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Saturday, February 05, 2005

Storytelling vs. Writing

I was thinking about something some writing friends said a while back. There are a couple of them, authors who've been around a long time, who said they've run out of stories, that they just write because they like writing.

This mindset left me boggled and I spent a lot of time mulling this over. How can anyone run out of stories? I have 5 filing cabinet drawers and a notebook full of ideas and every story I've started in the last five years--with one exception--has been something brand new. So I mulled some more. :-)

My conclusion is that I'm not writing because I love writing. I love storytelling and writing is merely the vehicle. If I found another way to share my stories with others, I could walk away from writing without much regret. Writing is my process, not my love. The storytelling and the characters are what I adore. Maybe these other authors love the process of writing more or something. I don't know because they are storytellers too, but I think their focus must be different. Maybe. This is kind of hard to articulate in a way that makes sense.

I can easily see myself in past lives as the village storyteller or as part of a troupe traveling the countryside, looking to perform their stories or plays for the people in different areas of the kingdom. I've had an interest in theater forever, and when I was in junior high school was awarded the part of the narrator for a fairy tale play we performed for younger children. Storyteller. :-)

That's what it comes down to for me, sharing my characters' stories with others. I'm sure I've mentioned it before, that my hero and heroine come in as fully formed people--actually all my characters do--and it's just a matter of getting to know them and what's important to them. I don't create anything about them. Trust me on this one. I've sat for a week, unable to write a word, because I tried to have a character think something that wasn't right for him. It was only after I asked him what the hell was his problem that he told me what his thoughts on what had happened were. Once I changed that, the rest of the chapter flowed easily.

I've had some writers comment that I shouldn't let my characters have so much control, that I should make them do what I want. But my question is why? Why shouldn't I let my hero and heroine do what fits them? That doesn't mean I can't negotiate with them to do things a little differently and it doesn't mean that I can't take suggestions from editors. I have and it's strengthened the story. But what it comes down to is being true to the characters, letting them reveal themselves, watching them grow. That's what makes this fun for me.

Edited to add: This doesn't mean that I don't want to be a good writer and continue to hone my skills. I do. I'm a perfectionist and I keep trying to attain the perfect first draft. Of course, this is impossible since there's no such thing as a perfect book, let alone a perfect first draft, but that doesn't keep me from trying.

I could go on some more about this, but I think I'll quit here. :-) I have more writing to do.

MN Weather Report: 42 degrees. Wind Chill: 38 degrees.