Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Storytellers


Novice writers are always told that the most important aspect of writing is to be a storyteller. No matter how good your prose is, how extravagant your vocabulary or how important the point you want to drive across is, no one will pay attention to it if it's not told well.

I've never paid much attention to the process of writing. I don't bother myself with identifying "story layers," conflict points, character charts or identifying which character does what aspect to the story. I don't try to create hidden meanings or obsess over grammar. All I do is write. I tell stories.

When someone first called me a good storyteller, I beamed. While I ignored every other label about writing, the only thing I cared about was being a good storyteller. Once someone bestowed that label on me, I was ecstatic. Ever the realist, I convinced myself it was just a fluke. Until another person called me a good story teller. Then my husband told a crowd of people I was a storyteller in a speech. Then another mentioned it. And another. Soon, my pride was about to burst out of my fingertips and shine all over everyone and everything. I was a storyteller!

My pride swelled again today when a buddy of mine at work called me a storyteller. I was blabbering on about my high-school best friends dogs and how Libby resembled them perfectly, recounting their habits and waving my arms about in enthusiasm.

At first she burst into giggles and I grinned, pleased someone besides me thought I was funny. Then she exclaimed, "You're such a good storyteller! I love how you tell stories! You say all these words like they clicked along and nom-nom-nom and I know exactly what you meant! It's so funny!" She and Libby burst into hysterics as my face turned bright red. I laughed along with them, realizing that if I probably ever stopped to listen to myself, I'd think I was a moron. I'm just glad they found me funny.

Exhilarated and beaming sunbeams, I drove to The Old Pond to review a store for work. After I finished, I picked up a sandwich for Mrs. McGill and popped over to her house. She carefully arranged the sandwiches on the plates as if they were an elegant meal prepared by the finest chef and gestured for me to sit down.

"Now," she said brightly, clapping her withered hands on her pants. "Did I ever tell you the story about my ex-sister-in-law?"

Enthralled, I listened eagerly for over and hour as she told me story after story, pausing only to take a bite of my sandwich.

After all--the best storytellers know that other people always have the best stories. And she did. She did indeed.