What is a Story? Sheridan Dastrup

When I was asked what constitutes a story, my mind went blank. What is a story? It was like being asked what does the word “the” mean. Before the readings, all I had was circular reasoning that basically came down to “a story is a story”. When challenged by the first reading to actively define what a story is, I had decided that everything was a story … then I read on and agreed that the definition that I had come up with was too broad and that there had to be more of a foundation than “everything”.

There was always the definition that was given in elementary school: a story has a beginning, middle, and end. The biggest issue with this definition is that it is only the bare bones. It doesn’t say anything about the characters, settings, character building, or any other details that are commonly put into a story to bring it to life. Because of how necessary those elements are, the reading defined a story as “a detailed, character-based narration of a character’s struggles to overcome obstacles and reach an important goal”. This definition encompasses everything that a good story needs to be brought to life.

The reason that this definition fits “story” so well is because of the detail put into it. There are five parts that make a good story: character, intent, actions, struggles, and details. The definition itself puts all of these things together. A story is about a character’s progression through the struggles and actions they take. When you go through the motions of a story, you want a character that you can relate to (whether that be by their good or bad characteristics). In order to relate to a character, you must have the details that make them real and to make their story real and relatable. Every part of this definition of a story encompasses what a story should be.


One thought on “What is a Story? Sheridan Dastrup

  1. meaganmthornton January 20, 2015 / 4:54 am

    I really liked your analysis of the reading. I like how you explained the difference between a “good” story and a “bad” story. There is definitely a significance between the two. I, too, learned that stories have a beginning, middle, and end. That’s about as far as the definition ever went for me until his reading.

    I have a hard time believing that in order to be a “story,” a narrative needs to have a character that overcomes obstacles or trials. I guess I haven’t looked at it from this perspective. I need to start reading and watching stories more closely to see if they fit. Obviously, everyone is much more compelled emotionally to connect to stories when they do have conflicts and obstacles.

    I think of the silly little stories we’d tell each other as kids. The phrase we always used to use was, “…and suddenly, out pops a wolf!” or something of that nature. There indeed was always some sort of obstacle or conflict. Great analysis!

    – Ben Holland


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