On Writing Versus Storytelling

The first book I ever read was “The Bachman Books” (so technically the first book I read was “Rage”, the first book in “The Bachman Books”) by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman.  I was in sixth grade.  I had previously tried to read other books such as “The Hobbit” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, but there was something in the language of those novels in which I was having trouble accessing.  So I had to write a book report and my parents brought me into B. Dalton books (anyone remember those?) and I looked at the gruesome cover and I thought it was cool.

Throughout my life I have said that Stephen King is my favorite writer.  But then I started getting into writing myself late in high school.  I loved being able to tell a story, just like Mr. King.  I loved being able to evoke emotion out of the people who read my writing, but I never considered myself a wordsmith.  I never considered myself literary.

In college my love of writing deepened and I began to expand my reading repertoire.  I read everything under the sun and I practiced writing in styles of these writers.  I soon came to the realization that there was an inherent difference between being a writer and being a storyteller and I attribute Stephen King to creating the difference in modern popular culture.

I would not consider Stephen King a literary writer (and when I say writer this is what I’m talking about) and I think that he would probably say the same thing about himself (he has often spoken out against the literati crowd.  Specifically people like Jonathan Franzen who purport that they are disparaged for writing in a literary vein.).  He writes stories which capture your imagination through character and place such that I’ve never really experienced in another writer.  His characters jump out of the page at you and no matter how ridiculous the situation King brings reality by making the characters human.  I would not call his writing beautiful the same way I would Thomas Pynchon or or John Irving, or in a more modern literary crowd Kevin Brockmeier or Paul Auster.  However you cannot discount his stories or his characters.

The writers of the world focus more on subterfuge and the aspects of the words used.  It is the difference between utilitarian and aesthetic.  Are you writing to make the language beautiful or are you writing to make sure the story is clear?  Both of these mediums (and yes they are different mediums. Most people who read King will never read a Pynchon book and vise versa) are acceptable and both of these mediums are beautiful.


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