Writing vs. Storytelling
Let me start by saying the title is misleading in important ways—there is no genuine divergence between writing and storytelling, or there should be no divergence. Almost every writer writes in an effort to tell a story of some kind. I set the concepts against one another hyperbolically, to emphasize different approaches to writing that sometimes betray different goals in the writer.
In caricature, a Writer spends his or her time examining images, trying to discover figurative language to describe, for example, the unique sheen of rain on cobblestones in a medieval alleyway in Europe; a Storyteller simply wants to tell the story and oftentimes wastes little energy on imagery. In a way, each concept has a philosophical undergarment, so to speak, but while one person who struggles in front of a computer screen might call him or herself a Writer or a Storyteller, there truly isn’t any useful dividing line to cross in either direction.
A self-proclaimed Writer might scorn a Storyteller for a lack of artistry, for a lack of literary goals, or for a poor vocabulary. A Storyteller may in turn dismiss a Writer as having nothing to say. However gorgeous the prose or inventive the imagery, if the story goes nowhere, that’s exactly where it will end up. If a story is not being told, there’s little reason to write fiction at all. Some Writers forget the main goal of Storytellers, producing instead lovely sentences and arresting images without satisfying the reader’s desire for a story. That’s a pretty sure way to consign yourself to an unpublishable netherworld where even your friends and family react with embarrassment when you hand over your lengthy printouts of, one hopes, splendidly crafted sentences. Basically, without a story, the obvious question is, why did you spend so much time typing? Readers need a story—we like stories. We always have. Beneath Joyce’s new uses of language and invented words, Ulysses yields itself to a plot diagram just as well as any other story you might mention. And any story that cannot be diagrammed—just like in high school English classes—is doomed to utter obscurity.
On the other hand, Writers are correct to be dismayed when Storytellers adopt the attitude that the story—plot twists and character interactions presented in a series of uninspired declarative sentences—is all that matters, and unartistic material should be pushed out to the reading public without so much as a cursory copy-edit, as if a work of long-form fiction (a novel, in other words) is no more meaningful or durable than a reality-TV show. You don’t have to be a literary snob to sympathize with the Writer’s point of view.
Of course there is no dichotomy between the efforts. Countless stories are best served by straightforward imagery and declarative sentences. Spare writing can be as hauntingly beautiful as the lushest magical realism from the Caribbean, and just because readers demand conflict, rising action, climax, and so on, it doesn’t mean they demand those elements in a linear presentation or any other particular order.
It’s not a profound insight: Anyone who is serious about telling his or her stories would do best to try to be both a Writer and a Storyteller.
Dialogues of a Crime
by John K Manos
on Tour March 17 - May 31, 2014
Genre: Crime Fiction
Published by: Amika Press
Publication Date: July 26, 2013
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: July 26, 2013
NOTE: Excessive strong language & Graphic violence
Reviews:Kirkus: "BEST INDIE THRILLS AND KILLS OF 2013"
"A character-driven crime novel ruled by complex men facing the past."
Synopsis:(from Kirkus Reviews)
In Dialogues of a Crime, Michael Pollitz must decide whether to protect the mobster who has protected him.
When Mike, a college student in 1972 Illinois, is arrested on drug charges, his father insists he use a public defender. His childhood friend’s father, Dom Calabria, head of the Outfit in Chicago, wants to help Mike by providing a first-rate lawyer, but Mike goes with his father’s wishes. The outcome is a plea bargain for a short stay in Astoria Adult Correctional Facility—but after he’s brutally beaten and raped by three inmates, Mike spends most of his sentence in the infirmary. He doesn’t give up his assailants’ names but threatens their lives right before he’s set to be released. When Mike is picked up by the head of the mob, people notice.
Flash forward to 1994, when Detective Larry Klinger begins investigating the murders of two former Astoria inmates who were violently killed shortly after being released. An informant—the third man who beat Mike—tells Klinger that the murders were committed by Calabria, the kingpin whom Klinger would like to see taken down. Klinger investigates, coming in contact with Mike, and the two form a friendship. When Klinger realizes that Mike will never give up Calabria, he begins to wonder whether it’s even worth investigating the murders of such evil men.