I've considered myself a writer for years, but a storyteller? I thought that just came with the territory. It wasn't until I listened to an interview between Write Practice founder Joe Bunting, and writer Kevin Kaiser that I realized the two are very different.
The Difference Between a Writer and a Storyteller
A writer, by definition, is: “a person who uses written words in various styles and techniques to communicate ideas.” A storyteller, on the other hand, is someone who conveys events in words, images, or sounds.
So why does it matter which one you are?
Here's what C.S. Lewis has to say in The Horse and His Boy.
For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you're taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.
I remember the essays I used to write in High School, and trust me, no one wants to read those. But the book I'm working on about the Syrian refugees? That is something that might interest my readers a little more.
Just because we are taught how to write perfectly and place our commas in just the right spot, it means nothing if no one is going to read it.
How to Become a Storyteller
How do you become a storyteller then?
Have you ever read a book you couldn't put down? Or a novel you were so engrossed in that you forgot about the world around you? That is a sign of a great storyteller.
Great storytellers are writers like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Ted Dekker. They have sold millions of books because they know how to tell a really good story.
But how do they write such good stories?
The first way, according to our friend Kevin, is that they've lived them.
1. Live Within Your Story
Stories are about characters that transform through a journey. In order for someone to experience the journey as a reader, you must first experience this journey as the storyteller. Only then will you be able to tell the kind of story that really matters.
There's a huge difference between describing to someone the beauty of the Himalayan Mountain Range after you've hiked it yourself and simply imagining what it might be like. You've smelled the air, heard the sounds, and experienced the place rather than looking at a picture or a video and doing your best to describe it.
The same goes for writing stories. The most captivating stories have been lived. Good writing can be taught in classrooms, but good storytelling comes from experience.
2. Make Writing a Part of Your Story
And then of course, after all that living, you have to practice the writing. The second way to write a good story is to write it again and again and again.
A quote often attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne is, “Easy reading is damned hard writing.” So, if we want our readers to fly through our book's pages like the last Harry Potter novel, we must know that it's going to take some work.
That is the foundational principle of this blog, to help you become a better writer by making you practice. Storytellers practice too.
The Benefit of Storytelling
An idea that I recently adopted is to try and make my writing invisible. This is the benefit of storytelling.
In the middle of an incredible story, your reader shouldn't even see the words on the page.And instead, completely capturing your reader into another world entirely.
It's like driving somewhere in a car and then completely forgetting how you got there.
A few years ago, I arrived at the hospital after finding out my dad had a major heart attack. I don't remember holding the steering wheel, or taking exit seven, or where I parked my car because the story unfolding around me was so much bigger than the vessel that was bringing me there.
This is what you want to accomplish for your readers. This is what storytelling does. Bring them on a journey they barely realize they are taking.
Are you a writer or a storyteller? Tell us in the comments below.
Tell me a story.
Take fifteen minutes and write a story, but not just any story. Tell of a journey you've been on, literally or figuratively.
Do you know what falling in love feels like? How about heartbreak?
Have you climbed the Andes mountains or flown to a foreign land?
Share your story in the comments section. Make sure you leave feedback for your fellow writers on their stories as well.
I can't wait to read them!