1. Edward G
    Offline

    Edward G Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2010
    Messages:
    248
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    New Orleans area

    Elements of a Story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Edward G, Dec 25, 2010.

    Not every piece of writing is a story. A lot of what I'm reading in the review section for short stories are not stories. A story has certain elements that must be present in order for the work to be a "story."

    Theme
    A story is about something (The life of a fisherman in the Arctic Circle).

    Setting
    We have to have a well-described setting to get into the story (The fishing vessle, Seabound, rockin and a rollin in the Arctic Ocean).

    Characters
    These cannot just be names. They have to be described, at least a little, in order for us to know them. If we don't know them, we won't care what happens to them (Boheim--the crusty captain who lost the wife he always said he hated to cancer. Now he has an anger, almost a vengence, against the crabs they catch.).

    Plot
    A story has to have a plot. That is it has to have a beginning that leads the characters into a central conflict. That conflict has a climax and has to be resolved by the characters in the denouement (Captain Boheim arrives at the docks to find three identical boats moored and waiting to be taken out for crab season. He and his crew take one of the boats and set out to sea. The crabbing is good until they bring up one with a big tumor on its back. Boheim goes nuts and begins shooting at it with a rifle which disables the boat just as a storm approaches. While they are stranded and trying to survive in a lifeboat, the storm eventaully gives way to clear skies. That's when Boheim comes to realize while looking at the stars that the crab is a symbol for the sign of cancer in astrology, the sign most associated with nurturing and caring. Eventually, they are rescued by another boat that comes looking for Boheim because he had inadvertently taken out the wrong boat.).

    Character Arc
    The main character has to change one way or another. He or she starts out one way and ends up modified in some way because of the events in the story (Boheim comes to find out he actually cared about his wife and she cared about him, and thus loses his anger over the crabs he catches.).

    Symbolism
    The artistic use of symbolism is what makes stories truly alive and fascinating (The crabs represent cancer to Boheim, both his wife's and the astrological sign. Astrology represents an unchangable fate. The wrong boat represents a mistaken way of traveling through life.).

    Moral
    Every story makes a moral statement whether the artist wants it to or not. You can't resolve a story without making a moral statement. Therefore, one should think about the moral they're trying to impart to the reader so they will end their story apporpriately (The moral of this story is to try to always identify your true feelings.).

    Okay, Boheim's Crabs, pretty much sucks, but it is a story. It has all the elements of a story. And once those elements are there, a story can be written that will keep the reader engaged, turning pages, and wondering what will happen next, not to mention enlighten them via the moral.

    Any comments?
     
  2. Mister Cheech
    Offline

    Mister Cheech Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2010
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Australia
    What's your point? Do you think that what you call "Stories" are inherently better than "Writing"?

    It's easiest to pen something that is passable when these components are present, though plenty of writers got by without (at least a few of) these things. That is not to say anyone on this forum should fantasize that they are as (or more, or nearly as) talented as David Foster Wallace or William S Burroughs, but this is beyond my own point; "Finnegan's Wake" is more engaging (I think) than any Stephen King or James Patterson novel and it is none of these things, it's aesthetics, that's all.

    Few people are "Enlightened" by books, also. Chances are they'll read a book (one of many that are forgotten, probably), then something in life will happen, and they'll then realize that something from the book kind of echoes the lesson they learned, or the thing they noticed about a person, or the ramifications of an event, or whatever. Writers aren't trustworthy enough to learn things from. Like everyone, they're fallible.

    I'm not sure you're entirely explaining yourself, here.
     
  3. HeinleinFan
    Offline

    HeinleinFan Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2007
    Messages:
    483
    Likes Received:
    33
    @ Mister Cheech: I think he's noting that in the Review Room's "Short Stories" section, a fair number of the pieces up for critique aren't actually, well, stories. He's not saying anything about writing in general, or about books, and he's certainly not saying that "All fiction ever must follow these things."

    And I think he's correct. Ideally, the Short Story section would be filled with stories that have a definite character (with, you know, traits and a personality and such) and events that mean something, including a conflict, and some kind of resolution. A fair number don't.

