CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD STORY
These characteristics help you recognize a good story.
First, a good story has a one or two admirable main
characters. Good stories are about people. Second, it
has a plot. That means the main character confronts and
overcomes an obstacle to achieve a desired goal. Third,
it has a resolution, which means the main character
solves the problem. And fourth, it begins and ends at a
specific time in a specific place.
A main character
The best stories tell about something that happened to
one or two people, not to a group. Stories about a
group, such as a team, should be told from the viewpoint
of one main character. The best stories also focus on
sympathetic characters—someone the reader can root for.
2. A Plot.
The deepest, oldest conflicts are few and simple: We
struggle against nature, against ourselves and against
each other. The tension between the way things are and
the way things ought to be creates the most compelling
and powerful stories.
“Rising to the Challenge”
"Failure to Achievement"
"Chaos to Meaning"
“Saving the World”
“Love Conquers All”
3. A Resolution
The problem must have a resolution, or it won’t fly with
readers. A “resolution” doesn’t necessarily mean a
perfect or happy solution. It simply means the central
character figures out a way to deal with it. Sometimes
the resolution means the central character simply
accepts an unhappy situation in life and decides to move
on to other things.
4. Chronology—a beginning, middle and ending
A good story has anchors in real time and a real city or
town. It begins with a specific person at a specific
time and place and ends with a specific person at a
specific time and place. For example the story tells
what the main character did as he or she grew up in
Atlanta during the 1980s, went to college in Hawaii in
1995 and started her career in San Francisco in 2005.
A time-span means
the story begins at a particular time and ends at a
From chapter 13, “Writing Nonfiction Narratives” in
Magazine Writing: Action, Angle and Anecdotes, 3rd.
edition by David E. Sumner and Holly G. Miller
Last update: Jan. 1, 2016