Friday, January 13, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#48) -- Good Story

What do you think makes a good story?

A lot of beginning writers confuse the words story and plot. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Plot is the actions of the story. Story is far bigger than mere plot. It's made up of character and sprinkled on top with character and dipped in character for good measure before you even take a bite of story.

Perhaps that's overdoing the metaphor a bit (or a mile), but that's the truth of the matter as I understand it.

I've said many times, particularly at conventions when people ask me this question the writing-oriented break-out sessions in which I've participated, "Story is that magical baby that grows when plot and character get together and start a family."

A good story follows a natural outgrowth of the characters' choices, both action and inaction, and takes them on a roller coaster of emotional and physical and psychological ups and downs. A good story changes the characters in it (all of them) for good or bad. They become better or worse. A good story doesn't allow them to be the same person at the end they were at the beginning.

On a personal level, I define a good story as one that doesn't give me the option of putting it down nonchalantly. I should have to wrest it from my hungry hands and force myself to get on with the other stuff of life because I care so strongly about the people whose lives I'm following.