YW Workshop – Part 2
Types of Stories
by Julie A. Serroul
Discussion on Part 1 of the Workshop:
In Part 1 of the workshop we discussed why you would want to tell a story. You were asked to think about how you felt when you heard someone else tell a story. Most people feel whatever the storyteller is trying to make them feel – that is, if the storyteller does a good job of the telling. If it is a scary story, they feel frightened, if it is a funny story, they are happy and have a good laugh, and so on. So, when you think back to how you felt when hearing a story, no doubt you felt a lot of emotions, but also you probably felt relaxed – like someone else was driving a car and you were just along for a very exciting ride.
You were also asked to think about how you felt while telling a story to a group of listeners. You’re not the passenger anymore. Now you’re the driver. That’s both exciting and scary at the same time. You feel nervous as all eyes focus on you, waiting to see what is going to happen next in your story. But you are also excited for that very reason. It’s your story! You get to decide what happens next, what your listeners are feeling as you take them for a ride. They are your captive audience. It makes you feel powerful and in control. Pretty wonderful isn’t it? It’s just as exciting to tell a story on paper – you may have to wait a little longer to see how your readers feel about your story, but it’s still awesome to watch people’s eyes light up as they tell you how your story made them feel!
How you feel when you read a story, or how you make others feel when they read your story, is part of determining what Type of Story it is.
Part 2 – Types of Stories:
Once you’ve given some thought to the types of stories you like to read, and perhaps made a list of them, ask yourself – what category do they fall under? Fiction or Non-Fiction.
Non-Fiction is based on fact or true events — actual happenings. Just how factual it has to be depends upon what type of Non-Fiction it is. Most Non-Fiction has to be fact — researched, verified, hard fact. There are a few types of Non-Fiction where you are allowed to dramatize the events, somewhat, to make it a little more exciting or interesting. But, for the most part, it has to be based on fact or your opinion of the facts.
- Examples of Non-Fiction: Personal essays or journals; Newspaper/magazine articles; Real-life adventure stories, etc.
Fiction is based on pure imagination. What is written has never actually happened. In fiction you are not restricted to “the facts”. In fiction you are not restricted to anything at all. You are free to imagine anything your mind can dream up, and then put onto paper. Fiction is very free, but it is also a little scary. At least with Non-Fiction you have something to follow, something solid to transfer onto paper. Non-Fiction is a little like the fill-in-the-blanks part of a school test, whereas Fiction is like the essay part. Some people prefer one, some the other.
- Examples of Fiction: Short-stories; novels; short-shorts; poetry, etc.
There are so many different types of fiction stories able to be written that it makes it easier for both the readers and the publishers to have them divided into different categories or genres. When deciding what genre a story falls into, you have to look at it as a whole and see what story type or genre jumps out at you. Just because a story has a funny part or two in it, that doesn’t make it a Comedy Story. It has to have humour here and there all the way through. Not necessarily slapstick or physical comedy, it may just be sarcasm or dry humour/irony that is dripped throughout the story. Whatever the style of humour, it has to be heavy on the smiles and/or chuckles.
Also, just because two characters in the story are boyfriend and girlfriend, that doesn’t make it a Romance Story. However, if their relationship becomes part of the focus of the novel and it becomes important to you that they get/stay together, then it is closer to the mark. That being said, everyone knows that a popular story genre contains both of these elements — the Romantic-Comedy Story. As a writer, you don’t have to worry about these things when you write your stories – just write whatever is interesting to you and then try to fit it into the right box later. You need to know this when you try to publish your stories, so that you don’t send your Horror Story to a magazine that only publishes Mystery Stories. But really, it’s more the editor/publisher’s concern than it is the writer’s.
- Fiction Story Types or Genres: Horror; Mystery; Romance; Science Fiction; Comedy: Suspense/Thriller; Fantasy; Mainstream/Literary; etc.
The biggest tip you could receive about deciding what you would like to write, would be to first think about what you like to read, second read everything in that type of writing that you can get your hands on, and third — write, don’t think about writing — don’t wonder if you can — just do it. Like the famous Yoda said “Do, or do not – there is no try.”
- Name some stories that you have read – What genre/story type would they fall into?
- Remember, some stories fall into more than one genre, and that’s fine. If you have a terrible time deciding where your favorite story may fall, email the title, author and a paragraph or two telling me what the story is about, and I’ll see if I can help.
In Part 3 of the Young Writer’s Workshop we’ll start with a review of this exercise and pigeon-hole some popular youth novels and stories into genres for you – maybe some of your favorite titles from your own list created for the exercise above will be on it. Then we’ll begin to examine the Elements of a Story – starting with your Setting.Go on to Part 3
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