So I have some friends who say, “I’m not a writer. I’m a storyteller.”
Other friends say, “I’m a writer. She’s a storyteller.” (Often the word “just” is squeezed in there as well, in case I’m deaf to tone of voice.)
For a long time, I thought this division of camps had to do with what types of things you wrote. Storytellers write to stir emotions and send a message to the world. These coded messages are as divergent as “love is the answer” to “we’re all doomed!”
Writers, on the other hand, write to stimulate the mind. (You really have to say that with with a Bella Lugosi accent.) Full of arguments and logic, a writer is always 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.
Now I enjoy reading all kinds of things.
In high school, I was the Ferris Bueller type (without the school ditching.) The kid that floated between groups–smart or artsy, rich kids, kids from the projects, Catholics and “publics.”
I have to say, the coat-change between writer and storyteller may be the most perilous group-hopping I do. Maybe because I hate the division between my two closest tribes. I’ve been finding ways to subvert that difference since I first began to write. 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.)
I write features for newspapers, short stories and epic-length novels. Serious, sexy, silly and smart. I float on the current of the WIP, changing forms as thoughts and emotions change.
Recently, I finished a draft of a 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 storyteller and writer is the worst kind of nit-picky semantics.
I recently had the chance to present a piece from my new work to a live audience. (http://www.waterlinewriters.org/) Brought a few of my speech kids and read everyone a slice of the story—the first few minutes of my latest WIP screenplay. The audience laughed, listened and went home happy.
Writer. Storyteller. Toe-May-Toe. Ta-Mah-Toe.
Let’s call the whole thing fun.