From the Campfire to the Page

I come from a family of storytellers.

Not writers, although we have a few of those, too.

Storytellers.

I would sit as a child, wide-eyed, listening to them craft whole worlds with nothing but their tongues and hands.

I have never forgotten that total immersion of voice and motion.

One of the hardest moments when I started writing was the realization of the frustrating distance between that performance and the words on the page.

There is a visual presentation that happens when we write to the page. We use a method of layout, of sentence structure that sits prettily between the running header and the page number, a neat visual symmetry.

I think there is a seductive power to this look and to this way of organizing sentences.

But I can always tell which stories have not been read aloud.

Maybe this is only something that happens to me, child of the children of storytellers, but I read as I write.

I set my sentences so that if you are to read them, all the visual breaks are where you would pause for breath, where you would look at your audience and watch them lean closer.

When I turn blue reading a sentence aloud, I chop it, because every sentence should aid the performance and not take away from its power.

This is a conflict between writing that is meant to be seen and writing that is meant to be spoken.

I know that there is a power in words, well-placed words, neatly set on the page.

I still cannot help remembering the strength of those fire-lit stories.

As I write, I lean into the flames with my fingers.

IMG_0586The grain of our stories fuels different fires

I’ve been thinking about some fundamental differences in approaches to writing. This is one of the pieces I teased out of those thoughts.


For my own fine-grained approach, my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, is available here.

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3 thoughts on “From the Campfire to the Page

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