Far back in the mists of prehistory, before humans had language, the first storytellers were likely dancers performing mime. People used hand signals and body language to communicate, and they still do. Just watch small children at play. Actors, dancers, and entertainers still convey emotions thru motion in live performances, film and television.

One visualizes our ancestors gathered around a campfire, watching the hunters perform a spirited reprise of their successful hunt for an antelope. I’ll wager that’s one reason folks changed their grunts and yells into meaningful sounds–so they could brag about their exploits! As the women turn the meat now sizzling over the coals, the appetizing odors wafts to everyone’s noses. Humans still salivate at the smell of that fragrance.

Some paleo-archeologists speculate that early humans invented language so they might pass on gossip. When larger groups proved more viable than smaller clans, people sought to know more about their neighbors: who was friendly, who was an old grouch, who’d always help out or share. Things haven’t changed much, have they?

Probably writing was the next step, and developed from record keeping. If someone borrowed a basket of laboriously harvested nuts, you marked down on a wet clay tablet that you’d given Grunch so many measures of chestnuts on day three after the full moon. If she didn’t return the nuts, you knew who’d gone off without repaying was owed, and never loaned her anything after that.

Of course, you had to agree on the symbols used. Perhaps that’s where courts and judges and lawyers got their start. Maybe the first written laws dealt with theft and unrepaid debts. The Old Testament had reams of regulations and if I went to Wikipedia I could likely find Hammurabi dealt with it even further back in time.

Words, words, words

In my years as an RWA member, I’ve attended many meetings, read how-to books, gone to a few conferences, studied the advice in handouts, newsletters, and our Romance Writers Reports. Currently all such advice urges writers to show, not tell, but even that can be boring if carried to excess.

After writing and self-publishing eight books, I smile; writers use words to tell the story, in whatever genre they produce. Even in creating a script for stage, screen or TV, we use the same tools: letters to make words. Some of my favorite multi-published romance authors use plenty of narrative to tell back story right at the start, and they don’t limit their chapters to a single view point or or abide by the “scene and sequel” rule”. Maybe their editors don’t advise them to.

I think this trend stems from several generations weaned as much on visual experiences as reading print. Each approach has its good points, but I grew up when auditory reception(otherwise known as radio) was all we had. I never even saw a film until I was eight years old, and television wasn’t widely available until the fifties. Now I’m too old to change completely.

If I want to see a movie, I go to a theater or find one I like on television or digital delivery. No matter how you cut it, a good story is told in words.