A Storyteller’s Perspective by L E Barrett

What does one writer tell another?  We all know the basic techniques of writing and grammar, or at least we believe we understand the major rules. But, will a writer that writes grammatically correct sentences and finely crafted paragraphs create an interesting reading experience for their readers?  I believe in many cases it creates the opposite effect.

I refer to myself as a storyteller. Because I believe the soul of all good writing,as well as great reading experiences, is a well thought out story.  Without a good story to begin with you often end up with a patchwork quilt of smartly conceived sentences or clever words. You end up developing a book or a poem with only a beginning, middle and an end.  Your reader will most likely put your book down and wonder why you even took the time to write the book in the first place.

I recently published a book of thirteen short stories called A View From The Side Of The Road. Though I still continue to write in a number of genres; as I have a new book of poetry The Maine Poetic, a new play called The Shadow of the Soul and will soon come out with a coffee-table book on the fiddlehead called Fiddlemainia. Regardless of the type of writing I am doing, I first focus on telling a complete story.  I believe for any author to be truly successful; whether they are writing fictional books, poetry or screenplays,they must first learn to tell a complete story. If for no other reason than it is the gift all readers want to receive from a writer. 

The same concept that applies to fiction also applies to nonfiction. I know a writer who is busy writing a historical nonfiction book on interesting crimes that were committed in the last two hundred years in one of our major American cities. In our discussions on the development of his book,what appears clear to me is the similarity between nonfiction and fiction when it comes to determining voice, movement and perspective in an effort to maintain the reader’s attention.While these concepts are also all characteristics of good story telling, everything you write requires a complete inner story in order to be developed beyond a listing of facts and events. 

I can’t imagine a game or a sporting event that is not connected to some kind of geometric shape.  In the same way you cannot have a poem or book that doesn’t have an internal core story.  For even a book on microbiology will have a point of view and a hierarchy of selective points to cover. Once you see the purpose of the core story, you will quickly grasp that all writing -whether it be the Bible, a geometry book, a daily planner for your next vacation or wedding, has a core story. 

A mistake made by many new writers is the belief that they can create a story around a few clever concepts or action events. The reader will be amazed and taken in with their brilliance and they will sell a ton of books. It could happen, but most likely your book will end up in the dollar bin.  In my own writing, I am always aware of the story I want to tell even before I begin to focus on the style, details, dialogue and characterization associated with that story. By the time I write my story, I already believe that my story is as real as any other event in my life. 

A typical story might be that at the age of fifteen I spent a summer in Paris where I met a young French girl who I fell in love with and then met twenty years later in a Paris café and she was still wearing a gold heart necklace around her neck that I had given to her.  It is a very uncomplicated, but a universally appealing story about a possible lost love or a youthful romance that continued through time. Regardless of the details of the story, it is a story your reader will follow along with and if it is well crafted, with an ending that flows from the details of the story, it will be a story your reader will come to enjoy.

My advice for other writers is to work at becoming a good storyteller. Learn to recognize the elements of a good story. Tell yourself and others stories about any subject that interests you. Learn to recognize the kind of story you want to tell and never write a story that doesn’t emotionally appeal to you at some level. When you see two octogenarians holding hands in the park, invent a back story to go with them -or if you’re at an event, watch the faces in the crowd and pick out faces that are story material and tell yourself a story about them.When everywhere you go and in every conversation you have, you are constantly thinking in terms of there being an underlying story you will naturally become a good storyteller.

In my own case, I am constantly weaving my storytelling through different writing styles. Few, if any, short story writers today are writing stories that demonstrate as much diversity of style and theme originality as you will find in A View From The Side Of The Road. Each one of the short stories has its own unique writing style, voice and flavor. The book reads as if it was written by thirteen different writers. But, each story is an independent component of an expansive work that looks at the human condition from multiple angles. What makes this book special is its appeal to a broad range of readers. A reader will always find two or three stories that they will claim emotionally moved them, had them laughing out loud, or were written with people or places that they are familiar with. 

Whether it is a ghost pirate looking to consecrate his bones, or a crazy old playwright who believes someone killed his wife, or a lonely woman struggling to find meaning in her life, a feud between a rural mailman and a newcomer to rural Maine, you will find in each and every story characters and ideas that will stimulate the reader’s imagination. What A View From The Side Of The Road does best is open up thirteen new worlds to the reader. 

A View From The Side Of The Road is a collection of stories told by a storyteller for readers who need the short story format as a late night snack, or a long commute distraction, or an afternoon beach read which can be totally consumed in one or two sittings and has the texture and feel of a literary appetizer. What will make this particular book memorable for all readers are the finely crafted characters the reader will meet along the way. The characters will stay with them long after they have finished this book. Like a great film that lingers in your mind for days or years, A View From The Side Of The Road will also fasten itself to your imagination. Much Like Dickens’s Oliver who wanted more, many readers who have already read this book have stated that the worst thing about reading the book is that when you finish it, you feel like there should be at least one more story.

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Guest Blogger Bio

The road began for L E Barrett in Hallowell, Maine. It has taken him several times around the world. He grew up in a small Maine river city. At a young age, he enlisted in the Marines and served in Vietnam. He eventually had both a military and senior level government career. He is the father of three sons. He received a Bachelor’s Degree from Northeastern University in Boston, MA and a Masters Degree from the University of Maine in Orono, ME. All along the road, he wrote, he thought, and he wrote some more and more. So that before his days drain away, he will have said what he came here to say! He currently has three books in print (A View From The Side Of The Road, The Maine Poetic and The Shadow Of The Soul) and can be found on Amazon or Kindle.


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  1. Excellent post! This is something that I, too, believe -- that a book can be technically perfect yet lack the soul/magic to carry us. Novelists from our parents' and grandparents' generations were not all stellar, but they knew about telling stories.

  2. A good post! First-rate authors are storytellers. It's always good to start with a flexible outline.

  3. Great post Marie! I don't like the word 'author' to describe myself...I like 'writer' or your word 'storyteller'. Very thought provoking and insightful post!

  4. Thanks for your comments, T.J, Jacqueline and John! :)


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