Writer, Author, or Storyteller?

 photo via Flickr's AlicePopkorn

photo credit: AlicePopkorn

I am a storyteller.

I play many other roles as well  — wife, mother, sister, daughter. Half-hearted runner. Avid reader. Volunteer. But I was a storyteller before almost anything else.

The form my stories take hasn’t always stayed the same, but the telling part has remained true. When I was little, before I could write, I made up stories for my younger sister at bedtime. As an adult, I worked as a reporter. When my children were young and I was so sleep-deprived I couldn’t string two sentences of my own together, I’d tell them long, elaborate versions of books I knew by heart to settle them down in the car or help them sleep. On my blog, I share snippets of my life — stories about writing or family or growing up or striving toward a goal.

I’m also an author  — I have one book published and am finishing up my next. But I’ve come to realize that for me, the term author is just one more extension of being a storyteller.

It’s easy to forget this. [Read more…]


The Shape of a Story, and Why We Tell/Read Stories

The keynote speaker at the Write on the Sound Writers Conference at which I did my workshop was a film writer named Brian McDonald. He had an interesting take on the shape (structure) of a story. Since storytelling in a novel and on the screen is fundamentally pretty much the same, I thought I’d share what he had to say about that, and about storytelling in general.

Here are the elements of a story. They are simple, yet I think this works. To tell your story, you simply (yeah, right) complete the sentences.

1. Once upon a time . . . The beginning, the setting of the scene, the introduction of a character

2. Every day . . . The life of the character as it is, and is about to be disrupted

3. Until this . . . Something happens, the inciting incident, that throws a character’s life out of whack

4. Because of this . . . The character reacts with an attempt to put her life back on track, but there are complications.

5. Because of this . . . The effort fails, and then the character tries again (there can be a series of these), and there are complications.

6. Until finally . . . The climax, the point in the story that the character achieves her goal

7. For every day . . . The resolution, the tying of things together (or not, if you have an ironic ending) that completes the story experience

Mr. McDonald then had the audience fill in the blanks. I don’t write fast enough to get all of the ideas that were tossed out, but here’s an approximation. [Read more…]