    Sometimes, it's because the person hasn't finished the whole story (*grimace*) and wants critique on the first, oh, fourth or whatever of the story. Of course, we reviewers can't really help out with plot and foreshadowing if that's the case, but we can help with spelling, punctuation, and grammar issues. Sometimes that's enough, but we can't know.

    Other times, the whole story has been posted, and it isn't really a story -- meaning there are serious flaws that prevent it from having characters who do stuff to resolve a conflict. In that case, actually, the Review Room can be pretty helpful in drawing the writer's attention to things that are unclear, or which need to be improved or added.

    It can be a little disappointing, I'll admit, for someone who is a more-or-less proficient writer to come to a "Short Story" that isn't a story at all. But that's part of growing. Things like plot and conflict and climax and character development aren't really taught in school, since learning how to identify them in someone else's book isn't at all the same as knowing how to produce such things yourself.

    So yes, I agree with Edward G that it would be nice if the Short Story section were full of pretty-much-finished stories -- that would mean that all the writers on this site had gotten to the "Soon I will be published, if I seek publication" stage. But there are always new writers, and younger writers, and experienced writers who are new to the short story. (Because believe me, you can write pretty good poetry and then turn to short stories and suck.) And I think it is worthwhile, and will remain worthwhile, for somewhat more advanced writers to help the less advanced writers along.

    After all -- if you guys don't get to the publishing stage, what the heck am I going to read in thirty years when most of today's pros are retired? I'm not helping out of mere altruism, you know; I'm deliberately planting apple seeds and hoping there'll be apples there in twenty years. (Which admittedly is why I critique mostly Fantasy and Science Fiction short stories, plus anything from the Novel section that catches my eye.)

    I hope that clarified things a bit, Mister Cheech.
     
  4. TokyoVigilante
    Offline

    TokyoVigilante Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Messages:
    73
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Canada
    Negative, Ghost Rider.

    That is not a "Theme". That is a "Premise".

    BAM
    Please know what you're talking about before standing up to the podium to lecture us.
     
  5. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Exactly. Most people are trying and intending to write stories, so tossing out 'this isn't a story' isn't really helpful, and instead, as you say, the Review Room seems exactly where the people need to be.

    I see this occur in workshops all the time (upper division) where someone turns in a draft, and of course the draft is rough, and everyone just dismisses it as crap. In poor classes, nobody works their own skills on what they would do to improve the draft and instead it becomes a discussion on what is sloppy and easily talked about, which does no one any good.

    Drafts are easily dismissed if a writer/review wants to dismiss them. It's easy to go into the review room, condescendingly look at what people are submitting, and then make some post about how people just aren't getting it. Who is it helping, though? Certainly not the review who isn't learning how to work through even the roughest drafts to figure out what should be done next in a manuscript.

    Hrm, I've found these are often the only things taught, in worst case scenarios at least. Many English classes (at all levels) spend inordinate amounts of time identifying and defining features. Lit classes with hammer things like 'theme' and 'setting' and 'plot' into the ground, and beginning (or poor) fiction classes will discuss 'character development' and 'conflict' until the terms mean nothing.

    I agree though, that classes/instructors often fail to teach writers how to produce these things. Too many fiction classes simply toss down some famous/acclaimed writer and say 'do that.' Good programs/classes/teachers do figure out how to teach the 'do that' though.

    But yeah, just saying that from what I've seen, school at all levels is way too focused on naming and defining features. It's the one thing writer/English students seem to do well by the time they get to college or upper division classes. And often to a detriment, as they then just recite features in place of actual manuscript feedback and development:

    Well, the themes of the plot-climax relationships in the rising action of the story was limited because the back-story characterization of the opening hook didn't establish the symbolism of the setting to reveal.... etc, and you realize the person has no effing clue what they're talking about, but sure is sounding smart. (usually the problems they're alluding to are pretty simply answered with stuff like 'that scene didn't feel real' or 'that scene lacked empathy' heh)

    This is a funny thing I've been looking at for several years. I know a lot of competent writers that aren't being published. I've seen a lot of workshop stories that are good and complete--and the class all gives their 'good jobs'--but that don't resonate. The gap between 'good' and 'should be published [meaningfully]' is so huge, though.

