Thursday, June 7, 2012
Writer or Storyteller?
I have friends who say, “I’m not a writer. I’m a storyteller.” I know other people who say, “I’m a writer. She’s a storyteller.” Often the word “just” is thrown around also. In case, I’m deaf to the tone of voice.
For a long time, I thought the difference had to do with what types of things you wrote.
Storytellers write things that stir emotions and send a message to the world, which could be as divergent as “everything will be okay” to “fix this now!” Writers write things that stimulate the mind. Full of arguments and logic, a writer is conscious of form and precedent. A grounding in the great cannon of literature is essential. Occasionally, the writer may touch the heart, but it must be done with the ceremonial, mannered attention of an experienced Asian courtesan. And please, don’t mention it afterward. I enjoy reading all kinds of things.
Ever since high school, I’ve been a Ferris Bueller type, the kid that floated between groups. Smart or artsy. Rich kids and kids from the projects. Catholic or Jewish. Someone once said I had “invisible skin.” (I think most of us, writer-storytellers, are like this, don’t you?)
But the coat-change between writer and storyteller may be the most perilous group-hopping, I do. Probably because I hate the division between my two closest tribes. I’ve been finding ways to subvert that difference since I first began to believe words were my calling.
One of the ways I skate around my ambivalence of this split is by writing in many forms. Short and long. Non-fiction and fiction. Mystery, historical and fantasy. It can be hard to pin me down. (Hard to make a living, when you’re all over the board, as well. That’s a topic for another post, though.) I write features for newspapers, short stories and epic-length novels. Serious or sexy. Silly and smart. I float on the current, changing forms like thoughts change, like emotions change.
Recently, I finished a new screenplay. Although, “finished” is always an odd word to apply to a screenplay. They are notoriously shifty creatures.
I’ve worked in this form before. I like it because it hones my ability to see the most essential bones of a story. To work as economically as possible. To use action and conflict, as a means of communicating every element of story: character, theme, even setting. (But oh, how I long for even one sentence of internal monologue, when I’m writing a screenplay!)
The more I write in different forms, the more I begin to believe—the division between storytelling and writing is only semantics. Two words for the same thing.
The audience laughed, listened and went hope happy. http://www.waterlinewriters.org/
Does it matter?