A.  The story in literary fiction

Stories are told for many reasons—information, pride, teaching, rendering, warning, entertainment, intimidation.  In its basic form, a story starts, something happens, and the story ends.  But authors of literary fictional stories have more to consider.  The literary fictional story builds on the evolution of the story from Greek poetic narratives, Biblical stories, Greek stage drama, medieval sung tales, folk tales, and the development of the written novel and short fiction from the eighteenth century to today.

Actually, written words are an awkward way to tell a story—and it is hard to do it well.  But the successful literary story gives the reader special benefits of enjoyment and memorability, and it provokes thought at levels no other form of storytelling does.

A literary story is neither a memoir that tells the truth of what happened, nor genre fiction, such as mystery, romance, detective, or science fiction, that must restrict itself to precise reader expectations.  Literary stories emerge from the author’s imagination, with strong characters who drive the plot and involve the reader.  The literary story is an art form that should be preserved and allowed to evolve; it is created in the universe of imagination and provides maximum enjoyment and enlightenment for the reader.  It stands alone.

This manual is dedicated to the creation of a great literary story that provides enjoyment and enlightenment for the literary reader and contributes to our literary heritage.

B.  The essence of a great storyteller

Writers please readers by telling stories that are enjoyable and memorable.  To be memorable, a story must have some emotional and intellectual impact.  When a great story is finished, readers believe nothing in their lives will ever be exactly the way it was before they experienced the story.  This awe-filled awareness comes from a new recognition or reversal of thinking, or a feeling that emerges when characters face conflict in the story that they resolve in meaningful ways.

The true significance in a story is in the quality of the telling, not in the elevated style of the prose.

For good storytelling, stories must be structured to provide continuous and total enjoyment to the reader through unified character action.  The reader must be compelled to go on.

C.  Author’s attitudes: fine-tuning

To reach maximum potential, authors of fiction must discover who they are and why they write.  In many ways, the telling of fictional stories is a performance that can be damaged or destroyed by ill-conceived attitudes about writing.