What is a Story Anyway?


There was an interesting thread on r/writing the other day where u/C5Jones wanted to know about the very basics of storytelling. What fascinated me about the post and its answers was the sheer variety of points people made, it wasn’t really a conflict heavy conversation per se, however I think its fair to say there wasn’t a general consensus on what the rudiments of a story were. Some thought the basics were character, some tension, one person thought entertainment.

Stories remain surprisingly hard to define, for every solid statement one can make on the subject there is sure to be a hundred, if not a thousand counter-examples. Character is a good example, most stories contain them, but what about plot-driven narratives and just how charactery to your characters need to be to meet the requirements? What about stories that are driven by wordly events?

Personally I tend to think stories have an ‘all of the above quality’ but the truth of this post is I just wanted to present by verbascious (how is that not a real word) description of a story:

A story is a Self-Fulfilling Hypothetical

What the heck do I mean with such a pretentious statement?

Well the hypothetical part described more simply is the ‘what-if’ part of any story, even a true tale has a what-if component (i.e. what if I told the story about how I did X?).

The first part the Self-fulfilling? Well this is a little harder to explain but basically its the answer to the ‘what-if’ raised.

For example Lord of the Rings: What-if a hobbit got his hands on the evilest item of power in Middle-Earth? Well he’d throw it into Mount Doom to destroy it and save the world.

Now I’m not saying that all stories contain a tidy ending or answer all the questions raised by the narrative, what I am saying however is the essence of a story (In my humble opinion) is not only asking the question what if, but answering it too!


What do you think are the very basics of storytelling?


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