovery of the 18-year-old's body.

Asha was stabbed 'multiple times' as she walked home from her part-time job along a lonely riverside footpath. Police revealed she had been stabbed in the head and body before being left to die alone on the bank of the River Kennett, two miles from the centre of Reading, Berkshire.

Today, as police frogmen were searching the river for a murder weapon, her family said they had lost a 'loving, beautiful daughter'. In a statement, her mother, father and two sisters, said: 'Our family have lost a loving, beautiful daughter and we are trying to come to terms with how she died and the void that it has left in our lives.' Friends also paid tribute to a 'bubbly girl' who was always there for her friends.

The scene of the attack is close to Reading Football Club's Madejski stadium and less than a mile from her place of work - an out-of-town branch of Laura Ashley. Detectives said the attack took place at around 8.30pm. Asha's body was discovered 45 minutes later by a jogger.

'Bubbly': Asha, 19, who died after walking along a canal after finishing her part time job, was described as sweet, funny and a good friend by schoolmates. Her handbag, which was found near her blood-soaked body, had been emptied and its contents scattered on the ground.

The store where the teenager works closes at 6pm leaving two-and-a-half hours unaccounted for. However, last night it was reported she had arranged to meet friends at a nearby McDonald's after work.

Yesterday members of Asha's family gathered at her home in the nearby Whitley area of Reading, a mile and a half from where she was stabbed.

Forensic experts collect evidence at the scene by the River Kennet in Reading
A man, who described himself only as Asha's uncle, said: 'We don't really know anything much about what happened. It is too soon to talk about Asha. We are not in the right place in our heads at the moment.'

Asha, who is believed to be Muslim, had four sisters aged between 14 and 21 and a young brother. Her father is a taxi driver.

A close school friend, Amy Collett, said: 'Everyone loved her. She was so sweet and funny and was there 100 per cent for her friends. She was so bubbly.'

Police taped off the riverside path where the woman's body was discovered. Police at the scene next to the Kennet River in Reading, Berkshire, after the young woman's body was found
The pair met at Reading Girls School which Asha attended for GCSEs before moving to Highdown School in Caversham to do her A-levels.

Amy added: 'Just the other week she messaged me about an event she was organising. It was going to be like a mini reunion. I'm so sad that I won't be seeing her there now.’

Another friend said she believed the teenager had an older boyfriend. She said: 'I don't know how she met him. I heard a few months ago they were having problems.'

Highdown School head Tim Royle said: 'The whole school community is deeply shocked by Asha Muneer's tragic and untimely death and all our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with her family and friends at this terrible time. 'Staff at Highdown School and Sixth Form Centre and from the local authority are working together to provide support for all the children who have been affected by this appalling tragedy.

Asha Muneer had a part-time job at Laura Ashley in the Brunel retail park. Her body was found on the towpath near the Madejski stadium. 'Asha was a much-liked and very talented student. She will be greatly missed by all her friends at Highdown and by the staff who knew her and taught her.'

A Facebook group page was last night set up in Asha's memory. A poem dedicated to the schoolgirl finished with the lines: 'Asha was definitely a star to those she knew - like a sister to everyone.' Emma Leigh Brennan wrote: 'Asha, you brightened so many peoples days with ure jokes and how you never used to think before you said things lol (laughing out loud), you had the whole class rolling up and no one will ever forget you for that.
'There is not many people in the world that were as good hearted as you were.'

One local woman, housewife Leanne Marlow, a 21-year-old mother of one, told how she had walked the path where Asha died just two hours before the attack. She said: 'It was very dark. 'It can be very gloomy down there, especially at night.'

Kathryn Hilliard, 28, from the nearby Kennet Island housing estate, added: 'That part of the footpath is a bit scary and there's a lot of graffiti down there. I would never go down there in the dark on my own.'

White-suited forensic officers yesterday trawled the site immediately around where Asha's body was found. A kitchen knife was found on the ground nearby but it was unclear if it was used in the attack. The underpass, which runs under the A33 road, is often used by pedestrians to walk between the various retail, industrial and housing estates that line the road into Reading town centre.

Thames Valley Superintendent Jim Weems said he was 'keeping an open mind' about the motive for the killing.
This article is almost double in the amount of words used to describe the same incident.

This is how I used these articles to help in my fiction:
  1. Setting: There are 8 photographs in this story – from the 2 pictures of Asha Muneer, the police at the scene of the crime and even a picture of a blade of a knife found at the murder scene. It’s like a dream come true to help an author ‘visualise’ a scene in her head.
  2. Dialogue: There are such emotional quotes from members of the victim’s extended family, her co-workers, school friends and nearby residents. When writing dialogue, nothing destroys a story more when readers say, “I don’t recognise that person. People who live in my town don’t talk that way.”
  3. Plot and Structure: Ever heard the saying, ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’? Well, with these stories, you’ll know what the truth is. If there are twists and turns in your story, you’ll know just where to tweak it to make it sound real.
The question now is this: can you see why it’s important for writers to read anything and everything they can lay their hands on?


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