What is a Story?
A story or narrative is a connected series of events told through words (written or spoken), imagery (still and moving), body language, performance, music, or any other form of communication. You can tell a story about anything, and the events described can be real or imaginary; covering both fiction and nonfiction; and leaving no topic, genre, or style untouched. There are stories about all things and all times; past, present and future. Whenever you’re telling somebody about a series of events, you are telling a story, no matter what the subject nor when they occurred. As such, stories are of great value to human culture, and are some of the oldest, most important parts of life.
Aside from being a part of every single type of literature, stories are at the foundation of creativity and part of just about everything we do, particularly when it comes to entertainment, recording, and reporting of any form. So, they are shared in all different ways—from oral and written storytelling or journalism; to TV, film, and radio; to fine arts, stage performance and music; and so on.
In one form or another, stories have been a part of human culture and society for thousands of years—likely since man has existed! They’re found in the past and present of people from every culture, religion, and ethnicity; in every region and language. So, all of that considered, the concept of a story is actually a bit difficult to fully cover or describe. Some would say that life is made up of a series of never-ending stories. From a simple commute to school or work, to all the events of our lives, everything has a story.
II. Examples of Story
Here are a few examples of the same story told different ways.
You can sometimes tell a story in just one line:
The girl met the love of her life and lived happily until the day she died.
Or, it could be more detailed:
When the girl was 22, she met the love of her life. It was her last day of college, and when she saw him, she knew he was the one she was going to be with forever—and the boy knew the same. After graduation, the boy and the girl ran away together to elope. They lived together happily for the rest of their days.
Now really, even the second example is just a tiny story. We can tell it in all kinds of ways and of all different lengths, from one line to a series of novels. After all, if the couple lived an entire lifetime together, there would be countless events that together make up the story of their life.
III. Types of Stories
The range of types of stories is pretty much endless. For that reason, this article will divide stories into two very broad categories—fiction and nonfiction. Within each there are a huge number of possibilities in terms of subject matter, genre, type of delivery (oral, written, performance), narrative style, and so on.
Fiction stories are based on made-up or imaginary events. There are dozens upon dozens of types of fiction stories and genres, including but not at all limited to:
- Fairy tales
- Adventure stories
- Historical fiction
- Love stories
- Horror stories
- Ghost stories
- Bedtime stories
Non-fiction stories can cover any kind of real-life event or experience. But, they often fall into these kinds of categories:
- Historical events
- News and current events
- Biographies and autobiographies
- Memories and experiences
- Cultural history
- Crime and justice
- Travel stories
- Survivor stories
- War stories
IV. Importance of Story
Stories are, have been, and always will be an absolutely essential part of human culture. Stories are how we learn about each other, our past, and our cultures. Whether they are created for entertainment or to recount a real-life event—new stories are literally being lived, told, and created every second of every day. So, even if there was only one story for every person who ever lived, that would still be billions of stories in the world; it would be impossible to measure how many have existed.
V. Examples of Story in Literature
As literature is, first and foremost, written storytelling, there are limitless examples of stories in literature; across every style and genre of writing. We’ve been writing down stories for thousands of years—truth be told, written stories have taught us most of what we know about mankind’s history and culture! That said, here are a few examples:
Author Shel Silverstein is known for the quirky and memorable stories he tells through poetry. Here is “Masks” from his collection of poems Everything On It:
As you’ve just read, Silverstein tells a whole story in just eight short lines of poetry. Tons of poems do the same in even fewer lines. Either way, you can see that a story definitely doesn’t have to be lengthy.
A fairy tale is a classic type of story about imaginary events. When we want to tell a fairy tale, we often start with the famous words “Once upon a time,” which adds a more whimsical feel to what we are about to share. Here’s an example from Rapunzel of Grimm’s Fairy Tales:
Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who had long, but to no avail, wished for a child. Finally the woman came to believe that the good Lord would fulfill her wish. Through the small rear window of these people’s house they could see into a splendid garden that was filled with the most beautiful flowers and herbs. The garden was surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared enter, because it belonged to a sorceress who possessed great power and was feared by everyone.
The fairy tale’s intro is just a small part of the story, telling us about the beginning and a bit about the characters who will be the focus.
Of course, newspapers and magazines are filled with stories. As you know, a news story reports on real events that have happened. Here’s a passage from a CNN Tech article:
There’s no other shopping bonanza quite like Alibaba’s Singles Day, which has once again smashed records. The tech giant reported $17.8 billion in sales during this year’s frenzy, breaking the record of $14.3 billion set in 2015. That’s more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
Reading a news story gives you an update on events that are happening throughout the world. Here, Tech Crunch writes about China’s 11.11 Singles’ Day, the world’s biggest shopping event. The story specifically reports on the money that Alibaba made in their latest Singles’ Day event.
VI. Examples of Story in Popular Culture
Stories are a part of every type of today’s media, from TV, film, and radio; to what gets shared on social media platforms; music; stage performance; art exhibitions, celebrity magazines—you name it, and you’ll find stories. But here are a few examples of stories in popular film and TV culture, told through performance, music, and animation.
Cult-classic fantasy film The Neverending Story is about a story that goes on as long as time exists. It unfolds in real time as the reader is reading it, who in this case is a boy named Bastian. But it’s soon revealed that he has more of a stake in the story than he ever imagined…
Bastian finally realizes that he’s a part of the story he’s been reading, so in a way, it’s actually about him. So long as he keeps reading, the story will continue.
Everybody knows Will Smith’s retro anthem “Prince of Bel Air,” the theme song to the hit ’90s sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In the show’s intro, Smith uses this rap to fill the audience in on his backstory:
The song quickly reviews the story of his past, which serves as an intro to what the show is about. He recounts the events that led to his life being turned “upside down”; the story of how he became the Prince of Bel Air.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermione reads the story of the Three Brothers, which is part of the wizarding world.
The Story of the Three Brothers is actually a story within a story—Harry Potter’s story. Rowling tries to make the wizarding world seem as real as possible, and adding background is a big part of that. By sharing stories that her characters read, she is giving evidence of the wizarding world’s storytelling and literary culture…and perhaps even some history.
Stories are a major part of every aspect of our lives, from what we read to what we do to what we talk and think about. They’re also crucial to our understanding of history and culture, and have been recorded and passed on since man’s earliest days. Stories have always been and will always be at the core of not only literature, but life!