When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
Did it happen after you read a compelling story/watched a dramatic film that moved you to tears? Or did it happen after you came across a sentence or a paragraph that roiled and crackled like lightning?
Or did both seem to happen at once?
In the writing world, there’s often talk about plotters and pantsers being the two main types of fiction writers, plantsers falling somewhere in between. But today, on this week’s Writing Wednesday post, I’m going to talk about two different types of writing affinities and how I believed I switch back and forth between the two.
They are called the “Storyteller” and the “Wordsmith.”
I decided that I wanted to be a writer after reading Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. While the Harry Potter books were out around that time, I couldn’t seem to get into them as easily as I did with Artemis Fowl. The entertaining style, the characters, the suspense, the slight bit of action — I was hooked not just on the series, but also on the idea of stories and what they could do.
And so I decided to become a writer, but also a storyteller.
Because at that time, I didn’t really like words that much. Words just seemed to get in the way.
When I was younger, writing stories for the first time and just for my own pleasure, I hated writing long descriptive passages. I wanted to get to good stuff — the dialogue, the action, the ka-blam! Writing a description and firmly planting the reader in my story world was way far down on my list of priorities. Metaphors? Similes? Diction? I’ll save that for when I’m writing essays in my English classes. If I need a description, I’d give it, but it was probably only a sentence or two.
I know. Hard to believe that someone who majored in English would say something like that, right?
I’m serious, though. I majored in English primarily because I loved stories. Not because I loved Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter or stuff like that. I’m exaggerating for effect, but still. I was so caught up in my desire to tell stories and have all these characters do these cool things that I ended up writing — you guessed it — mediocre stories.
Of course, I was a beginner, then, ignorant to the power of words and what each word held.
And my studies as an English major helped me see that telling good stories wasn’t the end-all-be-all, but rather the beginning.
Being an English major cultivated my inner wordsmith — my inner lover of words and how they sound and how they feel/read across the page. Being an English major helped me learn that Shakespeare didn’t just write in iambic pentameter to confuse thousands of English major four hundred years after his plays were published. John Donne didn’t write “The Good Morrow” in iambic pentameter to give me a headache.
On the contrary, iambic pentameter and other devices can take on whole new levels of meaning in different poems and contexts. Even rhyming couplets can place emphasis on certain points of a poem when reading closely.
Yes… that’s the phrase, isn’t it? “Reading closely.” Treating every word, every sound, every sentence, every paragraph, every page with the same care as a newborn child. Leaving no stone unturned. Weighing the pros and cons of using “crimson” versus “rouge.” Wondering how many times you can use a comparison to explain your point before it becomes stale.
That’s what being a wordsmith is all about.
I think that many poets fall closer toward the wordsmith side of the spectrum, in that sense.
And yes, it is a spectrum.
I don’t want to suggest that there are only two types of writers: writers who like stories and writers who like words.
If you’re any kind of writer writer, you have to enjoy words, language, and communication enough to be able to transmit the story want to tell in the fashion you want to tell it. Otherwise, you might ending telling your story through some other medium like music, art, or dance.
And if you happen to be a writer that loves words, you have to make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of purple prose, where words suddenly lose their clarity and meaning even though you just happen to love the words and how they sound together.
My point is that as a writer, if you happen to fall on more on one side of the spectrum than the other by default, you might want to pay attention to the other side as well, since it could contain some of your weaknesses. In my case, my love of stories can blind me from using the right words to tell said story. In others, my love of words can blind me from telling the story I want to tell.
In the drafting stages, I’m definitely more Storyteller than Wordsmith. In the editing stage, I’m way more Wordsmith. General story first, words to enhance story second. Sketch first, details second.
It’s all about that give and take.
Hey, everybody! Thanks for reading to the end. If you feel you’re more a storyteller or wordsmith, or somewhere in between, let me know in the comments! Also, if you enjoyed this post, please spare some change so I can write more awesome posts like this one.
And as always, see you next post 🙂 !