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What is a story?

2 min read

You decided to be a writer. You want to write the stories in your head, or the stories you want to read. You call yourself a storyteller. But do you know what a story is?

In How to Write a Damn Good Novel, James N. Frey defines story as a “narrative of consequential events involving worthy human characters who change as a result of those events.”

Lisa Cron brings a similar definition in Story Genius. “In a nutshell: A story is about how the things that happen affect someone in pursuit of a difficult goal, and how that person changes internally as a result.”

If you want a simpler definition, here’s how John Truby defines story in The Anatomy of Stroy: “A speaker tells a listener what someone did to get what he wanted and why.”

So, yea, storytelling is not just about narrating a string of events without a purpose. It’s about what happens, to whom, the struggle to achieve a goal and a final change at the end. You apply that to any story you want to tell and it turns into gold.

A story is about actions and consequences. Trial and error. Journeys and achievements. Milestones and results. It’s about giving your reader something worth it of making them spend their time reading your words.

So, you don’t just wanna write the story in your head, or the story you want to read. You want to tell a story that will show your reader an interesting or familiar character in a world or environment where they are protagonists in a mission to achieve something, either because they want it or because they are forced to. And they find an antagonist in the middle of the road, a force that makes it hard for them to get what they want. They overcome it. Or not.

And, as a result, they change internally and, indirectly, you change your reader internally, or at least you should provoke them to think differently with your story.

Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we’re so rapt about writing and engrossed in our process that we forget these cornerstones of storytelling. We have to be worth our readers’ attention and time. We have to give them enough material for a change. And that’s what a story is. And that’s why you want to write.

Before we go—and don’t answer me this yet, we’ll talk about it next week—do you think characters in a story should always be people?

And, between the lines…

What story do you want to tell? And what makes it worth telling?

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