Writing and telling… again
Last Friday evening I talked to a fellow-writer at the Matlock Storytelling Cafe about the commonalities between fiction writing and storytelling: both demand that you focus on your reader/audience and engage attention, both require you to evoke settings, etc. But neither of us could put a finger on the recurrent question: why do the two activities act synergistically? Why does writing improve your storytelling, and vice versa? After all, there’s an obvious difference: when you write you must “show not tell”, whereas storytelling requires (duh!) telling.
Here’s a paragraph or so from a novel in progress, first in teller-style and then in writer-style:
The new doctor was another conundrum, thought Madeline. He was all care and attention and kind words but he lived on a different planet; she pictured him with green skin and three long fingers. Then they sedated her so he could do things to her head with wires, proving he was an alien, but she wasn’t frightened. Then she went to sleep and had a dream.
Dad had shown her photos of home and stuff and Mum had told her about when she was little, so maybe her mind had mixed some of the pictures up with Mum’s stories. Anyway, she dreamed she was clinging to Lexie’s hand and staring through a forest of legs at gorgeous dresses and jewels and flashing cameras.
If someone were telling the story to you, you’d probably go on listening; but if it were in a book, would you go on reading? Now here’s the same piece in writer-style:
This new doctor’s another conundrum, thought Madeline: all care and attention and kind words but he’s from a different planet. She pictured him with green skin and three long fingers. He said he was going to do things to her head with wires, which proved he was an alien. She shrugged. Yeah, whatever. She felt a needle in her arm and a mask over her face. She shut her eyes.
She was clinging to Lexie’s hand and staring through a forest of legs at gorgeous dresses and jewels. Flashing cameras made her blink.
For someone who wants both to write and to tell, it’s hard to keep the right style for the right purpose! But perhaps that’s part of the enjoyment…