So we’re half-way through Share-a-Story month 2019, and this year’s theme is travel.
You might think that travel only means getting on a plane or a ship or a train to go some place other than where you usually live: but actually, whenever you read or tell a story, you’re also taking a journey. You can explore different ways to see the world, taking a journey without physically going anywhere. Many stories are about journeys, inner or outer.
So what makes a story, anyway?
Well, you can’t have a story without characters, although they don’t always have to be human. Most stories are about a main character, or protagonist, their friends, their enemies, and some kind of challenge they are facing.
And who is the story about? Who are their friends? Who are their enemies, or foes? What is the challenge they are facing?
Think about your favourite book and apply all the questions above.
In most stories, you also have a plot: a series of things that happen, again, whether they’re out in the physical world, in our world or another world, or inside the character’s own psyche. The plot usually takes place on a timeline; although some stories don’t have any plot at all, and others have way too much plot and hardly any characterization.
Something else that happens in most books is character development. The protagonist’s personality at the beginning of the story may often have changed dramatically by the end, as they have faced a challenge, and won or lost; learned a lesson about themselves, life or other people; or gained a new skill or a new way of looking at the world. While their basic characteristics may remain the same, the way they behave, or the way they express themselves, or the way they relate to other people may have changed dramatically.
So we have plot and people. We also need a place where the story can happen, again, whether it’s inside the character’s heads, or in the “real” world. And in some cases, the place can itself almost become a character, whether it’s a whole land, like Narnia, or a smaller space, like a building or even a room.
In Goldilocks and the Three Bears
, the house is like a character. The Gruffalo
takes you with him to his woodland domain. And in the Very Hungry Caterpillar
(who, by the way, has a VERY SPECIAL birthday next month), the place where the story happens is the leaf where he pupates - until he’s ready to become the most beautiful butterfly.
(I hope that hasn’t spoiled the plot too much for you. It’s still worth reading the book as it’s just so much fun. And don’t forget it’s available in many other languages as well as in English. You can even get Kamishibai storytelling cards so everyone can join in the fun.)