Writing 101 -- Telling a Story vs. Storytelling

Yesterday I met my friend Margaret and we went on a long walk followed by a quick trip to Starbucks before we had to go our separate ways. We talked about numerous things, but eventually when we settled down with our coffees we talked books.

Margaret was telling me about an autobiography she was reading about a cowboy's life in the late 1880's to the 1920's. I don't think she told me the name of the book, but this cowboy was more than just your average cowboy. She loved the way he told the story: his descriptions and the dialect. She said she could just picture everything he talked about and could visualize him as he told his tale.

This is where I pipped in with one of my rare gems of wisdom. I said, 

"Because he storytelling and not just telling a story."

Yes, my friends, there is a difference, a big difference.

In my opinion, every writer should strive to become a storyteller because the base of every good story is all in how it is told. Our job is to use the right words to tell our tales, but it goes much deeper than that. We need to be like the spider that snares a reader, hopelessly snagging them in our sticky thread until they are unable to escape our storytelling web.

Ever read one of those books that you couldn't stop reading, and stayed up until two AM to finish reading it?

How about a book that you can remember the story and the characters for years after you return it to the library or pack it away?

Those writers are storytellers.

But a writer has to remember that not every book will garner the same response with every reader. The key is to get an emotional response no matter what.

Learning the craft of writing isn't just about grammar and punctuation, it's learning how to inject storytelling into your characters, plot, and dialogue.

If you've followed my blog long enough, you'll know that I like judging writing contests. I'm not looking to break someone down or steal their ideas, I want to be enchanted by a story. Sometimes it happens, but most times it doesn't. I was lucky with this last packet to get one that took my breath away, but I also had one entry from a new writer, and one entry that was technically 'perfect', but was perfectly forgettable. Seriously, one day after I read the submission, I couldn't for the life of me remember the title, the plot or the characters.

Some writers seem to hit it out of the ballpark their first time up to bat. They somehow manage to become 'overnight' superstars. What most of us don't realize is that they've been honing their craft for YEARS.

And then you have the writers who gritch and groan that their first book is "the book of their heart" and there will be no others.

Well, my friends, I have to say that EVERY book you write should be the book of your heart. If you don't enjoy writing a particular book, why do you think a reader would enjoy reading it? That isn't to say writers love their stories ALL the time, because sometimes we hate the characters, hate the plot, and hate editing the same darn thing for about the 25th time, but deep down we LOVE the story though it is taking us on an angst-driven ride.

So how do we become storytellers instead of simply telling a story?

That, my friends, is the answer you will have to figure out for yourselves.

There is no magic elixir, or one perfect answer, just like no two authors will write the same story in the same way. Finding the answer to this question is part of your writing story, not mine.

Gotta go, because I'm finding my urge to write again.

Later, Peeps!

1 comment:

Meg said...

Good blog! I'm so glad you are there to judge and help the new writers like we were helped.