Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Writing 101: What Writing Used To Be

During the Middle Ages, storytellers were members of the royal court. They knew all the juiciest gossip, they were present at all the big events, and they traveled around telling their tales to large audiences. Today's storytellers sit somewhere with a laptop, typing quietly. Which sounds more fun?

A Troubadour's Life for Me

The storyteller was always a welcome sight in medieval Europe. You may have found them in a market place, but you were sure to find them at court. Every king and queen of note had storytellers at court, a place where the royals granted various favors to their favorites and everyone danced, dined and drank for almost any reason whatsoever. 

Once upon a time, writers were sponsored by various patrons like this. Kings and Queens, perhaps, would house and clothe storytellers. They would be fed, they would receive little gifts, they would wander around telling stories all day. Pretty sweet, right? This is what writing used to be like, or at least what storytelling used to be like, and that makes it an older version of what today's indie authors do. 

I would totally love to go hang out wherever William and Kate are and attempt to entertain them, really I would, but I don't think I'd be very good at it. Back in those days, storytellers were also expected to play at least two instruments -- whatever was fashionable at that time. They had to make up verses on the spot. They were expected to know the current news and events of the day, and they didn't have any sort of titles or lands that were theirs. Displease a royal, and punishment could be swift and severe. 

In some ways, it's nice to think about what writing used to be. But remember, too, that writers of the past had to deal with something no writer today really wants to face: ink and paper. Before laptops, before typewriters, every book was written out by hand. So maybe it's not a troubadour's life for me, after all. 

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