What Makes a Story a Story?


Some may say that a story is nothing more than a series of events that a character or characters may experience, which leads to one conclusion. Others may say that a story is only a story if it has some profound, life-altering meaning.

Both of these claims, one could argue, are correct--to a degree. A story relays a character’s experience of an event(s) and often (though not always) can impact the reader. Many times, there is found a moral implication within the story itself. But, can a story exist without a moral? The short answer is “yes”. The long answer is “yes, but what would be the point of a story without morals and wouldn’t that be a bit boring?” The even longer answer is “yes, but aside from morals, one should also reflect upon a story’s purpose (what is the story attempting to convey to the reader?).”

In other words, a story may not always contain a moral, but still will require the reader to reflect upon the information that was given. Stories afford the reader an opportunity to reflect consciously on a character, plot, or premise. Stories also provide an opportunity for the reader to self-reflect consciously and/or sub-consciously. As you read stories and write them, be sure to be intentional. Recognize things like character, plot, and setting. Look forward to identifying and/or including anything that speaks to morals or deeper meaning. If you are a writer, you SHOULD be able to quickly tell someone the following about your work:

* Your protagonist

* Your antagonist

* The primary place/time your story is set

* Key points of your plot (it's not necessary to know every detail--unless, of course, you've finished drafting).

* What moral/value/observation do you want your reader to consider

If you cannot answer these basic things, then what you have is a PROMISE for a story, though not a story YET.

And on that note, I'd like to leave you with a final thought of encouragement. Often times, writers refer to their story as their "baby". A healthy "baby" will have the aforementioned basics. Remember, like all beloved little ones, a story needs to be nurtured, so that it can grow and fully mature and develop into the amazing piece of work that you've poured your blood, sweat, and tears into; all of the joy and sorrow, the sleepless nights and productive days will pay off in the end. Trust me. But in the meantime, take care of your story.


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