What makes a good story?

Is reading such a subjective point of view that there really is no such thing as a bad book?  This is a simple thought I’ve had about an hour ago that I’m surprised found legs inside of my imagination.  Is it the flow, strong deep characters, or the story itself? 

An interesting analogy to this would be that Tom Green movie Freddie Got Fingered that came out years ago.  Openly vilified by professionals and amateurs alike, for some reason, I ended up loving that movie possibly for all the reasons everyone else hated it.  Which is strange, considering that I never really dug his television show.  Anyways, I did a lot of soul searching on why exactly I loved this movie considering the vitriol it still receives to this day.  And then it hit me.  It was original.  That’s why.  It wasn’t a sequel, or based off a graphical novel, or an actual written novel.  No, it was written and produced by Tom Green.  A completely original work.  And now that I look back, that’s the reason why. 

As long as someone actually tries something different, then no matter how terrible the execution or content may be, at least the original creator is trying something different.  And I can respect that. 

So with that little rant being said, is it originality itself that makes a good story?  Something that’s never been tried or thought of before?  We can use another analogy if we want.  That if a novel is structured the same way as a big blockbuster movie, would that make it a terrible book?  What makes a good story?  When I get some followers, then maybe I can get some opinions in here. 

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “What makes a good story?

  1. Nina Kaytel

    For most movies no they cannot go from script to book. Why? A script is written to be put in a visual format thus some details are not in the narrative. They make books like this though and they are god awful.
    Originality is killed by bad writing. If the reader stumbles through a story because of grammatical mistakes and continuity errors, a dead voice, or sub-plots within sub-plots, ect., then it doesn’t matter if you have the coolest idea in the world. If the reader won’t read it ………

    My thoughts on the matter.

  2. “Daddy would you like some sausage, sausage.” I laughed my way through that movie (*cough* more than once). I enjoyed it because the first time through there was a surprise around every corner, and the second time through I knew what kind of crazy surprises were waiting around the corners.

    But I don’t think it’s “originality” necessarily that makes a good story. Well-executed originality can (see Charles Yu’s “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe,” Martin Amis’s “Time’s Arrow” or Mark Z. Danielewski “House of Leaves”), but so can stories inspired by the stories that came before them (see Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot,” all of Shakespeare’s works, and a million (or more) other books, plays, etc.). Originality for originality’s sake often falls flat. But you are right in that reading is so subjective that even the most awful of books can find at least one reader willing to defend it, because it hits one of that reader’s buttons–and it may (very likely) not even be a button that we typically include on the list of “is a story good?” It may not be that it was the strong characterization, the gripping plot, the playful prose or the unsettling atmosphere. It may be that that book had talking kittens, and the reader just loves anything with talking kittens in it.

    I think, in approaching writing, you can’t go wrong with making the effort to tell “a good story” per the usual guidelines: create characters whose goals and personalities drive the plot (Gord in Freddy Got Fingered wants to be an animator, and he’s weird), put obstacles in their way (the CEO of a major studio berates his work, his overbearing blue-collar father is on him to get a real job) and make the characters active in overcoming them (Gord does stuff that only Gord would do that eventually leads to him using his father as inspiration for a cartoon; he heads back down to Hollywood for another try and finds success)…while at the same time telling that story the way only you (with your unique brain, set of experiences and cultural input) can (whether that involves your main character masturbating a horse or not…).

  3. Lol. I love both of your replies. It kinda ties in with what I like to call the David Hasselhoff Effect. Where, one kind of person, place, or thing may be popular in one part of the world, but not so much in another.

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