Writing a Story versus Storytelling


Visual aids, such as facial expressions, are incorporated into storytelling. Additionally, voice tone, word pronunciation, and word or phrase stressing all contribute to the effective communication of sadness, anger, fear, and a variety of other emotional states. This is referred to as inflection of the voice.

Along with facial expressions and voice inflection, the storyteller can also use movement to his or her advantage. Consider telling a group of children a frightening story in which the protagonist tiptoes around a corner to see what's around the corner. As a storyteller, you can actually walk on tiptoe, hunched over; and exaggerating your movements adds to the suspense. Visual aids are simple to employ and are expressive powerhouses.

Another possibility is that you're telling a young boy a pirate story. While limping with a pretend wooden leg, you can use toy props such as a toy sword or pirate's hat. Without the storyteller having to create the imagery with words, these visuals enhance the child's story experience.


On the other hand, writing is entirely dependent on the writer's interpretation of the characters' facial expressions, voice, mannerisms, appearance, and body movement. And, more importantly, that interpretation must be conveyed through words that ‘show' rather than 'tell.'

Consider how much easier storytelling is than writing a story. However, the majority of authors are writers, not storytellers, and as such, we must demonstrate emotions and activity.

How might you, as an author, write the scene in the storytelling examples above?

One possible scenario for the opening of a frightening story is as follows:

Lucas took his younger brother's hand in his and drew him in. "Shhh. Make no sound at all. It may pick up on our conversation." They crept along the wall, barely able to breathe, until they came to...

While this passage lacks the visual aids used by the storyteller, it does convey an atmosphere of suspense and fear.

As an author, you might write the following about a pirate story:

Captain Sebastian snatched his sword from his belt and raised it above his head. "Men, proceed to the ship."

Pirates swung onto the ship using the ropes. They overtook their adversary in under an hour, swords and knives clanking.

This brief passage depicts a pirate scene in which Captain Sebastian leads his men into battle aboard another ship. While there are no visual aids, the message is conveyed.

Additionally, you should keep an eye out for weak verbs, adjectives, and a variety of other no-no’s as you attempt to write your story through showing. The phrase "barely breathing" would almost certainly have to be changed in the sentence above if it reached the hands of a publisher. Why? Because the use of the words "ly" and "ing" is also discouraged.