What Makes For A Good Story?
Oh hello, almost didn't recognize you with that barbarian-like beard. Man, how long has it been?
How are you? Have you lost weight?
Gained a hundred pounds you say?
Ah, well. You look monstrously ravishing none-the-less.
Been awhile since my last post, eh?
Well, first of all stop crying, but yes, I suppose it has. I’ve moved to Europe, which surprisingly, has kept me rather busy. I’m now what many could perhaps call… Dutch.
Not an excuse?
Well… Did I mention I was also marooned for several years on a forsaken island 600 miles south of the Cook Islands?
Tom Hanks who?
No no no, that was me, I assure you.
…And no, Wilson… Wilson didn’t…
*Slams the table*
…he didn't make it.
Don’t ever bring that up again.
Well, now that I have both your pity and understanding, and reasserted that my sanity is a dainty thing indeed, we can get started.
Oh how I’ve missed this.
*Giddy / manic / frighteningly unhinged laugh*
You’re as mad as a hatter they said.
Well, look who’s still laughing now folks.
Anyway, we’re here today to discern what exactly it is that makes a story… a story.
Through dedication, chance, various cutscene fights with infant beluga whales, and no small amount of foreign hallucinogens, I’ve finally stumbled across the infamous recipe.
Yes that’s right, I’ve found what every other nutcase in this rectangular world could not.
Earth is a… rectangle… right?
It’s been awhile since geography class.
Anyway, for every day spent writing, the following MUST occur, in order, at a bare minimum. Varying from this recipe could, and has, lead to absolute disaster.
That’s precisely how Twilight was birthed.
- 2 hours of prep, mainly consisting of shots, expresso, and aimlessly combing the web.
- An hour of crying.
- 3 consecutive hours of staring at a blinking cursor.
- Getting down a total of three satisfying words.
- An additional 2 hours of cursing the fore-mentioned cursor.
- An hour of mindless screaming, in which at least three neighbours must be woken.
- Replacing the three good words with further profanity.
- A nap several seconds in length.
- A fight with a helpless baby beluga, though it’s essential to lose.
- Ending the day with another three hours of shots, expresso, and cartoons.
- Exactly 42 minutes of sleep, and not a second more.
- Rinse and repeat, adding additional alcohol when necessary.
You may wonder why that adds up to twelve hours, 42 minutes, and several seconds, and not twenty four hours. That’s what ‘normal’ people call a ‘day’ right?
Well, that’s the insanity revealing itself.
Writers tend to lose time, I believe they’re called ‘blackouts’ if you want to get all science-y, and to truly write a story, one really must have no sense of time at all. Makes sense right? Writing anything decent takes forever and would destroy anyone aware of the passing hours, which really renders my hard-fought-for recipe rather fruitless, doesn't it?
In all seriousness though, what besides the vast amounts of caffeine and alcohol required goes into making a story? (That IS a serious question)
Well, the answers are many.
Many things indeed make a story, and we can start with the most traditional answer you’ve all certainly come face to face with in English class once upon a time.
A story needs to have a plot, theme, blah blah, characters, blah, settings, blah.
That stuff’s important, don't get me wrong, but that’s not the purpose of this post. I wanted to get to the heart of what makes a story a STORY, you know?
Which is exactly my first bullet in this list I’m literally making up as I go along.
A story needs heart to hold anyone’s attention. A story without heart is like a human without a heart.
Heart comes in many forms, and doesn't mean that the story needs thought-provoking, drug induced, revolutionary-style thinking. A lot of stories with complex thought-processes are duller than my first grade pencils.
No, heart in a story is that wonderful spark in the writing, or in a character, or the setting. That flow, connection, rhythm, etc. Heart makes a story, and that can look like anything. Smart stories without heart are simply mundane, and dumb stories without heart are… just dumb.
Which gracefully, and without connection whatsoever, brings about our next bullet:
Obviously, you say?
Obvious indeed, though perhaps not in the way you think.
Technically speaking (a phrase I’m coming to despise) a story needs only a beginning, middle, and penguin.
A drunk three year old can stutter out a beginning middle and penguin given enough time, and technically speaking (gah), create a story.
But spinning a narrative, one that’s appealing, is different. An attractive story needs that extra oomph, that step above a simple story. It’s hard to depict in words, but I think you can relate to the feeling.
It needs real, honest, narrative.
It needs traction, and not simply spin round and round in the mud going nowhere.
That may seem like a simple concept to you, but I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. Lifeless stories are hardly stories at all.
They need a voice. That voice.
Which on a related note brings us to:
Not totally unlike Narrative, but almost a step further.
Tone is the individual aspect that livens a tale, different in each author. It’s your personal spin that should be unique alone to you. It’s your finger print across all your work, and it’s more important than any of the other aspects to writing a good story combined.
Each story NEEDS the special tone of it’s author, otherwise they would all be interchangeable. There’d be no difference, and the storytelling world would be common indeed.
Any of you notice I said penguin in the point above? Is anyone still reading?
Anyway, tone is both individual and 100% required. Every story needs a spin of its own that lets it stand out from the rest.
That, is what makes a story a story.
And there it is, that’s all she wrote ladies and gents.
So get to it crazies.
And don’t forget your prep and mindless screaming.
Routine is important.