Definition of story

Ghost Writer
3 min readFeb 7, 2024

The definition of a story is something I’m always thinking about. It’s always rolling around in my marbles. It’s like my white whale, so to speak, because I can’t seem to get a finite definition. There’s always something to add or take away or change. It’s an impossible problem that I like to keep in mind. I’m looking into writing some short stories, so I picked back up one of my favorite writing books, Mystery and Manners, and flipped to O’Connor’s section on writing short stories. She was saying,

“Everybody thinks he knows what a story is. But if you ask a beginning student to write a story, you’re liable to get almost anything — a reminiscence, an episode, an opinion, an anecdote, anything under the sun but a story.” (O’Connor)

Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

She’s making a great point that, and one that I thought about for a long time, is that understanding is key. Writing is great, and hard and frustrating but understanding the concepts of writing will get you far in the long run.

I like to think of it as if you’re chasing an animal through a crowded street, and if you know the name of the animal, then the people around can help stop the animal from getting lost in the crowd, if you can yell the name of it. And the name of it is ‘Story’, and the people around it are the people that have come before, the great writers of old and present.

Having an understanding of story, knowing its name and knowing its elements and its definitions is vital. O’Connor defines story as “a complete dramatic action — ” She goes on to say “and in good stories, the characters are shown through the action and the action is controlled through the characters, and the result of this is meaning that derives from the whole presented experience.”

Before I read this, I liked to define ‘story’ as “an organic reactionary entity”. After all the research I’ve done, that is what I’ve come up with as my definition. Because a story has a series of internal and external events that create conflict but no matter how fantastical or absurd it still makes sense. There’s an organic nature to it, where the elements naturally react to one another in a way that is organic, not a linear one after the other.

--

--

Ghost Writer

Just tryin to figure out writing and here's what I've learned so far.