11 Apr

Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

sto·ry·tell·er noun \ˈstȯr-ē-ˌte-lər\  (First known use of STORYTELLER 1709) a teller of stories: as a : a relater of anecdotes b : a reciter of tales (as in a children’s library) c : liar, fibber d : a writer of stories

The italicized “writer” on the “d” definition is my own. When we sit in front of our computers and begin our love/hate relationship with the story we are struggling to develop, it may not seem that we are a part of a cultural activity that pre-dates the written word.  The first known use of the term “bard” was in the 15th century and referred to “a composer, singer, or declaimer of epic or heroic verse.” There were storytellers before there was a term.

Storytellers the world over created myths for their peoples to explain natural phenomena, beliefs, or practices.  These oral historians passed stories down from generation to generation until they were finally written down. Many times historians became the most revered and feared members of the tribe because of their knowledge.

We are modern storytellers. We weave everyday words together to create characters, conflict, and relationships. Our fiction takes the weary mother, executive, wife, or student to Ireland, the American West, indeed, all over the world. The reader becomes a teacher, apprentice mechanic, abused wife, or orphan, and experiences the ups and downs of that character.

We touch people with our work. We bring them pleasure and escape. As long as people need to connect with one another, there will be storytellers. We have joined a long line of elders, bards, poets, and troubadours who passed on their insights and imaginations to others. It makes all the work worth it.


Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Idaho, writing


10 responses to “Storytellers

  1. lizfredericks

    April 11, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    What a lovely way to think about writing . . . I know that publishing is an important goal, but I really like the idea of simply touching lives.

  2. Janis

    April 11, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    Thanks, Liz. I try to think of that when I get discouraged. 🙂

  3. Meredith Conner

    April 11, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    Love the post Janis! I grew up reading Greek mythology, fascinated by the mythological explanations for natural events. Storytelling is amazing! You hit it on the nose!

    • Janis

      April 11, 2011 at 11:26 AM


      I read Mary Renault’s “The King Must Die” books about Theseus and was hooked. I grabbed all the mythology books I could. Great stuff.

  4. johannaharness

    April 11, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    “A relater of anecdotes” made me laugh. I have a family full of relaters of anecdotes. 🙂

  5. Clarissa Southwick

    April 11, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    So true, Janis. Sometimes I feel guilty for spending so much time writing, but it must fulfill some need, or it wouldn’t have survived so long. Thanks for reminding us of the tradition behind our craft.

  6. Carley Ash

    April 11, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    excellent post Janis

  7. Janis

    April 11, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    Johanna, Clarissa, and Carley,

    I’m happy to be among such great storytellers.

  8. Mary Vine

    April 11, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    “I began writing to fill a space in my soul.” I like that, Janis.

  9. lynn mapp

    April 11, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    Janis, excellent post.


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