    When I first started noticing it, I was alarmed. I mean, you work a year to get a short story to 95% done, better than most of what you're seeing in class workshops and online forums, and then you realize it's still not good enough. So you spend another year trying to work on mere percentage points to take it from a 'good' story to 'great' or 'let us pay you for this' version of 'done.'

    It's often advanced attention when you're digging in at that level, and the last hump writers usually have to get done on their own, or with specialized support. But it's still important and I feel bad for the many writers I know that don't understand how they're good writers, and still for some reason aren't finding [meaningful] publication, and don't get why.

    Of course, one can pick up a the Alice Sebold edition of The Best American Short Stories 2009 and find a ton of 'good' stories that were published in places like The New Yorker, so maybe 'good' is actually good enough for most people and publications. I personally want 'great' though, not 'good.'

    But yeah, sorry for the digression, just found it interesting. Also interesting is when something 'good' is posted to most workshops, groups or internet review/critique groups, not many people are even to the point they can give an in depth critique, so the 'this is really good' encouragement, imo, actually hurts a writer who thinks they've then reached the 'soon I will be published' stage, and then may find they aren't getting any [meaningful] interest, and don't get why.

    I agree that it's great to have more advanced writers passing on their knowledge and feedback, but found that lacking at times in writing groups across the board, whether class workshops (that at least have an instructor who is hopefully advanced), private groups, community groups, online groups, etc. Writers often get to the point they think 'soon I will be published' and focus on that. If they are published, great, now they have a job and don't have time to pay it forward in many cases. If they don't get published, I guess they either quit or are busy working on getting over that last hump.

    I've observed a lot of writing groups, and invariable when someone gets to the point they think they should/could be published (not necessarily are to that point, just think they are, heh), their participation in the group dwindles. It's not always selfish or mean, of course, it's just they find they're not getting out of it nearly what they've giving, and in such circumstances all people tend to lose interest.

    When many writers do stick around in such groups, it's not as writers, but as teachers (whether they are and actually teaching a class/group, doing research, observation, etc). This is still great, but not always the same; nothing replaces writing groups figuring things out on their own, finding their new way, which used to create movements, but now seems non-existent. And of course the writer side may be constantly nagging it's a waste of time (it's not, I don't believe, but the nagging still occurs), so even the 'experts' in many writer groups have one foot out the door.

    I suppose this is generally why I spend time in forums and not review rooms or critique queues, and have soured on most workshops that aren't discussion-based around writing in general, not just the manuscript at hand. Addressing the same issues in one manuscript after another gets old after the first 500, you know, and more writers benefit from broader discussion than one person getting 'advice' on their manuscript. And I've seen in my own research that addressing a manuscript is often not even as helpful when conferencing with a student as simply talking about writing in general.

    Or maybe I should spend some time in the review room... arg, but so much of the writing isn't actually a STORY! :p
     
  6. Pook
    Offline

    Pook Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2010
    Messages:
    83
    Likes Received:
    5
    Either way, the people who put something up are looking for some sense of critique or help so I don't really see where the problem lies.
     
  7. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    You're obviously very much in the minority. And I say that as an admirer of Finnegans Wake (please omit the apostrophe - that's important) who is not a fan of either King or Patterson.

    This is very false. Everybody who reads is "enlightened" by books, whether they are aware of this or not. But reading stimulates thought, and thought results in enlightenment in some degree. Maybe what you mean to say is that few people seek enlightenment from what they read.

    Huh? What's the point here? Of course writers aren't trustworthy enough to learn things from. But we learn things from them anyway. Just like we learn things from all the fallible people we meet in life.

    If we only learned from infallible people, nobody would ever learn anything.

