Laws of Nature / writing

Am I a storyteller? Are you?

During my promo for my latest prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature. one of my wonderful hosts posted this article  I wrote about the difference between being a storyteller and a writer. In case you missed it, here’s a revisit:

***

Storyteller vs. writer. It took me a long time and a lot of experience to realize the difference between these two. They both describe authors who create fiction but one makes you want to curl into a comfortable chair and get lost in the tale while the other encourages you to find a better you from what you’re reading. Do you know which one that is?

When I read one of these, I am awed by the beauty of the words chosen, how they flow together, the emotions they evoke from somewhere within me. The other–I don’t think about the artistry of the writing because I’m lost in the characters, plot, scenery, and drama.

One is serious writing–where you are expected to learn something, grow within yourself, rigorously examine your thoughts and beliefs. The other–all that’s expected is that you forget the world exists for a period of time and immerse yourself in a different reality created by the author.

One is designed to make you a better person as you travel the journey with the main characters. The other–the goal is to entertain. You will probably come out a better person but the purpose is something else. I don’t think Hemingway wrote Old Man and the Sea as much to entertain as to examine an issue. Which was he–storyteller or writer?

One covers a vast swath of authors, from novice to well-seasoned, a group we generally call ‘genre writers’. The other–you really can’t award yourself that title. Readers do it for you, by their love of your fiction, their eagerness for the next story.

Serious people–authors and readers–have different connotations of these writing styles, often judgmental, sometimes wrong, at least in my worldview. I found this one online. I’ll leave it anonymous but you can click the link and find out who it was. The article resonated with a lot of readers–he has 396 comments!

Writers speak in low, thoughtful tones, and everyone gathers around them at parties as they spontaneously leap into a wine-heightened progression of playful prose and insightful social commentary.  Storytellers are generally at the same party, twitching in a closet as they fumble about with an over-willing partner, or, more often, by themselves.

I thought Anonymous was pretty accurate about writers’ opinions of themselves and in the end, when I finished the article, not too far off about storytellers (though I objected to the hypercritical nature of the initial description).

Which are you?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Winter 2022.

94 thoughts on “Am I a storyteller? Are you?

  1. A truly fascinating question. And it makes me wonder: if one is truly gifted as a storyteller, does it preclude being a brilliant writer? Do you think that the best stories were written by (the very few) people who excelled at both?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing!!.. as Popeye the sailor said “I yam what I yam and that is all that I yam”… i merely sit down and let my heart do the talking and my fingers do the walking… 🙂

    Hope you are having a wonderful holiday filled with peace and love and until we meet again..
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think of myself as more of a storyteller, one who takes her work seriously. But I also think there’s a fair bit of overlap with some authors. They write thought-provoking, deeply nuanced work about complex issues, but use a fast-paced style and a fantasy or science fiction genre, for example.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting topic, Jacqui, and an interesting article by “anonymous”. I’m not sure if his take between the two “personalities” is supposed to be funny or exaggerated. As other commenters have stated, I don’t think you have to be one or the other. Not all story tellers are writers, but a lot of writers are first and foremost storytellers.

    I’m sure you are a story teller in your fiction books and obviously a writer in your other works. So, you are both! I’d like to be a story teller, but you need to be a writer to create a good and compelling book. Therefore, I hope I’m both. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Jacqui, this is an interesting post. Does it not just boil down to the type of person you are and what makes you tick. Anonymous was a little derisive about those of us that like to write about serious topics and like to read works about series topics that delve into issues of the past and express an opinion. I am a person who reads a lot of classics and serious books. It seems to me that many of the books that endure through the decades and even centuries are those the explore topics that remain relevant through the ages. Charles Dickens, for example, addressed issues of poverty, mistreatment of children, women, and also men who did not have means. In our current work, these same issues exist and so are still of interest to us. Some books by storytellers also endure. For example, Agatha Christie falls into that category in my mind, but she isn’t regarded in the same way as Charles Dickens. I think it is a bit misguided to imply that all ‘writers’ are academic snobs. Some people are just compelled to examine what is wrong in our world and inspire readers to think about it. I believe I fall into the ‘writer’ category due to my nature and interests.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Is it really a question of one or the other, or a little of each? I think your anonymous author sums it up well at the end. You are definitely the writer with a little storyteller thrown in.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve met several great storytellers. They don’t worry about finding fancy or artistic words to craft their stories. Their vivid description made me feel I was there. Then I’ve read books with beautiful, precise and artistic description of the scenes, guestures and expression of emotion of the characters. For the storyteller, I got the story the first time around. For the writer’s craft, I want to read the books again to appreciate the beauty of words.

    Thank you for the post. Happy birthday to you, Jacqui! 🎂🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I had to go back and read anonymous’ post after that teaser of a quote from him. Rather raw writing for my prudish taste!!! I am not familiar with his work so I will have to check him out. But in the end, I agree with him. I believe I like the idea of having a bit of both writer and storytelling in my words. Happy birthday!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an interesting distinction, Jaqui. I have always thought of storytellers as people with wonderful imaginations who can transport us to other worlds and lose us in a tale (verbal or written). I think of a writer as someone who takes all that raw magic and crafts it into something tangible that can be shared. One inspiration, the other application. But that’s just me thoughts. I love the way you describe them.

    Liked by 5 people

    • It struck me when I read certain authors, they spin a tale in the manner of those old-fashioned storytellers we-all listened to in person. And that’s different than a well-crafted fiction story. I’m glad you liked it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I remember an experience in first grade where each classmate told a story. Invited by the class to give another the next day classified me as a storyteller. I love helping others turn their ideas into stories, so you could call me a “tweener.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. An interesting question and a thought-provoking post, Jacqui. I’ve always thought of myself as a story teller, and a compulsive one at that, but I also call myself ‘the versatile writer’. I guess I have a foot firmly planted in both camps, as well as being a butterfly-like genre-hopper.

    Liked by 2 people

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