Friday, January 18, 2013

Storytelling and Role-Playing

by Matt Sinclair

The other night I met a person who writes for a nonprofit organization, creating marketing copy and anything else the organization needs to communicate its message. Her organization was hosting the event I was attending, so I figured she would be moving on to mingle with other people, but before she left I asked her whether she ever wrote fiction. The next thing I knew the two of us were chatting for another fifteen minutes -- even though her answer was no.

“What I like most about writing nonfiction is that it’s like putting together a puzzle,” she said, and then gave me some examples of projects she’d been working on and how she assembled marketing packages and messages. She interviewed people, she researched the products and services that were being promoted, and she coordinated with others within the organization to ensure that it said what people wanted it to say.

In a non-confrontational way, I said that fiction is a puzzle also, but as the writer you not only get to assemble the picture, you also design the shapes and cut and fashion them so they fit together exactly right. That’s when she told me about how she used to write short stories and how she still loves reading short story writers. (Yes, she now has a link to the Elephant’s Bookshelf Press anthologies. I’m learning about promotion, after all.)

What’s the lesson from this little encounter? To my mind, it’s that writers of all genres and media, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, commercial copy, poetry, playwriting, blogging, all have a common goal in mind: communicating a message. In a word, “Storytelling.”

In another way, the encounter was a reminder that we often find ourselves with opportunities to expand our audience. Earlier that same day, I exchanged several Twitter messages with a writer who started following me. I’d not known her before, but her Twitter description sounded interesting. I think she’ll submit a story for the summer anthology from EBP. But I probably wouldn’t have reached out if she hadn’t been clear in her brief Twitter bio about what she writes.

Perhaps this is obvious, but whether we’re writing or selling a book, pitching an agent, following a writer on Twitter, we’re always telling a story. It won’t be a hit with everyone, but if you tell your story well and target it to the right people, you might be surprised to find how many readers you reach and how many appreciate your talents. 

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published its latest anthology, The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, which is available via Amazon. Earlier this year, EBP published its initial anthology, Spring Fevers, which is still available through Smashwords, Amazon, and in print via CreateSpace. Both anthologies include stories by fellow FTWA writers, including Cat Woods, J. Lea Lopez, Mindy McGinnis, and R.S. Mellette; R.C. Lewis and Jean Oram also have stories in The Fall. Matt blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68


JeffO said...

It's funny, last year I wrote a blog post for the 'Origins' blogfest, where we talked about our beginnings as a writer, or the beginnings of a particular story, whatever. I told the tale of how I caught the writing bug in sixth grade, that was what I was going to do, but after sixth grade, I didn't do any 'creative writing' for years. All my work for junior and senior high school, college, and work was 'factual', 'expository', 'informational'.

But when I wrote that post, I also realized that ALL writing is creative writing, no matter what you call it. Whether you're filling out a police report or drafting a resignation letter, you're still creating. What I didn't do for all those years was write fiction (then again, I did write resumes, hah ha).

Matt Sinclair said...


DMS said...

I think it is wonderful that you had the encounter. You had such a meaningful conversation and met someone out of your genre. I always thinking of writing as putting together the pieces of a puzzle. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I wonder if it counts as story telling when I write report cards... :)

Actually I know it does - I'm writing a short story snapshot of each of my students! :)

Michael Di Gesu said...

It wonderful to meet up with other writers. There is this amazing bond that can't be explained and shouldn't be.

Whenever I travel I try an fellow writers/bloggers and it is ALWAYS an amazing experience!

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks for your comments DMS, Jemi, and Michael.