Storyteller versus Writer

I tell people I'm a writer.

It's possible that I'm lying ... or at least that I think I'm lying.

I'm a student of story. I love the feel and shape of a good story. I've spent my life enjoying watching, listening to, and reading stories that other people tell; after a lifetime in the pursuit of story, I generally know which way a good one will bend and twist before sticking its landing.

It's this gift, or skill, that gave me the courage to write Here Be Monsters, my first novel. I knew that I could tell a story, having absorbed thousands (maybe tens of thousands) in my life, and knew the guy, and place, and situation, I wanted to wrap the story around.

It's a good story ... it could be written better. The subsequent novels and novellas were written better, and were still good stories.

The dozens of short stories I've got printed out and milling around in my office are all good stories ... the question I'm hoping to answer in the positive at the end of my time at Goddard is whether or not they're well written, crafted.

I think that a story being well-written goes beyond spelling and grammar and syntax ... it plums the depths of craft, along with the iterative, obsessive, practice of polish.

The concept of polish is the hill upon which my becoming a writer very often hangs, and stalls ... working the story again and again and again, then dusting it off and working it some more, until there are no bumps or snags in the flow of words or sentences, dialog or exposition, that drop the reader out of the hallucinatory trance the story has lulled them into.

I have, in the past, been satisfied with telling a cool story, comfortable in the knowledge that my ability to communicate that story through words is sufficient for transmission from my brain to my reader's ... the pursuit of my MFA at Goddard has been the pursuit of a greater understanding of the writer who lives within the storyteller I am, and to encourage the writer to work just as hard as the storyteller.

I feel that I am in the midst of a transformative process, sliding along a continuum towards the writerly end of things while hopefully still maintaining the storyteller ... I imagine the writer abides in the brain, roaming up and down the dusty shelves that line the passages of my skull, while the storyteller lives in my heart, beating and racing and rushing with my excitement each time we sit down at the laptop with an idea as our polestar.

Anyway, that's what I was thinking when I woke up this morning (which is a polite way to say "when Olive woke me up because she thought she heard a bear outside") ... I'm ready for my second cup of coffee.

Thanks for indulging me ... keep reading, I'll keep writing (and storytelling).


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