Friday, March 14, 2014

The three duties of a writer

Vladimir Nabokov was a Russian novelist who rose to international prominence as a writer of English. In his Lectures on Literature he writes that a writer has three roles.
There are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: he may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines these three — storyteller, teacher, enchanter — but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer.

To the storyteller we turn for entertainment, for mental excitement of the simplest kind, for emotional participation, for the pleasure of traveling in some remote region in space or time. 
A slightly different though not necessarily higher mind looks for the teacher in the writer. Propagandist, moralist, prophet — this is the rising sequence. We may go to the teacher not only for moral education but also for direct knowledge, for simple facts… 
Finally, and above all, a great writer is always a great enchanter, and it is here that we come to the really exciting part when we try to grasp the individual magic of his genius and to study the style, the imagery, the pattern of his novels or poems.
He is writing about fiction, but these traits can be applied to writing or speaking about business and economics. Our audiences would like a good story, and they are listening or reading to learn something.

If we can offer these, and also inspire -- enchant them, if you will -- we stand a chance to persuade them.

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