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Writing Tips : Written Words and Spoken Words in Storytelling

Updated on June 9, 2016

The Writer: Arthur Thomas Ware

The author at sixty.  Photo taken by Australian Storytellers Guild
The author at sixty. Photo taken by Australian Storytellers Guild

Welcome to Writing Tips : Written Words

The essay below was written way back in the early 1980s. Since that time the writer has written millions of words, entered the odd short story competition and won a couple of writing awards.

The Short Story competition is probably the most difficult of writing awards to win, simply because every word must count; nothing superflous, no asides, everything pertaining to the beginning, middle and ending of the tale being told.

Anyway, I hope you get something out of what is written below...

Words written are 'recorded' thought.

Words written are 'recorded' thought. When a man assembles words in a cogent way to formulate a meaning, that thought is, at that time at least, held to be that man's reality. It is his truth. It is how he thinks and feels. It represents him at that time. So it behoves us to think our most noble thoughts, portraying our truest feelings about ourselves, whenever we put pen to paper.

A great opportunity for description. A Ship aground

Here's my old ship, HMAS Barcoo, aground of Glenelg Beach in South Australia in the 1950s
Here's my old ship, HMAS Barcoo, aground of Glenelg Beach in South Australia in the 1950s

Both spoken and written words have the power to change us - motivational words especially so

But there is still another aspect of this. Not only do words portray what we are in relationship to that which we write about, the words have the power to change us. How? By clarifying our own nebulous ideas, our amorphous concepts into a concrete form where they can be viewed by our critical faculty. In this way we grow in wisdom by simply examining our own thoughts and feelings dispassionately.

Words written or spoken can be taken out of context

This does not necessarily apply when we are being facetious. If we are deliberately exaggerating, being cynical, or sarcastic, then such words can be taken 'out of context.' But, generally, this isn't the case, and our words do portray who we are - not only to ourselves but to the world at large.

Garden Island and ships at Cruiser Wharf in the 1950's

As a former sailor, I feel I can talk and write on ships and the sea.  Write about what you know.
As a former sailor, I feel I can talk and write on ships and the sea. Write about what you know.

We don't have to be humourless to be profound

 This does not mean that we must always be serious.   Light-heartedness and humour are every bit as gratifying to the soul as solemnity.   One doesn't have to be humourless to be profound.   In fact, humour can portray the most poignant truths, as any cartoonist of merit would declare.

Words on Paper - What marvellous tools words are!

But what marvellous tools words are. Motivational words motivate, inspirational words inspire. What a gift! And the beauty of this gift is that it is free and open to anyone (in modern society at large, anyway) to freely partake of. In the English language, half a million words plus are there for the taking. And even if everyone in the world partook of these words they would never 'run out.' Indeed, with increasing usage, the number of words are likely to increase rather than diminish. What a privilege! What a wonderous happening! It would be no exaggeration to say that words and our ability to use them are what put us ahead of all other life upon this planet.

Aeradio and Air-traffic Control in the 1950s No radar here

All the flight information had to be 'held in the head' from data written on cardboard strips.
All the flight information had to be 'held in the head' from data written on cardboard strips.

Writing Tips : Written words spring forth as we write

As I sit here writing this I can see myself tapping into a vocabulary that I do not normally use. The challenge is in the writing. Yet the words spring forth even as I write. The ideas, the thoughts, are silent. They come out of this great unconsiousness which is my own personal word-bank: yet everyone else' word-bank as well - all who can speak and understand English. That is the wonder of it.

I flew to New Zealand in one of these in 1971

The famed DC8, Rival of the B707.  A great aircraft.
The famed DC8, Rival of the B707. A great aircraft.

Transition in Storytelling and Story Writing are important

I'd like you to take a look at the deft way author, Norma Sim, changes not only from one scene but to a completely different HEMISPHERE in this short passage from her book, 'The Sixty Miler.'

"As this simple scene was being enacted in Northern Scotland's summer, the other side of the world was in darkness. There was no moonlight creating a silver staircase from horizon to shore; no starlight to penetrate the dense fog hanging motionless above a moderate sea, as the off-duty crew of SS Minmi rested in their bunks, lulled by the thrumming engine."

This is masterful writing. It would also be masterful 'telling.' It's appeal is in its immediate contrast; a giant step made easy in one sentence.

In my own presentation of the 'Sixty Milers,' my switch goes as follows (not always exactly the same words, but pretty well the same) "Captain Lynch pointed the Aldis lamp and started sending a series of A's into to the darkness to the south..." (pause)

"Twelve miles away to the south, high up on South Head, Harold Gosling, duty signalman at South Head Signal Station..."

This is a transition from one geographical position to another. Smooth transition that takes the listener 'visually' from one scene to another without conscious effort - aim for these. Do not stop 'step outside' of your story to give a detailed explanation. Allow continuity. Such continuity makes presentations more enjoyable to your audience. Let them stay in the story.

The Shansi at Burns Phillip Wharf, Port Moresby in 1965

Written words, and spoken words, have the power - and practice makes perfect

It is said that practice makes perfect and that is right. I have been writing for over sixty-five years. Hard to imagine that, sixty-seven years ago, as a little six-year-old, I could barely scrape together the letters which would make up simple words such as 'up', 'cat', and 'red.' Hard to imagine that in those days the twenty-six letters which make up the English Alphabet were unfamiliar to me. Sixty-seven years...

I thank God for my gift of writing. And speaking. And being able to put together cogent thought in words. Words on paper - I think it could be my greatest gift.

If you would feel you would like to enter a short story competition or two, and perhaps win some writing awards, I wish you well.

I hope you've enjoyed the motivational words here and that you, too, are motivated to write.

Be happy.



Submit a Comment

  • thevoice profile image


    8 years ago from carthage ill

    well said hub thanks

  • mikeDeGrazia profile image


    8 years ago from Home

    Very honest and well said...


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