There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of essays and articles online attempting to differentiate between writers who tell stories and storytellers who write books. Many people will say that it doesn’t matter; that it’s all semantics. Which led me to wonder…. is it?
As polarising controversies go, it’s not a very big one. I mean, it doesn’t rate up there with “Pantser vs. Plotter” or “Literature vs. Genre” or “Self Pub vs. Trad. Pub” or whatever the cool kids are arguing about these days. Nonetheless, it’s a topic that comes up from time to time.
What are writers and storytellers?
Chances are, when you read the title of this essay, one of those terms resonated with you. Maybe you consider yourself a writer. Maybe you consider yourself a storyteller. Maybe you consider yourself both. Or neither. But before we start talking about the difference between them, what do the terms even mean?
Let’s move past the simple definition of “a writer writes” and look at what the title of writer actually means. Without going all dictionary-phile on you, let’s define a writer as someone whose purpose is to write books, poems, stories, or articles. A writer is someone for whom the art of writing is paramount — grammar, word use, punctuation, etc — and knowledge of that craft is used to record stories, be they fact or fiction, through the media of written words.
We can define a storyteller as someone whose purpose is to tell stories, whether they be fact or fiction, for the purpose of entertainment and/or illumination. A storyteller is someone for whom the art of storytelling is paramount — character, tension, climax, personal growth, etc. — and knowledge of that craft is used to tell stories through whatever medium will best reach their intended audience. Which, in the modern day, is often writing.