    Writers aren't wise men on mountaintops who have, through a lifetime of contemplation, learned the True Meaning of Life. Few writers are so egotistical that they write to teach. Most write simply to share - to contribute their souls to the common soul of the race, expressed through art. What the reader learns from his reading depends on what he brought to his reading. The writer is not an instructor, but his work may serve as a lens that helps the reader bring his own life and thought into better focus.
     
  8. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    Edward G,

    I do admit that some of the stories posted in the review section seem unpolished and/or unfinished, but not all of them seem that way because of the reasons you've pointed out. For example, I've read pieces of flash fiction in the review room that don't really have a plot or vivid characters or symbolism, but that I thought were well written and good stories. Different readers have different tastes. Some like a story to be the things you've mentioned, while others have their own conception as to what constitutes a good story. It's all a matter of personal taste.
     
  9. Reggie
    Offline

    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    680
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    I thought that a story has a plot and revolution as well as the ones you listed on there. I don't always go by the Theme if it's a novella or novel, and not even a moral. I just use characterlization, plot, climax and revolution.
     
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    eddie g....
    are you lecturing, teaching, pontificating, or what there?

    are all who read your post supposed to take all you say in it as gospel?... it would seem so, since you didn't qualify your dicta and they're so rife with "has to"s and "can't"s and assorted other 'musts'...

    i have to say it seems more than a bit presumptuous and overweening for a relative newcomer to be dictating to the entire membership, as if he was the ultimate authority on the subject...

    care to add at least a semi-humble 'imo' to all of that?
     
  11. Edward G
    Offline

    Edward G Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2010
    Messages:
    248
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    New Orleans area
    You are correct. The theme would be something like "Discovering our true feelings." Because that's what the story is about."

    I don't consider the theme to be the same as the moral. I use "theme" to indicate what the story is about, and moral to indicate the point the story is trying to make about the theme. I realize others use theme to mean the moral, but I separate the two.

    In any case, I did not state the theme correctly. Good catch.
     
  12. Edward G
    Offline

    Edward G Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2010
    Messages:
    248
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    New Orleans area
    I disagree that it is a matter of taste. A story is a story, a letter is a letter, a journal entry is a journal entry and a poem is a poem. Things have a definition, a story is pretty much as I've defined it above.

    If art is all subjective, then anything is art and nothing is art. If a story is in the eye of the beholder, then there is no such thing as a story.
     
  13. Edward G
    Offline

    Edward G Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2010
    Messages:
    248
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    New Orleans area
    I think you mean "resolution." And you can simplify a story down to characterization, plot, climax and resolution. But if you do, in my opinion, you include the other things in those broader elements; e.g., characterization would include a character arc, and resolution would include the moral, and plot would include the theme, etc.

    It's like in medicine: see one, do one, teach one. I'm teaching one to help ingrain it in myself.

    Sure, take it as gospel. You'll make better stories if you do.

    I figured most of the membership already knew this and would be able to add to it or clarify it.
     
  14. FrankABlissett
    Offline

    FrankABlissett Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2008
    Messages:
    422
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Sault, Michigan
    Edward,

    I have to take issue with some of your points.

    Theme:
    Sometimes a theme is obvious to one person and not another. Is the work then a "story" to one and not the other? If so, should the other still call it a story because it DOES have a theme - to someone?

    Setting:
    "We have to have a well-described setting"
    Really? I've read well crafted stories where the setting was quite minimal, but the characters and their interaction were detailed. We also would have the problem of defining "well described". I could say a setting of "at the dinner table", with nothing more, was well described if that was all that was needed.

    Characters:
    "If we don't know them, we won't care what happens to them"
    No argument from me on that point. But that doesn't mean that the work wasn't a story - just that it was a poorly written story.

    Arc:
    Why, exactly, does the character have to change? "A Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich" showed us characters who did not change in any way (far as I recall). Can't we hear about events/characters/locations that are new to us, but are ordinary to the characters? I'd much rather *I* change - it's simply easier to do that if the character does too.

    Symbolism:
    "The artistic use of symbolism is what makes stories truly alive and fascinating"
    Granted. But there can be symbolism without story (poetry), and story without symbolism. Look at boilerplate dime-novels and pulp tales. Don't always find symbolism there - sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, after all.

