Writer vs. Storyteller
There are writers, and there are storytellers. What’s makes the two different? I have my own take on that. First of all let me make it clear that the point of this blog is not to diminish the importance of the syntax part of writing A good story teller must also be a good writer.
To me, the difference between the two is a matter of style. One takes a very structured approach with a an outline and a plot plan; the other just starts telling the story and fixes the syntax later. Story tellers are those persons we often encounter around a camp fire roasting wieners , or around the kitchen table; cup of coffee or glass of ice tea in hand. They have no outline in front of them describing a list of characters or plot lines. They just start talking, making up their story as they go, all the while, keeping their audience totally captivated.
I get countless emails every day from different organizations offering to teach me (for a price) the various skills for crafting a story. The late Robert B. Parker is one of my favorite authors, primarily because even though he, himself, earned a PhD. in literature, his writing embodied simplicity. His novels consisted primarily of about seventy-five percent clipped, and somewhat saucy dialogue with only about twenty five percent dedicated to narrative or descriptive prose. He said in an interview one time that when he started a story, he really didn’t know where he was going with it. He had an idea in his head and he would just start writing. He said he would let his characters take him into the story.
I believe this is what makes the difference between a writer and a storyteller, and it’s the way I like to write. I’m a “write by the seat of my pants” writer. I know in my mind beforehand where I want to go with the story, but I never know how I’m going to get there until I start writing. The story catches me like the swift current in a river and carries me with it. I simply go along for the ride and write things down as we go. I never know what the true nature or “character” of my characters is going to be until I get to know them better as the story progresses.
In one of my novels the protagonist (the villain) started out as an real unsavory character that was easy to dislike, but later morphed into a character similar to J.R. Ewing. He became a character that in whom the readers found a few redeeming qualities, and in spite of themselves, found him to be a character they hated to like. This happened, not through pre-planning on my part as an author; it just happened through natural progression of the story.
If I want to bring on a good dose of writer’s block, all I have to do is sit down and try to plot out my story ahead of time, or describe my characters in an outline. When I do this, my stories become stilted. I hate outlines. Steven King said in an interview that he hates outlines. He said they kill the creative spirit. I agree with Mr. King. I remember many assignments in high school and college where the instructor required an outline with the project. My outline always came last. I would complete the project, and then put together a brief outline from the finished product to satisfy the whims of the instructors. Got away with it, too–most of the time. :).
Speaking of storytelling, I have a book of short stories I’d like to introduce to you. Click on the free download button at upper right of this page for a free sample (while they last) of the prologue and first three complete adventures of Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, about a somewhat impetuous boy growing up in rural America during the 1940s.