What Makes a Story Good?

A part of this blog is to explore what makes a story good, or a character interesting. What do I know about this subject? Not much. Which is ok, because we’ll be figuring that out as we go along.

I just posted a story about a little boy who lost his milkshake to the clutches of evil ice. Why does that kid matter more than the one I’m sitting next to at the library? For one, the boy had big tears running down his face. When a chubby kid has tears running down his face, you want to do something about it. The kid next to me is reading a book, and I want to do nothing about it.

There are stories out there that would be absolutely amazing if the main character wasn’t sitting at a library reading a book. I know, I know, people don’t write stories about people reading a book in a library, but some people tell their story with that kind of theme. Stories that go on and on and then end before anything happens. It’s very difficult to listen to a story like that.

What are you getting at, Benjamin?

Make your story worth telling. Give the main character crocodile tears if it will draw up some sort of emotion for the listener. Who cares if it’s true? My friend said this of writers:

“I think the difference between a lie and a story is that a story utilizes the trappings and appearances of truth for the interest of the listener as well as of the teller. A story has in it neither gain nor loss. But a lie is a device for profit or escape. I suppose if that definition is strictly held to, then a writer of stories is a liar – if he is financially fortunate” (John Steinbeck, East of Eden).

See what I did there? I told you it was my friend, so you were at least a little bit curious who this genius was. But, since I am not financially fortunate you can’t call me a liar.

Now go out and tell your stories. Make them interesting. Embellish them. Give the antagonist really long nose hairs if you need to, but keep your listener engaged. It’ll keep you engaged, too.

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