Imagine the great room in a suburban house. It is full of light and feels large out of all proportion to the size of the house. It encompasses all the activities of the family – cooking, eating, reading, watching TV, playing and writing.
Catching your eye is the ten-foot bear in the corner by the window. I imagine it’s made of fibreglass, brightly painted. Because you seldom see ten-foot bears in living rooms it is hard to take your eyes off it. It’s a magnificent, benevolently smiling, permanent Christmas tree.
It stands beside Brenda’s desk (yes, I’ve changed the name so she won’t know who she is) smiling down at her writing. She’s a storyteller who inhabits and shares a world of dragons. Until I met her I did not realize that my world was impoverished by a lack of dragons.
Her world encompasses dragons of all shapes, sizes and with characters as widely diverse as human characters. Her dragons might belong to this world, a past world, a future world or some completely unknown world.
They relate to their world well or awkwardly or kindly or angrily, as we do. But they’re dragons, and it’s a story; it’s not like we’re being taught a lesson.
Isn’t that what storytellers always do – take us to another world and show us how other characters or creatures are doing their best to succeed and flourish there?
Maybe it’s easier to wander off into many other worlds when you have a bear looking down at you. Or you prefer to write of your own world, you write personal stories, memoir perhaps.
But your world is another world to someone else. Can you be the storyteller who turns events into stories so they are not simply about you missing a bus, missing a deadline or missing an absent lover. Can you give them the appeal of a story that is both specific and universal?
That’s what moves you from being a writer to being a storyteller.