What’s the Main Task of a Storyteller?


I recently came back from Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic (I know … tough duty, but someone’s got to do it).

My bride and I met our eldest son and his family there for a week. I enjoyed seeing them all and relished the opportunity it gave me to recharge my batteries. Now, back to business.

In my last post you heard me grouse again about my writer’s block. It’s safe to say most of that has passed. But I’m still struggling to get my latest novel written and edited by the end of May.

Why? Because I want to submit it to this year’s Readers Favorite contest for review.

Why Do I Bother?
I watched the movie “Birdman” here at home on Tuesday with my wife and youngest son.

Michael Keaton plays a former movie star/action-hero (Birdman) named Riggin Thomas, who opted out of the franchise and hasn’t had much movie success since.

The Thomas character has supposedly adapted the Raymond Carver story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” for Broadway; writing and directing the play in the hopes it will revitalize his career.

One of my favorite scenes featured Edward Norton, who plays an actor named Michael Shiner, a not-so-very-likable-character. In this scene he defends Thomas to Tabitha Dickinsen (played by Lindsay Duncan), a smarmy theater critic he sees sitting in a bar.

“He’s taking a chance. He’s willing to lose everything for this. What are you willing to lose?”

I think Tabitha, a character name undoubtedly chosen for its witch-like associations, serves a twin narrative purpose.

The first is to serve as a convenient antagonist. Her character has apparently decided in advance to give the play a lousy review, so she embodies evil incarnate.

The second is to highlight the purpose real critics have served for as long as there has been a creative process: the need for validation. It’s something the Michael Keaton character desperately needs to preserve his own creative sanity.

It makes me wonder why any of us bother to create art, when we know there are people who will line up to tell us what we’re doing wrong. Does, as the movie suggests, fame or recognition play a role in the process?

Taking that a step further, do I write for the contest entry? Is that why I’m finding myself in a time crunch? It’s not like I’m making much money at it.

Why Do We Write?
George Orwell once said we write out of the “desire to seem clever, to be talked about, and to be remembered after death.”

While this might not be the most unselfish of motivations, it’s certainly a natural one.

Humans, for the most part, have a built-in need to make a mark on the world. We want to bring new things to life, to mold things into the image we have in our imaginations.

That makes the answers to the question … Why Do You Write? … as varied as the people asking it.

A writer expresses the rambling of his imagination, but he tries to do it in a way that lets you see it, too. This has always been the main task of storytellers and it’s why, every time we write, we leave a little bit of ourselves behind.

And, yes, we do it for the acknowledgement of the critics. It’s how we know we’re alive.


My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

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2 Responses to “What’s the Main Task of a Storyteller?”

  1. Jeff Bushman Says:

    That about sums it up. To hear someone say,”That is great” is about the best thing in the world. I know I write because I like to, but I keep writing because someone else likes to read it.


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