    Moral:
    "Every story makes a moral statement whether the artist wants it to or not"
    Sorry, but that's something of a cop-out. Human minds are excellent pattern-recognizing machines. We see shapes in clouds, winning streaks in slot machines, and morals in stories. Sure, most stories DO have something bigger the writer is (consciously or not) trying to say. But often, what is considered a "moral" is simply the writer's view of life, showing through their writing.

    Certainly, you have given good descriptions of the parts of a story, but I respectfully disagree that they must be present for a work to be considered a story.

    -Frank
     
  15. Islander
    Offline

    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Messages:
    1,542
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    Sweden
    Hi Edward,

    nice summary of story elements. I think it's useful to distinguish between plot and storyline, though. The plot is what drives the story forwards - the conflicts, the motivations of the characters, and so on. The storyline is the sequence of events which unfold, often as a result of the plot.

    I don't think all these elements are necessary for something to be a story, or even a good story.

    At its most basic, a story only needs to contain a storyline: Something happens. For example, "Today I washed my car" is a story, albeit not a very interesting one. Then you can add plot, characterisation, morals, symbolism, etc to your story to make it more interesting.

    For a story to be interesting, I think plot and storyline is often enough. Think, for example, about folk tales - they usually don't contain more characterisation than "he was a young man who sought his fortune" or "she was a child whose mother died and whose father remarried." Many contain morals, but many others do not. They usually don't contain symbolism, except at the most basic level where you consider "winning the princess' hand" a symbol for "success and happiness". Yet, they work as stories.

    That stories need detailed settings, characterisations, symbolism and so on is a modern idea.
     
  16. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    Art is subjective. I've never heard a good argument stating otherwise. Besides, as I mentioned before, there are several definitions for what a story is or should be. Your definition is simply the way you see a story, nothing more.
     
  17. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71

    I agree that art is subjective for the consumer, but almost all creators of are are in fact trying to do objective things. Nobody just spits on a sheet of paper and hopes someone likes it. We may not always understand what an artist is trying to do (Jackson Pollock), but that doesn't mean they aren't trying to do things. And many artists can tell you exactly what they're doing, how they're shaping elements and controlling their message, etc, and how they're making judgments on what will be effective and why.

    Saying art is subjective is not only refusing to dig deeper and investigate the effect art has on people, but also to discount the artist's efforts. Sorry, Michelangelo, you could have been anyone off the street, you were simply in the right place at the right time and got lucky. Errr, no?

    I dunno, people love to go to the 'it's all just sooooo subjective,' but every accomplished writer I personally know (not a ton, but a handful) can tell you exactly what they were trying to do with their stories. And I can tell you it wasn't hoping that subjectivity would fall in their favor, but actively, consciously crafting a story in the way they know will resonate and be meaningful with a reader.

    If that isn't creating art--not just hoping it happens-then I don't know what is. And if it's all so subjective why do they all have awards and acclaim and book deals and respect in the industry as people who know how to craft high-quality fiction? If it was so subjective, publishers wouldn't be paying them good money (not as good as best-sellers, mind you, though one guy is also an international best seller too) to create their art. Instead, why wouldn't they just pay 100 random people 100 bucks each to write a story and hope the gods of subjectivity fall in their favor? If nothing else, it sure would be cheaper.

    So I agree, to a point. If you're standing in front of a painting, and aren't a painter, then sure, it's all just subjective. But if you ARE the painter you better sure as heck have a better plan, goal and objective than simply hoping it's all subjective. Because subjectivity can and is changed and swayed and affected all the time, by those who have power over objectivity and quantifiable measures to create something moving and powerful.

    In short: relying on subjectivity is a cop-out, and it pains me when authors toss it around as if luck and timing are the only things they have going for them. Have some confidence and pride in your craft or you're just selling yourself short.
     
  18. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    The last three on the list aren't absolutely required. I suppose one can argue that the first four are inherently present in any "story."

