Since I've begun to attempt this thing called writing, proper writing not coming up with tales and bits to amuse little kids, I've had this doubt.

What are the differences, if any real ones, between a storyteller someone who creates and tells stories that only exist in their mind, and a writer who puts those stories in coherent and cohesive form down "on paper"?

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    Is it important to you to be a writer and not a storyteller? I think of storytellers as unpublished, and unconcerned about publishing. I think of writers as those who practice the craft of writing - I am now reading Draft No. 4 by John McPhee and it is very, very good. He breaks down his craft of writing into 8 essays, one for Structure, one for Editors and Publishers, etc. Through the eight essays he describes the process of what it is to start with an idea and end up with a finished printed work. amazon.com/Draft-No-4-Writing-Process/dp/0374142742
    – SFWriter
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 15:08
  • I always wrote, even before I could write lol. I have been an avid reader since I was 5 and a storyteller since at least that age. I have been writing for ages. The first thing I remember planning and putting on paper was a poem dedicated to my dogs, who had died not long before my 8th birthday. But, seriously writing, as in truly setting things down in a readable form, only started recently. I do want to get published, it's a dream to share with others what floats up in my mind. I've written fanfic but since those worlds aren't mine, can't publish that. But yes, it is important to me. Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 15:13
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    This is an interesting question that I never really thought of much. I always figured a story teller and writer were one in the same. Both are telling a story, but it seems a teller is someone who does it verbally where as a writer does it through writing.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 15:27

4 Answers 4


Several years ago we invited a storyteller/author to visit the school to talk about writing and tell some stories. To prepare for his visit, I read a large section of one of his novels to the class of teenagers in the preceding days. On the day, one of the stories he told was the 'same' one as the novel. However, they were distinctly different. He placed emphasis in different places, he used a different vocabulary, he used much more repetition when speaking, he used gestures and movements, etc.

As well, good storytellers react to the audience. Listen to the same person tell the same story to several different groups and, if they are any good, they will tell a slightly different story every time because the audience reacts differently.

  • Very true, no one can tell a story the same way twice unless they are reading it. And even so... Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 17:52

They are different mediums, as different as books and movies, but there is some obvious overlap in skills and talents. And in general, being an excellent storyteller is an advantage, not only as a writer but across a wide variety of human endeavors.

Here are a few comparisons and contrasts: A book is "permanent", a story disappears as it is told. A book is a one-way form of communication, a story allows for interaction with the audience. A book requires publication, a story just needs someone to listen. A book is almost always heavily edited and rewritten, stories are most often improvised, at least in part.

As far as what it takes from you: You are a storyteller if you tell a story, a writer if you write it down. If you want to reach readers (or a publisher), however, people tend to demand structure, originality and a high level of technical polish in books, perhaps as a trade-off for the immediacy and vitality to be found in a live performance. If you want to be a successful writer, therefore, you have to be prepared to put the time and work in.


For one, a literal story teller can use all the body language, vocal tones and facial expressions they want to convey what their characters mean, which you must find another way to do in print. One way is to include some illustrations, which is very common in children's books, but that is not "writing". (It is authorship, but not writing.)

Secondly, a verbal story tends to be a very short story, without much plot. Most children's books are a few pages of text, at most. Some for the very young are barely a half a written page, a poem.

It takes about 200 pages to make a novel, and many published "short stories" are still dozens of pages.

Those are just more difficult to craft and to pace.

Thirdly, verbal stories tend to "teach a lesson" or describe an adventure for characters that do not really change at all. Winnie the Pooh is not really transformed by any of his stories, does not become an adult, or wiser, or broken. It is just "adventures". But by the end of "Huckleberry Finn", Huck IS a different person, and has overcome the racism he was taught to believe in by his childhood culture, through his exposure to Jim.

In the novel form, things change, and readers expect characters to move from state A to state B through conflicts.


you know ! it's a huge differences. that's why there are awards for writing not for storytelling, storycreating or something !

when you start writing (in 21st century not in MEDIEVAL AGES) then you decide to be one of the wizards of the world ! you can describe a tomato within 100 page ! that's because of the paper and pen ! they record things they let you pause writing and think to the subject (tomato here) and then eat your lunch or sleep and rest enough and then continue telling your story about tomato.

if you gather bunch of kids around your self and tell them a story the process is very different , one the most obvious of them is : you should end that when your mouth is tired ! story telling make you tired after 30 minutes but you can write hours and hours in your sofa or bed ! that would effect whole thing, I mean energy .

maybe in medieval ages there wasn't differences between telling a story and writing it , even maybe there were awards for storytellers ! but in recent centuries mankind learn to write and use it like a magic ! you can control a world by writing, maybe Marx was trying to do that .

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