RB: Storyteller or Writer?

Page one hundred thirty three. That’s what page I was on before I was immersed in the latest novel I’m reading. (See last post: The Middle Beginning for more information.) I finally realized it had nothing to do with getting to know the characters and/or wishing to be in the middle of the story, because at page 133, I’m still not connected with the hero and heroine. I’m immersed in the plot of the book, not the characters.

I know what you are thinking, why didn’t I just put the book down? Unfortunately I couldn’t. It’s a sad, horrible flaw of mine. I once read a 1109-page book that I didn’t like. Why didn’t I put it down? Because I had hope. Maybe it will get better? At chapter thirty-three, I thought maybe this one will be it? At chapter fifty, perhaps this one? It did get better on page 1108 but that was only because I had only one more page to go.

So here’s another award winning author who is a great storyteller, but not a very good writer. How does one become a good story teller? Is it something that can be taught?

Maybe I should ask, what makes a bestseller? Although that’s not what I strive for in my writing. Okay, that’s a lie. I would be ecstatic if my book ever made it on any bestseller list, but my main goal is to sweep the reader away. To immerse them in the story so they forget about cooking dinner. (Sorry kids, it’s pizza tonight.) So they read until three-thirty in the morning even if they have to get up at five for work. I want to give them hope. Give them something to dream about. I want them to learn that everyone deserves love, great love.

In order to do that do I have to be a great story teller, a great writer, or both? And how do I figure out which one I am?

10 thoughts on “RB: Storyteller or Writer?

  1. I love that you guys are thinking about the same things I’m thinking about. It’s so satisfying to come here and read something and go, Yes, THAT!

    I think I’m a story-teller and that for me, trying to become a better writer is seriously interfering with my ability to tell a story. But I want to be a better writer, because…well, because. I like being good at things and I like getting better, and so I’m trying to get better. But I definitely believe that being a good story-teller is also something that can be taught. I don’t know how you figure out which you are, though — for me, it seemed obvious, because the idea of being a writer provokes immense anxiety while the idea of being a storyteller is immediately soothing.

    • Thanks, Sarah. I’m glad you like our blog.

      I never thought of just asking myself which one I am and see what response I get. It’s funny, because I do that to my characters a lot. If I need to know something I just ask and surprisingly 95% of the time they tell me what I need to know. -RB

      • Did you figure out which one you are by asking?

        As for the characters, that’s often what I discover when I’ve been stuck for a while. I will have been working on a scene that’s going nowhere and finally realize that the character is simply not interested in doing whatever I’m trying to get done. I’ll have to try asking them first next time!

      • Ha. I tried to ask myself and I came back with a conflicted answer. Not sure what to do at this point? Maybe wait until my head stops pounding and try again? 😉

        I think in the beginning I was a storyteller. I had an idea that sparked me to write it down. Which isn’t that how all writer’s start? Hm, never thought of it like that before. Anyways, as I wrote more and more and realized that it was FUN and I wanted to do it for a living, I started to work on my writing skills, because although I liked English classes, they were never my strong suit. So I wonder if I changed into a writer? Now I focus on the craft of writing when I write a story: character arc, plot, pacing, show don’t tell, etc. Perhaps I think too much about the craft that my general storytelling spark has gotten crushed?

        Well, you see what I mean about headache? And that was only a portion of the conversation I had with myself. I’m glad my character’s aren’t this confusing. 😉 -RB

      • Storyteller vs writer: that was my exact path. With fiction, anyway. I had a story I wanted to tell, started writing, realized it was fun, wrote more, learned more, wrote more, started learning too much. I wrote about this on my blog a little while ago, but writing used to be an implicit memory skill for me — I just did it without thinking about it. Now I’m thinking about it all the time and I’m pretty sure it’s not making my writing any better!

    • Ella: It’s so strange to me to hear you talking about being angst-y about your writing, because I’ve read your books and I loved them. I guess I think that once you’ve succeeded as a writer–written something that people read and liked–that you are now perfect and confident and everything is wonderful. I should know better than that by now, shouldn’t I?

      • Haha, yes, definitely that doesn’t happen. Or didn’t for me. Actually, if anything it’s been the other way around. But I think that’s pretty common. Look at Jenny Cruisie — I bet she didn’t have nearly as much angst about writing when she was writing her first book, but now the pressure on her is enormous. She teaches writing and she’s been on the NYTimes best-seller list and people talk about her books as best-ever romances — talk about needing everything to be exactly right! No wonder she’s had writer’s block for three years.

        In my case, I honestly didn’t expect many people to read Ghosts. It’s self-published, by an unknown author — realistically, no one should have. I expected, if I was lucky, 100 people to read it in the first year and most of them would have known me, one way or another. When I was writing it, every time I got worried about the fact that I was doing it wrong, I’d remind myself that it was never going to get published and I didn’t need to worry about whether it was wrong or right. Now I actually am worried about whether I’m doing it right. I guess I should stop, though. Doing it wrong worked out okay the first time!

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