Essays vs. Stories

We all tell stories all the time. Sometimes we relate events that have happened to us. Sometimes we repeat things we’ve read or heard in the media or from friends. And even when we make up new stories they are variations on patterns of stories that we have heard. The trick, I suppose, is to be aware of the patterns that you are riffing on and be sure that you make the story your own.

I am becoming a fairly competent essayist (opinions to the contrary welcome, especially if you can tell me specifically something I can improve). I would like to become a story teller. What is the difference? I have an idea but it’s kind of fuzzy. This blog is full of essays. An essay is a search for the essence of a topic. My blog posts are not highly polished. I write them off the top of my head. I edit them lightly and then post them. A proper essayist would write the essay. Put it aside. Come back and read it. Edit it. Get friends and colleagues to read it and comment on it. Edit it some more. And then post it. I suppose blogging just exposes the dialectic process more. I write a draft. I post it. Hopefully, people comment. I write more. Eventually, we arrive at something nearer the essence of the topic together. I think this is a good process. Perhaps better than the “proper essayist” process I described before.

Back to the point. I want to become a story teller and I am discovering that I don’t understand the process of creating a story. I know a good story when I hear one. I occasionally tell a good story. At least, I think I do. Help me out here. How do you create a story?