What’s the difference between a story and a narrative relating a series of events? Once upon a time, dear reader, I might have answered, “Causality.”Because it’s a basic truth I’ve discovered as a book coach and editor: if you have plot that’s basically episodic—this happens, then that, and then this thing over here—the single most effective thing you can do to make it feel like a real story is to introduce the element of causality in revision: this happened, and as a consequence, that happened, which then led to this. – (guest post by Susan DeFreitas.)
In a story, things happen for a reason. When they don’t, the narrative is often called a slice of life. Some writers specialize in relating a series of events that appear to have no relationship to each other. Some consider this avant-garde and sometimes it is and when it is the puzzle for the reader is finding the meaning in it.
I’ve never been a fan of an author’s random musings when they’re set down on a page and called fiction. DeFreitas suggests you really have a story, as opposed to doodling on a page, when the author includes “the protagonist’s internal issue or problem.” That’s basic, I think–what we learned in English 101 in college.
It’s worth bringing back into our conversations now because so many authors have run so far afield from the central parts of a story that they’ve lost the story. It may be cutting edge something or other, but it doesn’t answer the request, “Tell me a story.”