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What Makes a Good Story?

Amazing freehand art by Gao Guangyan

Amazing freehand art by Gao Guangyan

Drifting through the ether of the interwebs, I’ve come across numerous accounts of what makes a good story. Here. Here. And here, for example. Commentors weave common answers related to plot, characterization, diction and so forth into the ongoing discussion. Along with techniques, style and the story itself, the reader’s predilections also determine what makes a good story. Those who devour mysteries have different criteria than consumers of inspirational writing whose criteria differ from fans of pulp fiction. And that’s okay. In fact, it is better than okay. I think that’s the part I love about reading. I have a pretty good handle on what I like – characters that surprise, world building with depth of time and geography, action, to name a few – but I also find that my willingness to try new works in different genres is exciting in its own right.

I commented earlier in Writing Standards, my post about my perception that it can be difficult to feel like your writing, your story, is different from others when you start using the conventional wisdoms of writing as your guide more than the story itself. I’ve read thrillers by many different authors and, after a while, they do start to run together. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading those, it just means I just don’t hunger for those kinds of books like I do for books such as Blade of Tyshalle, or Game of Thrones, or The Darkness that Comes Before. And there it is: I like fantasy of the epic sort. So not only do I need a good story, but also I need a certain elements that resonate long after I’ve finished the book. What makes a good story for you, the reader?

Though I’ve run off on a bit of a tangent here, my takeaway as a writer is to keep the audience in mind (in this case, it’s me). If I’m not enjoying what I’m writing, then my ideal reader probably won’t either.