Preparing for a Masters Forum
How to Write a Story
What is a story?
In its broadest sense, a story is an account of actions in a time sequence. It's the plot that orders the actions and brings causality to the events. Because of plot, stories have a beginning, middle, and end, and can interest, amuse, educate, or even incite someone to action through the particular presentation of events.
Good stories make us want to know what happens next. They introduce a conflict or a problem to be solved, bring us to a point of crisis, and then present the solution to the problem. The best ones build suspense and excitement as they go on, and very often use everyday, conversational language, the language you might use when talking to a friend.
What isn't a story?
It's not a report or a summary; it isn't filled with headings, or bar charts, or graphs; and it isn't a philosophy, although stories can often be used to illustrate one.
What stories are worth telling?
Those that share something important to you, that carry a lesson you think others should hear.
What doesn't belong in a story?
First of all, untruths. Although fudging a bit to emphasize a point might not hurt, if you stray too far from the truth your story loses credibility. Also, too many (or too few) details don't belong. You should keep the story simple and short — focused on a single event — while still giving your reader enough detail to understand.
How do I get started?
Remember that the story begins as a draft only. You don't have to get it right the first time, or even the fifth. You can revise. You might try telling the story to someone else before you actually write it down, just to get your storytelling juices flowing. Once you're ready to start writing, an outline might help you include everything in the story that is necessary.
Try the following:
- Title — Begin with a title if you have one. However, it isn't necessary for getting started. Often it is easier to find a title after you have completed the writing. Your title should tell the reader what your story is about. Try to find a clever and meaningful phrase — this will help capture your reader's attention.
- Context — Tell the reader the specific circumstances and environment of the story. Include your relationship to the events. This sets the stage for your story.
- Problem — Because you don't want to lose your reader with too many details, move quickly to the problem. Explain the issue that had to be resolved and what caused it to be a problem in the first place.
- Possible Solutions and the One Selected — If you can, tell the reader what other solutions you rejected and why, as well as what caused you to choose your solution. The rationale behind the chosen solution, as well as why you rejected the alternatives, can be very beneficial information for the reader.
- Consequences...of implementing the solution you chose — What happened when you did what you did?
- Conclusion — Tell the reader what you learned from this experience. Although you should avoid being too didactic, you do want to be certain that your story's message is clear.