Writers embrace the lost art of using a typewriter, but have now morphed into the age of computers and file storage in the cloud. Storytellers have recently evolved out of the practice of flinging their own feces at cave walls and smearing it about with a dull stick.
Writers speak in low, thoughtful tones, and everyone gathers around them at parties as they spontaneously leap into a wine-heightened progression of playful prose and insightful social commentary. Storytellers are generally at the same party, twitching in a closet as they fumble about with an over-willing partner, or, more often, by themselves.
Writers concern themselves with things like “form” and “vocabulary” and “grammar”. Storytellers concern themselves with wondering why writers are such total twats.
Writers create impossible tangles of prose that often result in them having death sentences pronounced upon them by enraged religious sects based on a three-word phrase that they intended to mean nothing more than “he likes the colour blue”. Storytellers write about glowing vampires embroiled in love triangles with werewolves. I’m not kidding. They really do.
Writers love to portray long sex scenes that last at least 4 or 5 pages, or far longer than sex lasts in real life. Storytellers generally indicate that the new couple either fucks all the time or desperately wants to fuck, and leaves it at that.
Writers use long words, things like “lugubrious”, “promiscuous”, “symposia” (I LOVE symposia; a free non-existent book to the first person who gets this reference), “salacious”, and often mix in the technical names of flowers and trees into their expansive prose. Storytellers smoke dope, have odd dreams, forget them when they sober up, and settle for writing mash-ups ie. ‘boy that cat is really ugly, but if it suddenly went over to that fire hydrant and lifted a leg, then chased a postal service worker down the road, well, there, then we have something…’
Writers write blogs and express themselves as it relates to real-life events; if a writers sees a bird in a park, that’s a poem; if a writer flatulates in the forest, that’s a short story; if a writer realizes that their great-great-great grandfather on their mother’s side was adopted by an Irishman, that’s a novel. Storytellers have no idea that the real world actually exists, are eschewed (note: this is a WRITERLY word) by their family, are still catching up on current events from the glowing era of Ronald Reagan, and are often found in places that smell faintly of sewage and broken dreams.
Writers drink red wine in the sunshine while straightening their white clothes as the harpist plucks a few chords. Storytellers inhale. They always inhale.
Writers research all the time and try very hard to pretend in their writing that they didn’t research at all. Storytellers have never visited a library, do not know about the newfangled internet invention, and still get their porn in magazine format.
Writers write all the time about small villages in rural Newfoundland circa 1619, and the repressed people who make their home there (the date and place can change but it’s the same story); in the narrative, a young girl wins out over the boundaries that people have placed on her by demonstrating a massive spark of creativity and modern attitude, but still ends up dying of typhus, thus invalidating everything that came before and ending the story on a total downer. Storytellers believe that a period piece is a half-formed punctuation mark.
Writers have no problem spending three paragraphs describing the mole on the whale’s ass or the icicle hanging from the Russian Commander’s window or the mountain that lies before the hobbit’s best friend. Storytellers aren’t fully sure what paragraphs are, couldn’t describe the colour of their own eyes, and work under the insane assumption that their readers actually possibly might have imaginations all their own.
Writers who begin as writers become poor and forgotten. Storytellers who successfully realize that people don’t need endless prose to make the story work turn into commercial fiction giants that, once successful, have enough clout and money to finally morph into writers who don’t care if their novels reach 1000+ pages because, you know, by then they’re better than the rest of us.
Writers extol the virtues of Proust and Tolstoy ie. ‘in the winter of the long discontent, Geraldine Ducharme discovered the most lowly form of anal wart on her hefty posterior, and determined that she would visit the delightful plumber Mr. Onapopsicle for advice on how it should most properly and delicately be removed. It would prove for Geraldine to be a most wondrous journey, and the first step on her way to womanhood itself’. The most elevated hero of storytellers everywhere is Dr. Seuss ie. ‘the cat crapped on the door mat; why did that cat crap on the door mat? Because I fed it lacquer and poor Sam… poor Sam sat on the door mat where the cat crapped.’
Writers wish they could be storytellers. Storytellers wish they could be writers. And when that all crashes together in one person, you get something very special. Sprinkle in some drugs and childhood trauma, and you’ve got something for the ages.
*in honour of my friend Doc (http://realityenchanted.wordpress.com/), who bought up the question of what the difference really is.