What Makes a Good Story?

Every story – no matter what the medium – needs the essentials: characters, a setting, a beginning, middle, end, plot line, etc.

A good story is one where those essentials interact together seamlessly, playing together, to bring you into the story world.

Depending on the medium, there are more essentials that may need to be incorporated into the storytelling process. For an audio story, strong audio clips and natural sounds are a must. For a visual story, take what’s needed for an audio story and add effective video into the process.

Natural sounds are super important. They help bring the audience into the world of the story. This video below shows a few good examples of how natural sounds, combined with strong visuals, help turn  basic, every-day stories, into great stories.

Natural sound helps create the setting and helps the reader get to know the characters on a different level. As an example, instead of just being told that someone is typing, a good story with natural sound would give you that sound. In a story that has no visual elements, natural sounds are extremely important, as mentioned above. Here’s an example of an award-winning audio story with great natural sound that aired at the Harrisburg, PA, radio station WITF-FM.

Written stories are a bit of a different animal. For some written stories, vivid pictures are a must. They can add a ton to the story. However, other times they’ll take away from it. Some stories – usually good stories – can pull the reader into the world of the story through it’s words and the essentials. In my opinion, many of the best written stories are the ones where you have to paint the picture yourself. Being able to construct an extremely detailed story world with the words on the page is an amazing feeling, and chances are you won’t be able to create one if the story just has the basics. How do the characters interact with the setting? Do they develop over time with the setting and plot line? If these intertwine, naturally it will be a better story.

I read Laura Hillenbrand’s novel Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption this summer, and months later I can still visualize the story world – all of the different parts of it. When reading it, I felt like I watching the events in real time from the inside of an invisible bubble. It’s an incredible story.

Unbroken is based on a true story, but thats the amazing thing about it. Stories don’t have to be fictional to be great. In fact, the stories that are based on true events and are believable often strike a chord with the reader. But if the basic essentials of the story don’t interact together and don’t paint a picture, the story might not end up being a good one.

So remember: all stories have a makeup of characters, setting, a timeline of events. Good stories twist them together to pull you into the story. The medium will dictate whether it’s natural sounds, vivid pictures, compelling videos, or incredible prose. But no matter what the medium is, you’ll feel like you’re in the story world.

Any story can be a good story if it’s told well. Telling it well is the hard part.

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