ON STORIES AND STORYTELLING
Updated: Feb 10, 2020
"After nourishment, shelter and companionship.
stories are the thing we need most in the world."
Recently, in the small lovely bookstore 192 BOOKS on 10th Avenue in Chelsea, around the corner from where I used to live for 13 years before Chelsea became the fever dream of real estate speculators, the bright red jacket of a big 450 page book jumped out at me. The title of the book was not easy to spot. It says "DAEMON VOICES" and is displayed diagonally on some kind of banner or flag held up by a raven in its beak. Quicker to spot than the title are the subtitle of the book "On Stories and Storytelling" and the author's name: "PHILIP PULLMAN, author of HIS DARK MATERIALS."
The quote you find on top of this blog and elsewhere on our website is displayed in equally big letters on the back cover of the book - with nothing else there, except the rest of the black bird continuing from the front. No endorsements, no other attempts to catch our interest. Just that.
The publishers did well to make the subtitle and the quote more prominent and easier to read than the books main title. I walked out with the book 10 minutes later, convinced solely by the subtitle and Author's quote and nothing else.
I confess. I'm not a fan of Philip Pullman's novels. I cannot be, since I have not (yet) read any of his many acclaimed novels. "DAEMON VOICES" is my first of his books. It is - as suggested by the subtitle and quote - not a novel, but a collection of essays. And it pretty much delivers on what the cover offers, and then some.
By what I have read so far of this collection of reflections on the nature of stories and the art of storytelling, this book is a fantastic companion for anyone engaged professionally or out of personal interest in storytelling, be it as a writer, a reader or someone in between, like an editor, a publisher, a producer, a film and tv executive.
As the editor of 'DAEMON VOICES' advises in the preface, one could read the book cover to cover or jump from chapter to chapter, guided by theme and interest. The KNOPF edition I have provides an interesting cross reference section as to what subject matters are approached in which chapter. It's very useful and I assume all editions have that.
For anyone who needs advise how to quickly jump into this book and discover its potency, try chapter six - "The Path Through the Wood - How Stories Work." It's fascinating in both its simplicity and depth and reminded me of another book on writing stories, this one from 1994 and from one Umberto Eco: "SIX WALKS IN THE FICTIONAL WOODS." It must be two decades since I read that book and now I think I should pull it out from where ever it has been hiding since. I remember it had a similar 'aha' effect on me as this book. I also suspect Eco approaches his craft completely different from Pullman.
Pullman's book also reminds me that the most helpful voices on writing stories I came across in my attempt to learn the practice of writing screenplays and teleplays (most of them not in my native language) were not the ones found in books on screenwriting, but books such as this on the art of the novel or on the art of writing drama for the stage.
Tobias Meinecke is a producer, writer and director and a co-founder of LOVE CHILD. He shares this blog space with co-founder and writing partner Jay C. Key and future members of the company.