Eric asked this question recently on his excellent blog, Pimp My Novel.
What makes a good story?
It’s a question that readers and writers have struggled with over the years. Everyone seems to have a different opinion. Yet, there often seems to be consensus when a good story does come along. It’s almost as if the answer is “I know it when I see it.”
That’s not a good enough answer though. I’ve been thinking of how to answer this question a little more eloquently than I did in the comment section of Eric’s post. I think that if we can come to a definite answer to this question our writing will invariably improve. However, I don’t think there is a magic formula that you can use to create a good story.
Good stories are more like recipes. They need certain ingredients. These ingredients can be tossed around and put in any order, certain ones can be left out entirely, and new combinations can be thought of on the spot.
I think a good story needs to end where it started. The events need to be connected somehow so we can see and feel that things have happened for a reason – the characters have grown and developed and experienced things that have changed them or their situation.
So here are the key ingredients as I see them
– good characters (story should always be driven by the characters not by the plot)
– the ending needs to tie into the beginning
– things need to happen for a reason
– the characters should show some progression or growth
– you need to say something (like an essay, there should be a theme or an argument you are making)
– we need to hear your voice (your story needs to have yourself in it somehow so that we can hear your voice)
– it needs to flow (things should seem natural and connected to encourage us to keep reading)
I’m sure that seems simpler than it actually is. I might be missing some of the ingredients. I think writers might not even be aware of all of the elements they put into their work. I’ll probably look at this later and see things that I have missed.
How about you?
What do you think makes a good story?
Would you add anything or take anything away from my list?
Let me know what you think!