Friday, June 12, 2009

The Fabulous Tracy Wolff Guest Posts on Writers and Storytellers (and a giveaway)

(Tracy seriously rocks. I've only read one of her books, but I loved it. She's on Twitter. And everytime she guest posts, I'm thrilled to have her! Please make her feel welcome and know how awesome she is)

Thanks, Amy, for having me back. It’s always such a pleasure to blog here as you’re such a gracious host.

Just recently, a friend and I did a presentation for a hundred writers discussing the differences between storytellers and writers and how to make the good points of both work for you, while minimizing the weaknesses. This is a subject that has been particularly interesting to me for a long time—ever since I was in graduate school and the subject first came up.

From those first few days in my MFA program until last week, I always staunchly stuck by the idea that I am a writer. I love words. I love everything about words I love playing with them and rearranging them, creating metaphors and similes and dramatic irony with them. When I sit down at my computer to tell a story, I don’t see pictures, I see a tickertape of words that runs right in front of my eyes—words that I take great joy in putting down on paper (or computer screen as the case may be).

And, not to sound arrogant, but I’m pretty good with words. I always have been. I write very quickly (like a book in two weeks quickly) and the things that so many of my writing students and storyteller friends struggle with—flow, form, plot, nuance-- come easily to me.

But, then, where I struggle is often where those same storytellers shine. For example, characters are difficult for me—particularly trying to make them strong and sympathetic and fully fleshed out. For me, they are too often vehicles to get my theme/central idea across as opposed to real people who hook the reader. People like Bella and Edward (Twilight) or Rhett and Scarlett (Gone with the Wind) or even Stella, Blanche and Stanley (A Streetcar Named Desire). People—characters—that I can only dream of writing.

Also, I can’t see the end of a book before I get there. My plot may take me three-quarters of the way, but the end is always a mystery to me—beyond the happily ever after, I mean, as I do write romance. Not once in the nine books I’ve written has my story ended like I told my editor it would. This doesn’t happen to storytellers—they so often see the beginning of a book and the end of a book with perfect clarity. What I wouldn’t give for some of that clarity.

As my friend and I went through the list of what makes people writers vs. what makes them storytellers, it became obvious that so many of the very famous writers out there today are really storytellers. Stephenie Meyer, Dan Brown, Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks—all brilliant storytellers whose stories and fictional worlds capture the imagination of millions. And some of the great genre writers of our generation—for example Stephen King and J.K. Rowling—are both writers and storytellers. They can thrill the intellect and capture the imagination all at the same time, which, I think, is a rare quality indeed.

What I learned while doing this presentation is that yes, I am solidly a writer—from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. But I’m a writer who wants to be a storyteller bad enough that I gobble up the works of other storytellers and always, always, always work on my own in the hopes of capturing just a little of their magic to go along with my eloquent prose. Because there’s one thing that years and years of writing and teaching literature has taught me—it’s that while most people respect a writer, they love a storyteller.

So, the question I have for you today is this, what do you, as readers, prefer? The writer or the storyteller? Who are some of your favorite authors and what category would you put them in? Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of my first book, A Christmas Wedding.

Read Amy's review of A Christmas Wedding.


bermudaonion said...

What a great, thought provoking question. I really enjoy both - I think it depends on what else is going on in my life at the time.

Tracy Wolff said...

I know what you mean, bermudaonion. When I'm stressed and just want to escape, I'm all about the storytellers. There's nothing quite like sinking into a book and letting it whisk me away to a whole new world. At the same time, when I'm more relaxed, I like reading stuff that has a little more teeth to it. Stuff that just might make me cry as well as smile.

Linna said...

I learn from writers and mesmerized by storytellers. Books that propel me to read the second, third and more times are often from authors who share the quailities of both writer and storyteller. Jane Austen, JK Rowling, and Kazuo Ishiguro come to my mind.


tracy wolff said...

Linna, I love Kazuo Ishiguro-- thanks for bringing him up. I loved Remains of the Day!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I suppose I prefer storytellers and aim to be one. I still enjoy a good book if the story is amazing, despite technical errors but it's not so easy the other way around. Great question!

Unknown said...

I would have to say that both have to be good for a story to really work.

Carmen said...

I would have to say a combination of both, as I love to dig into a book and yet get carried away with the book. The best have a redeeming value to them.

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Anonymous said...

I love storytellers. I usually don't even notice or appreciate great writing, although it probably does affect my overall enjoyment of a book. I wish I had more of a sense of the words themselves.

What an interesting thing to think about. Thanks for bringing up the question!

Tracy Wolff said...

Thanks for your thoughts! I agree that the best books combine great storytelling with wonderful writing-- and manage to capture the imagination of their audience, and often the world, as they do.

Tempest52 said...

The story is pivotal of course, but I'm a lover of words too...I deeply appreciate great writing.

Belle said...

Great post! I don't think that not knowing how your story ends means you're not a storyteller, though. Stephen King, for example, is famous for not knowing how a story will end. He just pours it out, the way you do. Then he uses his revisions to add and delete whatever needs to be added and deleted!

Julie said...

I love this discussion! I find that in the most captivating pieces of literature will find a perfect combination of both writing and storytelling. I find the technical side of storytelling fascinating and can leave you pouring over every word.

If you have not read Issac Dinesen's "The Blank Page" follow this link. I first read this in high school and it has stuck with me ever since.

Anonymous said...

I prefer those that are both writers and storytellers, such as J.K. Rowling. I like to be both involved in a story and intelectually stimulated in some way by it. Though, Rick Riordan is also great, and he's mainly a storyteller. His books are on a level to entertain but not intelectually stimulate.


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