1. huskies
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    huskies Member

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    The difference between a good writer and a good story teller?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by huskies, Feb 12, 2012.

    I have read many posts on here now saying that writers like J K Rowling and Stephanie Myer are bad writers but good story tellers.
    So my question does it matter?
    If you are a good story teller and have a story to tell, should you hold back and wait until you have the skills and knowledge of a good writer?
    Or should you like these two ladies did perservea and get your story out there even if it is a little rough around the edges?
     
  2. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    A good story teller tells a story well. A good writer writes a story well. You can be either, or you can be both.

    If you've ever had a story told to you in person (what happened to someone over the weekend, for example), you'll know that some people can tell those stories really well and keep you hanging on. In writing, a good storyteller is like that, but they're doing it with fiction and they're less likely to come across plot holes and the story is just really good. A good writer, however, can turn that story into a really, really well-written novel/short story/whatever.

    See, if someone's just a good writer, you can read something they wrote and say, "Gee, that sure is pretty, but, boy, does that story stink!"
    Alternately, about a good storyteller, you can say, "Damn, that was good, but they really need to better their grammar!"
     
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  3. jc.
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    jc. Contributing Member

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    I agree with the above poster. I've met people who were great at telling stories but couldn't translate that skill onto paper, and some skilled writers who just aren't very creative or imaginative.
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Quite honestly, I think too many writers worry about becoming good writers and don't pay enough attention to being good storytellers. They have the skills but get so bogged down in tenses and POV and phrasing and - well, as a result, they lose the story. I'm not saying honing those skills aren't important - they are and should be. I just think sometimes they become too important.
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    how do you hone your storytelling skills then?
     
  6. Wayne Kernochan
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    Wayne Kernochan Member

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    By reading
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly. And not just in the genre(s) you want to write in. Every genre has its own nuances, but one can learn various "techniques" of storytelling from all of them.
     
  8. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dean Koontz can't write his way out of a wet paper bag, but damn the man can spin a yarn. I am a huge fan of his work but I can't stand his writing. For me story trumps the writing. Ideally I prefer not to notice the writing at all and just get lost in the story. As for training yourself to be a better storyteller? I have to agree with 'read'.
     
  9. Snap228
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    Snap228 Member

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    I was going to be a smart-ass and say "literacy."

    But I think it partly has to do with plot, and how well you develop the story itself. The Harry Potter series is a wonderful story, but the writing, while isn't terrible, is okay. I've also read stories that have a mediocre story to them that has wonderful writing.
     
  10. Rapscallion
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    Rapscallion Active Member

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    Writing is a tool that can be used to tell stories. How well can you use the tool? Everyone has a natural ability that with practice improves.
    Story telling is more inherent, it's nature is deeper set than writing and it lends its improvement more to exercise than to practice.
    Reading is good exercise. Writing is good practice.
    If you want to tell a story without words, study mimes, and then practice the motions.
    If you want to tell a story with words, read (study-exercise) and write (practice).

    Ideally we would like to be strong in both but, it is not always so.
    There is nothing wrong in hiring or partnering a good editor if you find your writing skills a bit lacking.
    There too, is nothing wrong with partnering good story teller if you think you can help them chisel out a masterpiece.
     
  11. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    JK Rowling isn't a bad writer. She wrote some of her best work while MILLIONS of eyes were on her.

    Yes, just because you can write a neat essay or newspaper article doesn't mean you can write a novel. You have to be able to maintain a creative arc and some people can't do it.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Remember that JK Rowling was writing for a younger audience, too. Her prose may contain some weaknesses, but it captured her audience's interest, and inspired millions of youngsters to take up reading and spend fewer hours staring vacantly at the TV or video games.
     
  13. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    ... Uh, no? xD
    After I finished each of the books I moved onto the movies and video games. Hell, one of the best things about the video games was a) running around collecting chocolate frog cards from secret locations and b) running around charging the main attack spell while Harry yells, "NIIIINNNTEEENDO!" (it was the "flipendo jynx")
    That's not to mention Pottermore. But you know what? I'll mention Pottermore. Think about the very large amount of people now going back through the books because of Pottermore. Not reading them, mind. Just on the computer, going through Pottermore. These people - these fans? - they're sick with the level of social interaction they don't need to have, and J.K. Rowling isn't helping them get off the computer. Inspired millions to read, yes, but that last bit was most definitely incorrect, sir.
     
  14. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    The common stereotype of video games is that they have weak plots, or plots that are downright silly; or are otherwise just a big waste of time. Myself I'd be happy to read something anywhere near as complex as Bioshock, which takes Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and runs with it to it's logical and crippling extremes - and Silent Hill 2, which is a horror game which questions the right and moral base of euthanasia and the limits of human compassion and love.

    Hell, the Total War games have a long history of having so realistic battles that they are used in other media to judge how well a certain strategy would work in a certain time period. Rome Total War has actually been used in academic papers to judge battle strategy effectiveness, because the programming is that good.

    Notice that this elitism isn't also pointed at film, which is a much more accepted art form with it's own very much established system of criticism.

    Just because video games are not as accepted does not mean they can't be a great way of telling a story, and not just something you stare at 'vacantly'.
     
  15. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    *throws arms up in the air*

    If JK Rowling was such a bad author than try your hardest to duplicate her success. If you accomplish one percent of what she did in 10 years than I'd be impressed.

    You have to show respect where its been earned. Calling JK a bad writer is like saying an NBA player sucks at basketball. They were good enough to reach the highest level of competition.
     
