I love Henry Rollins. I love his music, his books, his tattoos. But mostly, I love his stories. I’ve seen his spoken word shows live several times and I’m always in awe of his ability to spin a yarn.
The ability to tell a compelling story is the second aspect of being a fiction creator that I want to talk about. To me, this is the part that relies most on innate talent and less on skill. Some people are just great storytellers.
Unlike authorship or good writing technique, it’s hard to teach storytelling. Sure, there are formulae, tropes and structures which help move a story along. And there’s always the tried and true method of just bringing in a man with a gun*. But the really great stories don’t come from a paint-by-numbers kind of process. They are built from an alchemical combination of the author’s experience, imagination and creative prowess.
I do think that we can become better storytellers by coming into contact with more better stories. Watching great films and tv, reading widely, delving into memoir, playing narrative-driven games — all these aspects of storytelling can expose us to different kinds of stories, different takes on those X number of basic plots that are the basis for all tales.
* This is not to imply in any way that Raymond Chandler is anything less than a brilliant storyteller. Seriously. Go read some Chandler. Everything else can wait.
This post is the second in a series about the three aspects of being a fiction creator: Author, Storyteller and Writer.