Sunday, November 30, 2014

Telling Tales

I recently went to a book introduction for a novel written by a neighbor. His work hits the best seller lists from time-to-time, and his remarks the other day were sort of a master class in fiction writing. Actually in writing, period. He described his own process in researching and writing fiction, which, as far as I know, are common to all who ply this craft.

One thing stood out: “I’m a storyteller,” he said.

I instantly was reminded of the day I discovered that in myself. I was driving to meet with a group of other writers, struggling to learn the craft of fiction (as opposed, in my case, to writing fact). As I let the car follow the curves and slopes of the three mountains I had to cross, it came to me (as things do to writers) that in fact, what all of this was about was being a storyteller. I proffered those words to the group when we met, and elaborated on the theme.

Writing is a form used to tell stories, but we all begin by actually telling, speaking the stories we have within us. We begin as children, letting our imaginations roam the universe we inhabit (and perhaps some that do not exist . . .yet). We don’t always know the line between real and imaginary, and some of us never learn it. That is what writing fiction is all about.

We gather our audience, whether in person or through pages, and we tell our stories. We, all of us, love stories. Love to imagine things as we would like them to be, or are afraid they might be. When all the light was from the fires lit to warm us and cook our meat, we sat around the fire and told our dreams, our imaginings, our shaped fears and hopes. And always, some were better than others at shaping a story, at making it come alive. Poets, bards, tellers of tall tales all found their way into the circle around the fire. And some were singled out for fame, for the respect they earned at their craft.

Writing our stories simply expanded our audience size. No longer limited to a single performance, the written story could be shared over and over with one or many, could take on a form that was passed down through the ages even to today. Now a storyteller holds the respected title of “writer,” or “author,” and can be found on best-seller lists and in bookstores, libraries and on electronic media and other forms of sharing. It is still telling a story, beginning at a beginning and ending at “the end.” No matter what it is called, no matter what the author is called, all who write are, first and foremost, tellers of stories.

I am a storyteller, and this is my story, too.

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