Just for Fun

What Makes a Good Story?

Here’s a typical scene that takes place in our house…

Danny and I will have a night off or maybe a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon before the kids get home from school and I’ll say, “Want to make popcorn and watch something?”

“Sure, you choose.”

“I’m making the popcorn. You pick something out. I don’t care what we watch.”

He looks at me like I’ve lost my mind and responds, “No way! You hate everything I ever turn on. Either you choose or we do something else.”

He takes the remote and literally puts it in my hand. I give in and proceed to watch the previews of about a dozen movies before turning off the tv. “Looks like they haven’t made anything good this year,” I call over my shoulder, to which he rolls his eyes and starts thinking of a new plan.

Danny calls me his story snob. I love good storytelling which also creates some pretty high expectations when I watch a movie or a read a book. Over the years, Danny has tried to figure out what it is I’m looking for. He likes details so it’s not enough for him to know that I don’t like something, he wants to know why.

For the fun of it, I thought I’d share my list with you. See what you agree/disagree with and if there is anything you might add.

  1. Purpose

I want to know the story is taking me somewhere. It can’t just be entertainment for entertainment’s sake. There needs to be some depth or I feel like I’m wasting my time.

My only concession is superhero movies. Throw a lot of action together with some witty lines and intriguing super powers and we’ll buy tickets.

2. Believability

You might think I watch all the feel good movies after my first point but I actually don’t. The problem is that cheesy lines make my skin crawl like I’m trapped in a glass box full of spiders. I. CAN’T. HANDLE. IT.

I’m not talking about fantasy or science fiction. The setting and plot can be on the crazy side but the characters have to act like real people.

3. Intrigue

I’m the person who continually guesses where the plot is going. What really drives my husband crazy is that I will talk about all the different ways the plot should have developed if I’m not satisfied with the ending. It’s not that I need a ton of crazy twists and turns but I don’t want to be able to leave the room and have it not actually matter when I return.

4. Relatability

The best stories have characters that I can identify with. They don’t have to look or dress or have anything in their world that is the same as me but I have to be able to feel what they feel. If the story doesn’t zoom in close enough for me to empathize on some level then I usually turn it off before it is even half over.

5. Inspiration

I read a lot of non-fiction that challenges me to grow and gives me tools to do it. A good story can accomplish the same thing with more impact because it grabs our emotions and paints a vivid picture. Give me characters who overcome great odds, dig down deep and discover more inside than they knew, or wake up to the realization that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Tell me a story that will set my soul on fire.

That’s my list. Now you know my secrets. For the record, I will be at Beauty and the Beast when it comes out because Belle is a princess with a library. It feels right. Besides, I love Tale As Old As Time (and this version, sang by four-year-old Claire Ryann, was actually filmed right here in Spokane).

Your turn, what do you look for in a story?