I: Firstly: All things are connected, but distinctions need to be made…
This may seem academic—and it is—but sometimes a subtle distinction makes all the difference in practice: The writer is not the narrator of a text of fiction, and vice versa.
It is easy to forget this fact, especially when you change from Reader (studying books at uni or in a book club) to Writer.
This was driven home to me once, long ago, when an Author gave a talk and had the listeners eating out of her hand (sorry for the cliché but this is exposition), laughing our butts off, (another one!) but when I read the book, it was disappointingly dull. I decided, then and there, that she was more of a Speaker than a Writer. I learnt afterwards that she had, indeed, joined the International Speakers’ Circuit. Oh well, good luck to her! I thought… But I, for some unknown reason, wanted to learn how to write well.
“I know I know”, I hear you saying, “but I want to write a memoir. Aren’t I, as the Writer and the Narrator, one and the same thing?” Uh uh, not exactly. That Speaker, I’ll call her “Janie”, was in fact talking about a memoir, telling about her travels as a young thing, while exploring exotic and dangerous countries overseas. She had had these amazing adventures, nothing short of super … how goes it? … supercalifragillisticexpiallidocious? Sorry again, I borrowed that one…. Anyway, she could write correctly, but she failed to get the excitement, the terror, the humour and the colour onto the pages of the book, so evident when she spoke. So, that’s another thing I’ve learnt: some of us are good at oral/aural (talking and listening) maybe visual (painting), but not so happy about putting written words together to make into a text: a short story, a memoir, or a novel, that engages the Reader.
Yes, OK, some of you might just have the knack from birth or childhood onwards. You wake up one day and you find that you have a Voice that attracts the first publisher or editor, an agent even. But most of us, like me, need to learn the skills, and to go on learning them over a long period of time. It’s like learning any skill and PPP: practice, practice, practice makes perfect. Luck also comes into it, of course.