What makes a story good?

Learner.org proposes that the following ingredients are needed.

“Literature gives order to human experience. Literature explores cultural values. Literature demands an emotional response from the reader,” and finally, “Like a great journey, literature can show you things you have never seen before and will never forget.”

Don’t these requirements for a good story also sound like the recipe for a good life?

It’s a happy person who knows where he belongs, is strong in his beliefs, interacts deeply with those around him and has experiences that stretch his imagination.

But there is so much to see and do on this planet that you could never experience all of it in one lifetime. That is where the usefulness of stories comes into focus.

A newspaper can tell you instantly what Bangladeshis did yesterday. A poem by Robert Frost can stop you in the tracks of your busy life long enough to examine your feelings; a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. can give you strength.

Stories can be fuel, roadmaps or solace depending on the needs of the reader.

There are many different kinds of stories out there and everyone learns from them, even those who “don’t like to read.”

Like the urban legend that teaches us to check the backseats of our cars for axe murderers when we’re parked in deserted lots at night.

Then there are the tales that get passed down through the families like hand-me-down clothes, bits of wisdom that get passed along so that future generations can have better lives.

We’ve all heard about the long, hard hours our grandparents put in so their kids could have better lives, or the long walks our parents endured each day without complaint just to get to school.

Whether they are urban legends, family histories, myths, poems, novels, news articles or history textbooks, stories are important for many reasons.

They can be exhilarating or informative. They can also be psychologically necessary.

It was recently reported in the New York Times that mental health professionals believe people construct their identities from the stories around them.

People also use narratives to fix their problems and plan their futures. How people interpret stories around them influences how they relate to others.

On a larger scale, stories shape nations as the myriad of rags to riches tales produced so many self-made men the cliché is considered to be a quintessential American experience.


About genemyers

Gene Myers is a New Jersey poet, music journalist and columnist who learned to walk twice. His weekly column is called The Joy of Life. He was awarded first place in Arts and Entertainment Writing by The New Jersey Press Association.
This entry was posted in articles, beliefs, family histories, history, human experience, imagination, Literature, myths, news, novels, poems, stories, textbooks, The Joy of Life, urban legends and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What makes a story good?

  1. snowbirdpress says:

    Hi, Gene… I think the word “journey” captures it best. We’re all on this incredible journey in life and a good story give us hints of what the journey could be, is, was, or may be … things to ponder along the way… make it relevent to the journey and it will find a home.

    There’s an old saying the GOD made man because he loves a good story!

  2. snowbirdpress says:

    Please forgive the typos.

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