The Different Faces of a Storyteller

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different types of people who tell stories. People write stories for a variety of reasons, so it only makes sense that the necessary qualities of a good storyteller would vary with the type of story being told. With that in mind, I thought I’d list a few of the different types of creative writing out there, and talk a little about what makes them different.

Hobby Writing

There are a lot of hobbyist writers out there. I find one in nearly every large gathering of people I encounter. Or rather, they find me. These are the people who come up to me and say “Oh, you’re a writer? Me too! I’ve got this great idea for a story…” and it goes on from there. Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that writing is a long, laborious process, and that the first novel can take an especially long time to perfect. But a hobbyist writer isn’t writing with that kind of goal in mind. Hobby writing is more like someone who does watercolor or plays the guitar for their own amusement. They’re not intending to sell their books one day, though they might daydream about it. Hobby writing is focused solely on the pleasure that comes from the initial creative process, as opposed to the difficult but equally rewarding revision process afterwards. A hobby-writing storyteller has no limitations and no expectations, enjoying the creative process simply for the love of creating art, rather than trying to share it with anyone.

Social Writing

Similar to hobby writing, a social writer isn’t necessarily working with the end goal of publication in mind. What makes social writing unique is that it’s done in collaboration with one or more similarly-minded friends as a way to connect and spend time together. A social writer needs to be both flexible and collaborative, willing to share their ideas and implement the ideas of others to create a story that they can enjoy together as a sort of shared fantasy-life experience.

Fan Fiction

Many professional writers have a negative view of fan fiction writers, claiming that the work isn’t worth anything because it isn’t original. The truth is that good fan fiction writers know that they’re not trying to compete with professional writers. The content that they create is meant to be viewed and enjoyed by other dedicated fans who love a story and its characters so much that they will take every opportunity to immerse themselves in that particular world. It’s important to note that a good fan fiction writer needs to be willing to fully embrace their source material, rather than using this as a self-indulgent power fantasy. Fan fiction is written for the fan community, and so the fan fiction writer must be focused on the needs of others before themselves.


Whether you’re a Game/Dungeon Master or a player, if you’ve ever done role-playing in a group, then you’ve participated in this unique type of storytelling. This is especially true of GMs. Even if they’re using a module, it’s their job to provide color and creativity in a dynamic world of quests, puzzles, and NPCs. This contribution is even more significant when homebrews (player-made content) are added to the mix. Like fan fiction, the GM may be alternatively constrained and assisted by the existing lore and mechanics that was done by the original writers. There are also similarities to social writing, since the storytelling process is shared among all the players. What often sets this type of storytelling apart is the random element introduced by the rolling of dice or similar mechanics. All of the players–including the GM–could be caught off-guard by an unexpected turn of events and will have to practice their creativity in a spontaneous, improvisational way that is all-but non-existent in other forms of storytelling.

Professional Writing

I’ve written enough about professional writing elsewhere that I don’t really need to give a detailed description here, except to say one thing. This style of writing is very different from every other type that I’ve described, since it’s the only style that is targeted to a paying reader. As a result, the quality of writing needs to be held to a higher standard, which means that the author has to spend at least as much time editing the manuscript as they spent creating the initial first draft. This isn’t to say that professional writers are better than any other kind of storyteller, just that the needs and requirements for their style of writing is different.

Did you see yourself among the different types of writers I listed? Leave a comment below and don’t forget to check out my other articles on the craft of writing.

Above image generated using Microsoft Designer

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