So, we’ve started a new GURPS campaign over in my corner of the world (GURPS, for the uninitiated, stands for Generic Role-Playing System and is like D&D, but nerdier) and, this time, I’m the session leader (often call the GM – Game Master).
That means I have to come up with the story that we play through and I have to lead the players into making decisions that further the plot-line – there’s a lot of thinking on your feet that I have to do to alter scenarios based on what the players are doing but still stay true to the overall tale.
All this got me thinking about storytelling vs. writing a novel. There is a certain element that verbal storytelling has that the written word loses, no matter how eloquent the author is. I think it has to do with the storyteller’s facial expressions and tone as he tells his story, his body language and mood. All of those non-verbal cues add a new layer to the story that the written word just cannot replicate.
That’s not to say that verbal storytelling is better – I like both equally – but it is very different. I think that the oral tradition is focused on hearing, while the written word is more focused on creating visuals – painting word pictures, if you will. Because the author is not sitting in front of you, acting out his story as he tells it (i.e. making his eyes huge to indicate surprise or wonder, hunching his shoulders inwards to invoke fear as he describes a monster, etc.), he has to rely on painting a vivid enough picture that you feel those emotions yourself. A person verbally telling a story can choose just a few choice details and indicate emotions and other facets just by gestures and expressions.
Anyways, that’s where my mind wandered to tonight. I happen to enjoy both methods of conveying a story, but do you guys have any preference?