Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Makes a Story?

The other day I was rattling off to my husband my favorite books of 2013. These weren’t necessarily the ones I expected to be my favorites and some I knew would never become best sellers. But they were books that spoke to me and lingered in my mind for days afterwards.

So what makes a story become a great story?
A picture book I love reading to my students, THE BEST STORY by Eileen Spinelli, really hits the arrow into the bull’s eye. The character in this story tries to bring in all the elements of great storytelling:
·         Humor
·         Romance
·         Action
·         Heartbreak

In the end, the girl realizes her story is horrible. She’s trying to put together all of those elements and it only becomes a jumbled mess. Finally her mom speaks up and tells her that the best story “comes from the heart.”

It sounds clichĂ©, but it really rang true to me. Because we can put all the correct words down and write exactly how the manual “How to Write a Book” tells us to, but if it doesn’t have heart, if it doesn’t hold the passion, then it is nothing more than a jumbled collection of words.

So today when you are sitting down to write, put aside all the head knowledge clamoring in your mind on how to write your next scene. Instead, let your heart speak to you and write those words because they are real and alive.
Christina Farley's debut YA, GILDED, releases spring 2014 by Skyscape/ Amazon Children's Publishing. She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC. She blogs and vlogs about writing and traveling, and is often found procrastinating on Twitter


  1. So true that these are the great parts of a story. And awesome that a picture book can include all of them with so few words.

  2. Thanks for the inspiring post, Christy! It makes me think about what's really important in my writing.

  3. Yes, heart! I think sometimes all the craft advice makes us freeze. Not that it isn't good, but it can be just another form of letting our inner editor loose too early.


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