Writing & Publishing Tips: What is Story by Catherine E. McLean

Posted May 16th, 2014 in My Features, Writing and Publishing Tips / 21 comments

Welcome to my feature, Writing & Publishing Tips. You’ll be seeing this new feature between twice to four times a month. Here, writers and readers alike can learn firsthand knowledge about writing and publishing from various authors (and occasionally me). I hope you enjoy, and never hesitate to ask questions.  


by Catherine E. McLean

Many writing experts and authors have definitions of what a story is, but I once came across the shortest version of all: A story is about someone going on a journey.

Packed into those few words is quite a bit of drama. That’s because readers are most satisfied when they can become one with—  and root for— that “someone going on a journey.”

Now notice that the phrase starts with “someONE.” Just one someone. Not two. Not three. But ONE. That someone is known as the protagonist. The journey that protagonist takes is also a struggle with “an antagonist” who could very well be a true villain. However, “an antagonist” just might be the protagonist’s own self, Mother Nature, aliens, creatures, or other complicating characters.

So, what is the protagonist’s journey? That journey can be summarized into: heart-threatening (love or loss of love), life-threatening (kill or be killed), or psychologically threatening (thought provoking dilemmas or terrors).

Included with the journey is a starting point, The Beginning, and the journey will come to The Ending. The beginning is the “inciting incident” that kicks things off, forcing the protagonist to go on the journey. The Ending can be reduced to: satisfying (upbeat and positive), unsatisfying (downbeat and negative), acceptable as the only possible outcome, or open-ended (where the reader decides the ending).

A journey will also include a setting (the “road traveled”) and a “time frame.” A story’s setting may be one particular room or place or it might cover miles or continents, or even star systems. As to time frames? They might last a few highly-charged minutes, but other journeys will have time lines that run hours, days, months, or years. In the case of saga’s, the time may cover generations or centuries.

As a storyteller-author knows, “someone’s journey” includes The Hero’s Journey or The Character’s Arc. If romance is involved, then there’s The Romance Journey. There are also Quests and Rescues among the thirty-six Master Plots for journeys.

Of course, all of the above elements must be skillfully woven into a really good tale about someone going on a journey. Easier said then done. That’s because writing fiction takes knowledge and mastery of, by my last count, one hundred and forty-four elements. Sadly, too many writers would rather write than learn. But here’s the thing: talent will take them only so far. It is craft that enhances talent. Best of all, craft can be learned. Oh, right. Learning is hard work. Writing is fun stuff. Just write, write, write . . .

Now, take a moment to think about this: if you wanted to learn to swim, would you go and jump into the deep end of a pool?

Not a good idea you say? Well, you’re right. You’re more likely to drown then learn to swim. Instead, you would likely start in the shallow end of the pool with people who know how to swim, or you would take lessons from professionals at the pool’s facility. You’d start off learning to float, advance to swim strokes, and if you really liked swimming, were good at it, then you would take more lessons to learn breaststrokes and butterfly strokes. In other words, your talent for swimming would be boosted tremendously. Why, you might even dream of swimming with the big guys in the Olympics.

As a writer, it’s the same thing. Don’t jump into the pool of writing, floundering, drowning in the sea of millions of other writers publishing on the Internet. Take time to become someone who has mastered craft and become a true storyteller. Be a someone who can grab and hold a reader’s attention and take them on a fantastic journey.

Author Bio
Catherine E. McLean is an author, writing instructor, and workshop presenter. Writing as C. E. McLean, her short stories have appeared in hard-copy and online magazines and anthologies. ADRADA TO ZOOL, an anthology of her short stories, was published in November 2013. Her novels include KARMA AND MAYHEM (paranormal fantasy romance) and JEWELS OF THE SKY (“women’s starscape fiction/futuristic-adventure). Just released for writers is “Terrific Titles–an all-inclusive guide to creating story titles,” which is available at http://tinyurl.com/TerrificTitles

Author WebsiteWebsite for Writers | Blog for WritersFan-Followers site | Linked-InPinterest | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads  

Check out Catherine’s book!
In this paranormal-fantasy-romance, Tienan is a warlock and a lawman determined to solve a series of diabolical murders. An incident in his youth gave him a terror of death and made him fear his birthright soul, an energy symbiote called a veed which gives Tienan extraordinary skills. Hosting that veed has also contributed to Tienan’s failed relationships with women and convinced him true love doesn’t exist.

Janay is an ex-militia woman down on her luck who is haunted by personal demons, and real ones. When she rescues Tienan’s brother, Tienan considers her a gutsy but semi-deranged commando. She’s audacious and unconventional, but with all she’s been through in her life, it rankles that she still believes in true love.

So can Tienan accept and trust in his love for Janay, embrace the power needed to wield an Executioner’s Katana, and defeat a triad of murderous witches intent on immortality? ~ Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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21 Responses to “Writing & Publishing Tips: What is Story by Catherine E. McLean”

  1. Melliane

    it’s a really interesting post, to know what a story is for an author and how to manage to write it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. deborahjayauthor.com

    Great overview of story construction. I find it so frustrating starting a promising book only to find that the author doesn’t understand how to tell a coherent story with a beginning, a middle and an end – particularly an end!
    I hope many new writers will take note of this piece.
    Must say, though, that I’d like to see that 144 element list of yours…

  3. Catherine

    Jennifer, thanks for having me as a guest. To those who posted comments, I wish you all the best with your writing and learning the art and craft of fiction and storytelling.

  4. Olivia-Savannah

    I have been working on my writing skills for years now, and am still strong at it. I won’t give up and just keep on pushing and trying 😀

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