Recently, I have read several novels in which the art of the story teller–oral storytelling–was celebrated. As most people do, I love to hear a good story told. Or perhaps even a bad story told in an interesting, mesmerizing, or dramatic way–one that snags the listener and holds him or her captive to the end.
Great story telling is an art form. It involves the use of the teller’s voice, words, plan of sequence, cadence, body language, ability to live the story, acting ability, and many nuances of voice, body, and mind that I cannot even begin to put into words. A great story teller paints an image and adds ambiance that puts the listener not only into the story, but into the very setting in which the story takes place. The listener becomes a participant–or at very least a passionate and involved on-the-scene observer–of all that is taking place.
So much of such story telling ability is involved in good writing, as well. Think back to the books you have read that remain in your mind or as part of your life for years and years after you finished reading the last page. The book may have ended, but the subject and environment of the book remain as part of you, as though you had been part of the experience. The story becomes part of your own memory of personal or observed experiences. Such is the mark of a truly great book.
As the great story teller is a rarity in contemporary society, so is the great writer. Many of us write, and consider ourselves great writers. But so few of us have a following of readers who are mesmerized by what we put to paper or screen. Most of us write for the pleasure of seeing our words in print, and maybe with a story that we think is particularly clever. Blogging is a great means by which to get ourselves–our little works of art–out and about to faithful or fitfull readers (assuming we have a readership beyond family and close friends). Is the reason we are relatively obscure because we don’t have the talent to tell a really great story? Or is it because we do not have a following of readers–we have not put ourselves out there or out far enough? Or have we not adequately set the scene, with fragrances and background sounds, with the right ambiance, or a word painting of the place and time? Have we missed something in our description? Have we inadvertently changed our tone? Did we fail to note how the setting makes us feel?
I don’t have the answer to this. My writing is mediocre and mundane. I write because I enjoy seeing my words and ideas on paper or device screen, whether anyone else reads my words or not. I don’t have the talent of a great and gifted story teller. But I can certainly learn from the masters and polish my words and style to become better. What I share is practice, just like the beginning student art work I sometimes share. Silently, I am asking you: Have I improved? Is this piece something you will remember or identify with? Is my style so prosaic as to be unworthy of the space it takes up? Do you think I will get better? or worse?? Might my future posts be worth a read?
Or maybe I am asking: Do you like me?
If only I had the time to practice more, and more often…