  16. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    *throws arms up in the air*

    If JK Rowling was such a bad author than try your hardest to duplicate her success. If you accomplish one percent of what she did in 10 years than I'd be impressed.

    You have to show respect where its been earned. Calling JK a bad writer is like saying an NBA player sucks at basketball. They were good enough to reach the highest level of competition.
     
  17. GaleSkies
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    GaleSkies Active Member

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    You make a valid argument, but does your analogy hold out in terms of music artists instead of basketball players? Sure Ke$ha, and Katty Perry hit the top of the sales charts, but what happens when they are no longer writing their own music and just sing along to over-produced garbage. That's where most people draw the line at "Sell out".
    Success does not equal quality, and I have a million internet memes involving fart jokes to elaborate my point.

    If you consider "good writer" artful in prose, or clear in communication, its an objective position either way.
    I myself would not distinguish between "good writer" or "good storyteller". If we get into good writing v.s. good story, then I'd have a lot more to say. I can get behind a lot of the interpretations here for writers and storytellers. However, the two are not mutually exclusive, and comparing them one against the other tends to subtract value from each definition.

    In reference to this board and those who call other authors "storytellers", it sounds more like an uneducated demeaning slander inflicted solely out of ire for the success of others. Saying that one is a good storyteller but not a good writer, is just a jab implying that only their ideas deserve merit, and the words they put them in were meaningless.
     
  18. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    The music industry is a different can of worms. In the record industry you can 'manufacture' a star. Look at the Jonas Brothers. They started out as actors on the Disney Channel and built a fan base of 10 year olds. When they got too old for Disney they started making songs. Is there anything wrong with that?

    No,

    but I have more respect for the author that took fate into their own hands and used sheer talent to take care of themselves.
     
  19. GaleSkies
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    GaleSkies Active Member

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    I think we are in agreement then. I was just nit-picky about analogies. Success of a writer is quantifiable. Writing skill is qualitative (or objective opinion). An NBA players skill is quantifiable (shooting average, statistics, height etc) as well as his success.
    And if I can apologize, implying that J.K. Rowling had more akin to a sell-out pop-star than a sport-star role model was out of hand. But that is just the power of analogies.
     
  20. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, that was rather rude. I almost want to report that post. That's honestly just insulting. I didn't call her a bad writer. I was disagreeing with Cogito's point that she got kids away from screens.
    Yes, she accomplished a lot. She did well. But she also made money from movies and video games which were just as popular, if not more so, than the novels. I'm not saying it's bad. Just that she had more effect with the movies than with the novels. Don't be so quick to jump to conclusions.
     
  21. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I think just going through the threads on this forum speaks volumes about just how different our tastes are. I know we are all keen to define "well written" but the thing is, even amongst accomplished writers, certain novels will be seen as excellent by some and as awful by others.
    Apart from basic grammar, "good writing" is a terribly random value judgement because people's tastes change, as they mature or their circumstances develop. Let alone the baseline taste differences between people.

    So for me, if a writer sells heaps of books, like Meyer and Rowling did, that immediately qualifies them as "good writers". Not necessarily writers I'd read and enjoy, but good writers nonetheless. To poo poo someone who sold millions of copies of a book is just pointless, because what is really a measure of competent writing? Who is the definitive judge?
    There isn't one, I don't think.

    Having said that, I think that most readers can forgive less then brilliant writing skills, but they don't forgive bad storytelling, so while both are as important to me personally, I feel that good storytelling is essential, while good writing is "just" desirable.
     
  22. 1000screams
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    1000screams Member

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    I've read great stories with not so great writing. I've read bad stories with even worse writing. But, I've never seen good writing with a bad story. To me great writing and great story go hand in hand. But, again, what I consider great and what someone else considers great can be vastly different.

    My definition of good writing is when the words melt away, are secondary, kind of like the lighting on a set of a movie. The lighting is incredibly important, but it's not what anyone is talking about. A good story is also subjective.

    I don't try to compare myself to work that has already been done, as I am different from everyone else. Some may find my writing to be agreeable with them while others may not. So I work on equal parts, learning the craft of writing and learning how to tell a story better.
     
  23. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Look at Avatar. The CGI is spectacular (thank you, Weta Workshop) and the acting is great, but the story is derivative. It's that same formula as Dances with Wolves or FernGully or Dinotopia or anything else. But the cinematics (the film equivalent of grammar and style; writing) are great, you can't deny.

    Good writing and good storytelling don't go hand in hand, either. Maybe you don't come across good writing and a bad story, but you don't necessarily get a great story with good writing. You might just get a very very ordinary story. Don't make the mistake of thinking that because something is executed well that it's good.
     
  24. 1000screams
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    1000screams Member

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    Umm...as I said, discerning what is "good" "great" or "bad" again is subjective. To me, in the rare instances I find a book that totally enraptures me in the story, the words, while important are there only to guide me, and none of the writing technique pulls me out of the story, that's when I'm like, "This is a friggin awesome book!" It's very, very rare that I find a book that doesn't have mistakes, typos, or other little weird wordings that pull me totally out of the story and make me think about the writing itself. If a book I am reading has a good story, but every three pages I'm distracted by poor execution of writing technique, then I am not enjoying the story.

    I'm fine with no one agreeing with me, that's not what I was looking for. But to be commanded to "not make a mistake in thinking" by another board member...I'm not too keen on that.
     
  25. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not a command. I'm just pointing out that the writing (the execution/the cinematics/the style) is a very different thing to the story. You said that good writing goes hand-in-hand with a good story. That's not quite correct since they're not dependent on one another. I was referring specifically to your point about good writing going hand-in-hand with a good story. That's all.
     

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