Friday Fix (Craft): What Is a Story?

If I were to ask you to define the word story, what would you say? Perhaps you’d say that story is a series of events about a character. Well, that’s not a story. That’s a vignette or a memoir. 

Perhaps you’d say that story is about what happens to a character. Well, that’s not a story either. That’s a plot.

So what, then, is story? Story, plain and simple, is conflict. Without a conflict, you have no story. 

A big reason that many writers do not sell their writing is that they have not grasped the concept of story. They create marvelous pieces of outstanding prose, but they have no story. They have only episodes, or vignettes. Slices of life that don’t meaning anything unless there is conflict.

Why do we read stories? Because we want to see the main character overcome a conflict. It is the conflict that causes us to connect with the main character. It is the conflict that causes us to keep reading.

While normally in real life we do not like conflict, in creating a story conflict is essential. So give your protagonist all the conflict you can give her. Increase the seriousness of each problem and obstacle she encounters. Raise the stakes in the conflict. By doing so, you will not only create reader empathy, but you will also boost your chances of selling your story. 

Question to my Readers:  You may have noticed that I post three times a week on the ABCs of Fiction Writing: Attitude, Business, and Craft.  Do you benefit from all of these topics, or do you read only one of them consistently?  If the latter, which one?  I am considering narrowing the focus of my blog to Craft only so as better to serve my readers, so your input is very valuable to me. Thank you!

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Photo Source: Microsoft Clipart

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