R is for Raconteur

Everyone has a good anecdote to tell. There can’t be a single person out there that hasn’t stood in a group of people and had them all on the edge of their seats with an amusing story about someone at work, or old crazy Mabel down the street, or that one time a gaggle of geese chased you right into the canal and you had to backcrawl to safety the vicious beaky predators watching your every move from the towpath.

A raconteur is someone who tells anecdotes in a skilful and amusing way. We all love hearing, and telling, them and this is what makes being a writer so great. You know that wonderful feeling when everybody in the room is hanging on your every word. It doesn’t matter if you mumble a bit, or you forgot to mention the guy you’re talking about has a beard (which is totally important later on), what matters is people are dying to hear the end of your tale. They want you to give them more words.

As writers this feeling is the reason we exist. We want nothing more than someone telling us “I just couldn’t put your book down!” It’s the reason we write. And it’s a great feeling…so I’ve been told.

Try to remember this when your knee deep in your first draft, swearing at your main character and his ridiculous name changing antics (I thought Jeff was called Brian in chapter one?); or stabbing yourself in the hand with your favourite pen literally trying to bleed words onto the blank page; or even having coffee-fuelled conversations with yourself about character motivation and where the hell did that pesky conflict go, I swear it was here a second ago…

You have to remember that feeling of awe that oozes from the people around you when you’re telling a lovely little ditty about Rita the accountant losing her ‘dignity’ at the Christmas party. That feeling of grandeur you get from people jostling you for more information “What happened next? What happened next?!” when you tell them all about your goosy gander fables.

Remember it and remember why you love writing


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  1. Excellent advice. I often find to invoke that feeling posting little snippets of your story online helps. The comments help generate excitement and get you re-motivated.

    1. I sometimes get so involved in the writing process that I forget my aim is to have someone sat, curled up on a comfy chair, with my book in hand frantically turning the pages, dying to see what happens next! Thanks for the comment, Clare.

      • Liz Brownlee on April 21, 2012 at 11:03
      • Reply

      I often find that writing poems is easier if I have an actual audience in mind – not just the audience I am hoping will eventually read my book, but a real-time audience waiting for my words to be sent my email so they can be critiqued… I am then writing the poems wanting to make real people laugh, expecting or hoping for enjoyment – and it really does become easier to write under those circumstances.

  2. Yes, we *do* tend to get lost in the process. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

  3. Ah! To keep everyone on the edge of their seats – that’s what I aspire to. 😉

    Happy Friday!

  4. I think I like telling stories more than I like writing stories. Uh oh.

  5. My characters often change names! Storytelling is so key to our collective histories and we shared stories before we even had written language. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Wise words, Steven.

    After cutting our souls open and spreading it on the pages for months, we all tend to forget the feeling of wonder that comes from being caught in a new story. It’s hard to imagine our work through fresh eyes when it’s been chewing at us every day, but that feeling of wonder and insatiable appetite is why we write.

    Thank you for a valuable reminder! Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

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