Sunday, August 14, 2011

Writers Write, Storytellers Tell Stories

The corollary to "a writer is someone who writes" is "a storyteller is someone who tells stories." Why is this distinction important?

A writer is not necessarily a fiction writer. There's non-fiction, poetry, or even fiction that isn't a story. Like character studies, or descriptions of made-up places. So, first of all, what is a story? A story is when a conflict arises among some number of actors, and is somehow moved forward.

At least, that is the broadest and most inclusive definition I could come up with. Defining a story more narrowly certainly won't hurt a writer's chances of being published.

A story has to have conflict. Conflict implies at least two parties, both capable of influencing the resolution of the conflict (actors.) There has to be some change in the conflicts parameters, and thus some change in the actors.

It isn't a conflict if the actors aren't affected by it, and it isn't a story if the conflict remains static. Thus, it isn't a story if the actors aren't changed.

Enough with the definitions. I do have a point, and it's this - you have to decide if you are a writer or a storyteller. If you are a storyteller, it might be helpful for you to recognize that writing is just your medium, not your message. The story is the message. Focus on the story, not the prose.

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