The BookWorm's Library

Definition of a Story

Paul Darcy Boles found the best description of a story in a quote by Stephen Vincent Benet: "Something that can be read in an hour and remembered for a lifetime." (Boles 5) Unfortunately, this description hinges upon the notion that reading is necessary for the definition of a story. Writing and reading are relatively new inventions in the history of humankind, while the telling of stories has been with humankind since the beginning of language.

Another definition for the idea of a story is found on Richard M. Dionne's web page What is a Story?. Dionne is conducting a self-directed study exploring "the narrative form by using a hypertext journal." (Dionne Journal 1) He finds a definition for story in M.H. Abrams's A Glossary of Literary Terms: "[a story] organizes the action, thought, and interaction of its characters into the artful pattern of a plot." (Dionne Story 1) Dionne does not except this definition since it depends on the traditional narrative form, the linear method of rising action-climax-denouement. (Dionne Narrative 1) Because another object of this self-directed study is "to recognize the non-linearity of his own thinking patterns," Dionne has problems with definitions that rest on linear development. (Dionne Journal 1) He asks if a story must be defined by its form. Oral stories are not always linear, hypertext fiction is not always linear. (Dionne Story 1)

This is the crux of the argument. If people cannot agree on the definition of a story, how can they decide on what is not a story because of the form that is used to tell it.