Story, a perennially hot topic it seems, gets its definitions hashed out with such regularity that you’d think it could be easily expressed, second-nature like, especially by a writer.

You’d think a person who was writing ‘stories’ would know what they were. But I’m starting to believe that, like beauty or harmony, story is something that you know when you see it but it’s hard to pin down.

For some reason I keep holding onto the notion that the things I write , in order to qualify for anyone else’s recognition that they’re stories, have to portray conflict in an obvious way and have characters who act in response to the conflict and who are shown experiencing the effects of their actions but whose own internal experience of and reflection on their experience is secondary. I end up judging the things I write harshly – characters are weak, plot is weak, answers come easily BECAUSE I’m actually interested in exploring the internal experience.

I’m not sure how much time I should waste trying to wrap my mind around the various definitions of story so as to prove my stories are weak, or trying to disentangle plot from story and structure from the conveyance of meaning.

It’s  convoluted. Instead, I’m thinking it’s better to just write what needs to be written and then see if it resonates with anyone else.

Today, I’m liking this description that isn’t really a definition:

Stories connect events and create meaning; they also connect people to each other.
 –Philip Martin

I can at least confirm that I’ve got stories in which there are characters and events and some degree of meaning comes out of the connection.

The one I’m working on now is experimental (aren’t they all?) in that it was conceived out of a dream – something notoriously tricky to harness when one desires more than a smidgen of regular logic – but I figured if it could be worked into a story then I’d have some confidence that my lumpy and lopsided creations actually have a future.

The first installment of its draft-form is upcoming.

2 thoughts on “a story that works

  1. I thing that the internal journey, if presented well, can be as fascinating a the outward one. Good examples are “The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce (the main character does nothing but walk form one end of GB to the other) or “Among Others” by Joe Walton (where the action mostly lies in the past and is only referenced in retrospection by the main character). Both books sold like crazy, so there are people out there who love this kind of story. Don’t be discourages. Keep writing the sort of story YOU like and you’ll find like minded people some time.

  2. I’m working on it 🙂 and your comment, Cat, reminded that a short story by Ray Bradbury that I read recently and really liked (The Lake) is that kind of story too.

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