Thursday, December 14, 2006

Elements of Good Story, Part 3

Here's the last few items on the list. I'd certainly like some feed-back! Would you add anything else? What would you put in a story?

Good Laughter

One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Example: Anything by P.G. Wodehouse


There’s no point in reading a story when you can guess the ending in the first few pages. I really, really, really don’t want to know the ending before I get there. If only I could apply that to my own life story!

Examples: O. Henry’s short stories, most of Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries.


Story-world is nice for a season, but I can’t live there forever. The best stories inspire an attitude of thanksgiving to God and make me eager to go out and experience life to the fullest.

Examples: The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Elements of Good Story, Part 2

Continuing on with the list...

Quality craftsmanship

It is appalling how many books there are that, despite the good intentions of the author lose their effectiveness because of a weak grasp of the fundamentals of good writing. I try to look past atrocious sentence structure and repetitive vocabulary, but I confess that there have been many times that I’ve been tempted to get out my red ink pen!

Sad to say, the worst examples that I have seen have come from modern Christian writers. I wonder how much this low standard of excellence has damaged our testimony in the eyes of the world.

Vital description

I’m not looking for superfluous page fillers, but rather for descriptions that are important stage setting material. Every word is vital to understanding what comes next.

Example: Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Choice words

My favorite books contain a large selection of words, set together in deliciously surprising ways. P.G. Wodehouse is a master of the unexpected metaphor and simile.

Squeaky Clean

Am I the only one who doesn’t like coming away from a book feeling the immediate need to rinse my brain out?


I love an author who can give me a glimpse of the beauty of life, even in the small things. I’ve found beauty in the oddest places, most unexpectedly in an essay on the contents of his pockets by G.K. Chesterton.
These odd moments of discovery are a major reason why I keep reading. I know I’ve found one when I feel like smiling till I burst!

Examples: Tremendous Trifles by G.K. Chesterton, Nearby by Elizabeth Yates, many passages in the works of L.M. Montgomery.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Elements of Good Story, Part 1

This series of posts has been a long time coming, I know. So sorry for the delay!

When I wrote about “Good Story” a while back, I asked for input about the things you like in a story, as well as promising to give my thoughts. I’ve come up with a list of twelve things that I feel are necessary to a good story. Certainly, not every story has all these characteristics—I have yet to find the ideal story—but my favorites embody many of them.

So, on to the list:

A framework of a Biblical worldview

The good guys win and the bad guys get what they deserve. Tragedy isn’t the end of the story, except for the lost. I want none of this raw “realism” with its continual struggle and death. The philosophy of the “survival of the fittest” is pure fantasy. In life’s story, the Christian looks forward to the happy ending.

Believable characters

I need to be able to identify with at least some of the protagonists in a story. In some way, the author must convince me that within the pages of Story-world, his characters are alive. I don’t want cut and dried stereotypes or people who have life down pat.

Characters who grow

Characters who don’t grow might as well be dead. Life isn’t static, and stories shouldn’t be either. I want to see characters that struggle, persevere, and overcome, because then I am inspired to do so as well.

Examples: They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth, Brave Interval by Elizabeth Yates.

Applicability without preaching

I can only stomach so much of “and the moral of this is…” I applaud the author who realizes that most readers are possessed of a brain! However, there are some instances when the spelling out of a moral can be appropriate. The fable and fairy tale come to mind.

Agree or disagree? Have something to add?
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