So Tell Me, What Makes a Great Story?

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Let me ask you a question:

What makes a great story?

The medium doesn’t matter – it could be a book, a movie, TV, a play, or grandpa sitting on the porch in his rocking chair.

What makes some stories stand apart from others? What separates the great from the mediocre, the forgettable, or the just shoot me now awful?

Is it the content, structure, or delivery? Can we honestly separate the pieces from the whole?

I admit, I’m pretty easy to please. I’ve lost track of how many stories, be it film or book, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed yet are eviscerated by public opinion and critic alike.

On the other hand, there are too many to name that have been hyped past the moon that I cannot, for the life of me, see the draw.

But what makes a great story?

I’m a fan of it all. Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Thrillers, Westerns, Romance (no erotica, thank you), Comedy, Cartoons, Comics, and on and on and on.

As a writer, I’ve found no end to the supply of advice in crafting a great story. Whether or not that advice actually has helped me create a great story…we’ll see.

But, I wonder at the advice sometimes. A lot of it is based on what’s trending now – what readers are reading now. And, it makes sense. To a point.

But what about the stories that last the test of time? Those stories that we keep returning to, even if they go against every single piece of advice we’re told makes a great story?

The classics.

Those books we’re told that if they were written today wouldn’t get published. Or read.

Yet, we cling to them. We read and reread them. We read them to our children. We evangelize them to our friends, family, strangers on buses.

Why?

I’m not offering answers. I have my opinions, but I want to hear yours.

What are your favorite stories, and why? Leave a comment below, and let’s talk about it.

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15 thoughts on “So Tell Me, What Makes a Great Story?

  1. I wish I could answer that question but I can’t. The one book I’ve read numerous times (and currently reading too) is “to kill a mockingbird” and I still can’t point my finger at the exact thing which separates it from all the other books other than- I love it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a great book – and a classic that stands the test of time. There are so many reasons to love it. It’s commentary on the times (and how they are still relevant today), to it’s great characters and immersive storytelling.

      Like

  2. Great Post – I would have to say that a story with a heros journey of some fashion – I’m bot saying it has to be fantasy here – but just a tale that the average petson can relate to, be inspired by, or that touches them deep within their psyche at some level by relating to a human condition. It has to grab our attention – take us out of the here and now – pull us into its journey and leave a mark on our life experience at some level. I think great writer’s have that gift – a true treasure

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a difficult question because what I would find a great story, somebody else would not. It’s the same with art. I’ve seen some strange painting in galleries which seem to be no more than as if somebody has poured four cans of paint onto a canvas, yet people admire it, call it art, and are willing to pay lots of money to buy it and give it pride of place in their home. Likewise, I’ve read books and watched movies which have had excellent reviews, yet I can’t understand why.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aye, it is different for everyone – in content. But, I think the essentials are the same – we have a reaction, we are pulled into the story. It will be different for everyone. I’m like you, I’ve read some highly praised books and shook my head because I was missing it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great stories change the world, one reader at a time. C.S. Lewis and Harriet Beacher Stowe. And then there’s Jesus. We retell the “same” stories, like Somersby is a Jesus story. So is the Green Mile. You provoke good thinking with this post.

    Like

    1. I think there is a reason Jesus’s story is called The Greatest Story Ever Told. 🙂 And yes, great stories are often told again and again – different forms, but the essentials are the same. There is something deep in us that longs for that story, and I think that’s why it comes out in our writing or whatever medium we choose to use to tell that story. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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