The mean storyteller becomes two people, acting alternately as he works. The first is the sensitive artist-creator, the second a savage critic who eradicates every weakness in the creation. He’s cruel, derisive and obsessively demanding. He hoots at the writer’s affectations and pretty turns of phrase, blisters him for cowardice when he uses soft, passive constructions or hedges on conclusions, challenges every point of logic, demands sound reasons for the presence of every character and fact, and above all flagellates his victim for wordiness. He is a rotten SOB, worse than any editor who ever drew breath, and he’s the artist’s best friend.
This passage is from The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, one of the best practical guides for factual storytelling I’ve ever come across. Written by the Wall Street Journal’s William E Blundell it was first published in 1988. Most journalists are obsessed with how our industry is changing, but the nuts and bolts of how to put a story together are timeless.