    In general, be wary of anyone who tells you that you have to write something their way in order for it to qualify as a "story," or "good," etc. Nonsense, generally.
     
    1 person likes this.
  19. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    You misunderstood my point. Subjectivity has little to do with luck and timing. A writer is basically trying to explain to an audience the things he imagines in his mind. The fact is that there's no best way to describe a building or an event. I could describe a building in one manner and you in another. Some people will like my description, and some people will like yours. So, yes, we may have the same goal in mind (describe the building as clearly as possible), but that doesn't mean that there's an objective way to judge the final product.

    The one thing everyone has in common is that we tend to follow the same logical thought process. As long as whatever we're reading has some kind of logical progression, then it has a better chance of being deemed good. And that's why random words on a page will never be seen as good writing.
     
  20. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    There's no way I can respond to this without sounding like a condescending jerk, so we'll just have to agree to disagree.

    I will say that if I personally believed what you write here, I'd give up writing. Because I don't want to describe a building as clearly as possible, I want that building to be something relevant and meaningful that you can't get out of your mind, that haunts you or cheers you depending on the story, that years later when you see red ferns you picture the two mounds of what were Big Dan and Little Ann and get weepy eyed even though you haven't read that book since you were a kid... and my weepy eyes aren't a product of passing subjectivity, that I simply liked the descriptions of a fern.
     
  21. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    And I think I'd give it up if I didn't believe what thirdwind said. He/she is absolutely correct, in my view, and you can find authors using widely divergent styles to describe similar events. There is no objective assessment of which is 'better,' as you might prefer one and I the other (you can comment objectively on something like grammar, of course, but that's not what I'm talking about here). The way Mervyn Peake and Richard Laymon might describe a person walking through a castle hall would be vastly different, for example. Neither would be objectively better than the other - it comes down to subjective preference.

    Some will tell themselves that their subjective viewpoint is objective, though.
     
  22. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    In order to do that, you would need to write clearly. I honestly don't see anything I read making a deep and lasting impression on me unless it's clearly written (so that I can picture it in my mind).

    Also, writers have no way of telling how their audience is going to react. So even if you write a piece with the intention of making an audience happy or sad or whatever, the audience may have a completely different reaction than expected.
     
  23. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    This illustrates the "subjectivity" of the issue perfectly. This book clearly had an impact on you. I still think of it as well, so we probably had a similar reaction. I know at least two people (and I'm sure there are plenty more, but I know a couple personally because I grew up with them), who didn't like the book, didn't care about the dogs, and will probably never think about it again, even if they were drowning in a pool of red ferns. And they read the same book we did.
     
  24. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Okay.
     
  25. Edward G
    Offline

    Edward G Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2010
    Messages:
    248
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    New Orleans area
    I think this term gets misinterpreted alot. In my understanding and usage, I consider theme to be what general idea the story is about. Christine, by Stephen King, for instance, was about obsession.

    We may disagree here, but I believe all stories must have an identifiable theme, and nowhere is this more important than in the developmental stage of creating a story, because it is from the theme that all the other elements are ultimately derived: the plot, the moral, the characters we use, etc.

    I'll stipulate that. There has to be a setting, but we can probably drop the "well-described" qualifier.

    Agreed.

    A story must have a conflict the characters encounter and overcome. It's hard to envision a story where that doesn't change the character in some way. However, I suppose it is possible.

    I've heard it said that the author may not even see the symbols that are in the story, but I suppose I have to capitulate this one. A story can be written without any deliberate symbol and the cigars are just cigars.

    Okay, but take the simplest possible story: Bill wants Bob's money. Bill shoots Bob and picks Bob's pockets. Bill get's stuck with an HIV infected needle Bob had in his pocket. Bill dies of pneumonia three years later.

    Is there a moral? You could argue both ways, but the very fact that I had Bill die in the end implies the moral that we shouldn't kill and steal. But if a moral is decided on shortly after selecting a theme, it will help guide the story creation and make for a more cohesive story.

    Thanks for your input.
     

Share This Page