Sunday, July 13, 2008

What is a Story?

I love literary debates. For one, there's no point to them. Most of them aren't trying to prove anything apart from the superiority of the speaker. Second, they usually lead nowhere, a place that I find delightfully refreshing in ways.

So, what is a story? How do we define it?

Usually such discussions would start out with a standard definition and then go on to give counterexamples of how that definition does not hold, a revised definition, counterexamples to that and so on. I will not do that. I will just give you my definition.

A story is a text that starts somewhere and goes somewhere. That is, development is the key concept that defines a story (for me). Development can happen at various levels.

1. The plot. This is the most common way of telling a story. Things happen. And yes, I would still call it a story if there is no proper climax. If you write about what you did all day, it would still be a story. It would be a rather uninteresting one, but still a story.

2. The character. The characters in the story learn, discover, realize something. They divine the profound truths of life. Again a very popular device in story writing. Generally these kinds of stories would be considered more literary than plot stories although I see no reason why that should be.

3. The idea. You start from some basic assumptions and then develop, challenge, refute, redefine then to their logical conclusions. This is perhaps even more literary than developing characters but opinions may vary.

Personally I like story that combine all three. Such stories tend to be most powerful of all.

1 comment:

  1. A story is one that bores and which can be used as a replacement to sleeping pills!


    To bore is human,
    To forgive is divine!