Jan Fields (cute_n_cranky) wrote,
Jan Fields


Humans have always loved stories. Some of the earliest people used walls in caves, walls of buildings, and even rocks to tell their stories. When the bulk of the population in Europe couldn’t write, they gathered around oral storytellers with rapt attention. Stories offer us a window into an experience that is not our own. And if the storyteller does his job well, the story ends up belonging to the listener as well as the teller. A good story, well told grows in the mind of the listerner.

Oral storytelling is an amazing art. You have the power of the words but also the instrument of the human voice. And you can move as you speak, expanding the story with gesture and expression. Oral storytelling captivates the people listening as the speaker performs.

Written storytelling captivates the reader who is not there are the writer performs. Oral storytelling is for the “now” and written storytelling is for the future. The writer creates for the future reader. The story’s biggest fan might not even be born yet as the writer sits alone (or perhaps surrounded by distractions) and creates.

Storytelling is a creative act. If you accept that people truly are made in the imagine of God; it is in this act of creation that we most look like our creator. Writers create people, places, voices, action that did not exist until that writer sat down and began putting those word on paper. Similar worlds may have existed (sometimes too similar) but nowhere can you find EXACTLY that selection of words, images, and personality.

As a writer, I can imagine a character who could not exist in the real world. I can imagine a sweet natured and terribly innocent bear who lives in a cottage in the woods. I can imagine that he wakes to find an uninvited and unexpected houseguest in bright yellow curls eating everything in his kitchen. I can imagine the bear’s vexation, but bound by the rules of hospitality, my bear might find himself trying harder and harder to meet the demands of this bossy golden haired guest. Then I might imagine the bear discovers that the bossy guest is actually his nemesis fox in a yellow wig, tricking bear out of a big breakfast. I can imagine that bear wins in the end.

As I imagine all this, I borrow from trickster tales all over the world. I borrow from a European fairy tale. I borrow from the picture book tradition of kind, cuddly bears. I even pinch a bit from old absurd cartoons where a bad wig or a crooked mustache renders a character totally unrecognizable to his friends. But I create something different from all those things. And in the creation, I speak about my own feelings on hospitality and house guests.

At the time I am writing, I have no audience. At the point of creation, I don’t do the careful editing in response to audience cues that oral storytellers do. I have only my own pleasure (and my experience as a writer) as my guide because at that first writing – I’m only telling myself a story. It is as if I am storytelling at the end of a tunnel and the reader is at the other end. I’m writing with the hope and belief that eventually the story will make it through that tunnel of revision and submission to reach the reader.

Why do I do that? Mostly I do it because of my own enjoyment and need for stories. I need the stories I read. The stories I hear. Even the stories I watch on television. And because others have met that need for me, I step up with trepidation and try to produce something that will help feed that need for others. I take joy in the writing. First and foremost I’m telling myself a story. But then, I push it into the tunnel and hope it reaches the other end where I’m telling the story to others.

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