Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Story Telling VS. Writing A Story – Part 3: Similarities and Differences... Clearly and Succinctly

Story Telling VS. Writing A Story – Part 3: Similarities and Differences... Clearly and Succinctly

This is the last in this series. As promised, this is short… and hopefully sweet.


Both telling and writing present a story. While that sounds trite, it is important to remember that the goal of a teller and a writer is the same: Get the audience engaged in the tale and wanting to see how it ends.


When telling a story, tellers animate the characters. Good storytellers modify both their voice and physical mannerisms for different characters. Listeners visualize beautiful women, strong tough men, children, non-native speakers, and scores of other types through the skilled delivery of spoken words by the teller.

A story writer must convey those same differences but the pages upon which they write limit a writer’s expression. Good story writers build, and then animate, characters. But they do it by describing not demonstrating.

Ultimately, readers and listeners form mental images of characters in each case. The better, more lifelike, those images, the more a reader wants to know about the characters and the part of each in the story.

A storyteller can read her/his audience. Good storytellers are always scanning the crowd. As soon as they teller sees or senses part of the listening audience slipping away mentally, the teller can change what he/she is doing to reel the listeners back in. A sudden clap of the hands emphasizing a door closing or a gunshot or mimicking the clap by a character will return the attention of all but the most reticent listen to the story.

A story writer must depend on her/his wordsmithing to keep a reader engaged. Boring is bad in writing. Confusion is bad in writing. Engagement is the goal of a writer.

A crowd of listeners can bring back those losing interest by their group dynamic. You’ve probably tuned out of some conversation only to be sucked back in because you wondered what everyone was laughing about. Storytellers use group dynamics to their advantage. Conversely, if a listening audience is restless, it can pull those trying to listen away from the story. Reading an audience is a finely honed skill in good storytellers.

Writers have no crowd to distract. But, the lack of crowd means that the only thing keeping a reader engaged is the writing. Writers have no group dynamic


While a story is a story, whether written or spoken, if you ignore the conventions of either as you write or speak your audience won’t come back for more.

Primary Lesson Learned

As a writer, it is important to provide your readers with insights into your characters that they have no way of obtaining without your written words. Include:
  • thoughts, insights, and quirks as thoughts or in descriptions.
  • descriptions of important historical information on your characters.
  • examples of baggage your characters carry that impact their current actions.

More on this idea in my…

Next blog: Thoughts After My Longest Edit… Ever!

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