Mountains Beneath the Horizon Bell William. Autograph Manuscript, 4pp, small 4to, on notepaper with the printed heading "Pixton Park, Dulverton" the home of Arthur Waugh. Belloc lists fifty-seven of his essays, providing each with a serial number, a word count and a brief critical comment, e. A little rewriting would improve it".
Which led me to wonder….
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. 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.
A storyteller is someone for whom the art of storytelling is paramount — character, tension, climax, personal growth, etc. Which, in the modern day, is often writing.
To be successful, writers must learn the skills of storytelling and storytellers must learn the skills of writing. So, why does it even matter? And yet… Understanding your own natural way of approaching this complex, challenging, exciting, soul-destroyingly wonderful writing-thing can be very helpful to understanding your process.
And it can help overcome those most terrible of ailments: Historically speaking… Let us cast a romantic eye backwards a few hundred years; back to when the difference between being a writer and being a storyteller was more pronounced. A writer would likely be found amongst the clergy and the wealthy elite.
While there were undoubtedly exceptions, the written works of past ages were either written for posterity or for the consumption of others of their own ilk. Philosophers, generals, priests, rulers, and pre-sociology-sociologists recorded their world and their wisdom through the media of words — and many of them are still recognised as great thinkers even today.
Storytellers existed to amuse and inform; to sing songs or tell stories of love and mystery and horror and heroism. They told tales of what happens to villagers who wander into the dark woods alone under a full moon, and how excessive pride will fell even the greatest of men.
But now… These days, reading and writing are accessible to almost everyone. Writers are no longer writing for the cultural elite, and storytellers can reach a bigger audience by putting their stories into written words.
The distinction between the two literary traditions has been eroded by progress. There are modern writers who clearly cleave more strongly to the writing tradition. When you read their books, you are transported by the language as much or more than by the story.
They have a way with words that can leave you breathless.Whether you’re a writer, a storyteller, or someone who has managed to read this entire essay while secretly thinking that everything I wrote is complete bollocks, we’re all in this together.
So go forth, writing storytellers and storytelling writers alike, and create words and worlds of wonder. Saki is a writer whose great strength and great weakness lie in the limits he set for himself. Firmly rooted in the British ruling class that enjoyed “dominion over palm and pine,” Saki wrote.
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