Exploring Myself, Help For Writers, Ponderings, Uncategorized, Writing

The Value Of A Story

 December 29, 2009

By  CuylerC

What is the value of a story? How can you measure it’s worth? Maybe not it’s worth in money, but it’s worth measured by the impact it has on the reader.

I have realized that my stories don’t have much worth. They are shallow. I think the messages in my stories are almost unattainable. My stories are interesting for a younger audience who seek to find an adventure. I suppose they are worth something to younger people. People that haven’t quite matured and are fascinated by the adventures of a protagonist. Whether that be surviving battles, riding eagles, spying on orcs, or surviving harsh climates.

Maybe there are themes in my stories, but they aren’t something I intentionally put in there. My story “The Prairie Fire” I think is probably the best story I have written. Probably the only story I actually intended to have a message or theme behind the words. The theme of sacrifice, and love, and acceptance of what you are.

I suppose there are themes mostly of love for others in my other stories, but they don’t resound easily. They don’t jump from the page and grip at the hearts of the readers. A story with a theme that is strongly portrayed pulls tears from its audience, makes them think, changes them somehow.

I want to look again at the story of AVATAR. That movie is the best movie I have ever seen. After watching it I had to question my own self worth. I had to look in myself and tell myself that I am not a bad person, that I am a good person, that I must love who I am, and that I must take care of what I have and be grateful for it and to respect the other cultures of my world. Protect the history of our people.

The worth of AVATAR is so great, I think, that it will probably go down in history as one of the great movies of our time. In my article “The Creation of World Heroes” I talked about how heroes are made. They are made when pioneering takes place. Well AVATAR and it’s creator James Cameron pioneered the hearts of many people. Look on the internet at any review of this movie and you will see incredible responses to the movie.

How did James Cameron create such a masterpiece of art worth more then the value of the dollars it brought in. I think it was a theme centered movie, with a story that swirls around it. And every moment of that movie leads up to the theme, and by the time you are finished watching it, it is like you came out of a dream world, wishing you could go back to experience more.

And as you leave the theater you began to think, and think, and think, and eventually you must reevaluate yourself. This thought about themes has changed my mind about the value of story.

I at first thought that my fascination with writing fictional stories was just a childhood dream. I wanted to write stories of great adventure, great mysteries, battles, beautiful forests. Later I decided I wanted to write great pieces that talked about ideas, theories, to write about things that would make people reevaluate themselves.

Now I realize that great stories that make people think, and writing articles that make people think are the same thing, accept that a story can do it better. Why can a story do it better?

Because people don’t like it when you outright tell them they should read something and think on it. Give somebody a bible and tell them to read it and go to church and they’ll probably tell you to fuck off. As an example we will use marketing.

If you are trying to sell a vacuum cleaner and go door to door and just tell people to buy it, they aren’t going to buy it. They will slam the door in your face and tell you to get lost. However if they see that their friends have the same vacuum cleaner and it does a great job, they will go and look for it themselves, and then therefore you hardly have to even sell it to them.

If you try to tell somebody to read something that will change their lives, they aren’t going to read it. People don’t like it when somebody tells them to change their lives. But do you know what a story acts as. A story acts as a friend. People love stories, they love reading them, watching them. If somebody enjoys a story, they want to know why they enjoyed it, they will think on it, and they will take something from it, a theme, an idea, and they will keep it close to them.

Don’t shove an idea in their face, show them that it works by showing them a world it applies to. It would be just like that vacuum cleaner on a carpet, cleaning it, applying its power. You story is the carpet, your theme is the vacuum cleaner, using it’s power to shape the story.

I believe that this is the value of a story. The value of a story is what you take from it and what you will use from it in your life. Anybody can write a story, but the stories people remember most are the ones that changed them somehow.

Sow how do you write a story with a strong theme that grips at the hearts of people and wrings the tears from their eyes? Well that is something I still need to figure out myself, but I think a big thing would be, before you even start a story, to write out a theme.

Not a cliche theme, make it deeper then that. A theme could be anything, but you don’t want vague, I think you want specific. Vague leaves for a shallow story. Specific means you need to go deeper, you need to show something more specific. And when you write your story, don’t say right out what you theme is, you need to let the reader find it, let it unconsciously enter their heart, then surprise them.

Here is what I will do for a heavy theme based story: I will write down a theme, then I will refine it over and over until it makes me want to cry, or makes me really mad, or strikes any other emotion hard. Rewrite your initial theme over and over again, changing it as you see fit until it strikes your soul with a clang. Until you vibrate, until you almost want to shout, until you cant stand it anymore and your mind dwells on the theme over and over again.

Take that heart wrenching theme and put it on a piece of paper. Now I’ll develop my world, I’ll develop the story notes, I’ll develop the story, write the story, do everything else to make this story alive, but the whole time I’ll have this theme staring me in the face, it’ll be somewhere that I can see easily as I write my story. That way every time I do anything with my story I’ll see this theme and make sure I’m writing everything so it fits the theme.

Now I believe there should be sub themes. A one theme story is probably possible, but I know myself I need structure, and one general theme for an entire story seems daunting, I would also like smaller themes spread throughout the story that I can work at achieving as well.

So find a major theme, and if you want, some sub themes and write your story to it. And I think the best way to know if your achieved your goal at writing a heart wrenching story is to find somebody to read it. Tell them to write an honest review, ask them questions about how it made them feel afterward. If they have strong answers about their feelings, that it made them think, things like that, you know you did a good job. If not, well maybe your next book will be better.

But this is what I have realized is that a story’s value is in the change it has made in peoples’ lives. That it made somebody think. I believe this is achieved my sending a strong message in between the lines called a theme.

I have found stories to be way more valuable then I first thought, and now I’m glad I have seen this and will now try to make my writing more meaningful, it will be more then just men on horses charging into battle. There will be a deeper meaning behind it that people will absorb from the words.

***UPDATE 2:23 AM 29 Dec 09***

I was just on Holly Lisle’s Website reading some articles when I stumbled upon this article that went perfectly well with what I am talking about above. Her way of finding themes is by turning the theme into a question, then answering it in her stories. Another great way to do things, and she is a well published author with experience so I would take her word for it. Though remember we are all different and her way, and my way, may not be the way you need to find your own themes. You may need to figure your own method out.

Anyways check out the article here.


I love words. Words influence and inspire. Words stir emotion and thought. Words can make the world a better place, as well a worse place. I want my words to make the world better.

Cuyler Callahan

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