Definition of Story

The term story is a noun that is used for a narrative comprising original, real or imaginary characters having life and emotions of their own, undergoing different trials and tribulations, or enjoying happy events. The purpose could be the author’s major intent that is entertainment, information, or persuasion. As far as its etymology is concerned, it has originated from a Latin term, historical, which has entered the Anglo-Norman French as estorie and English as a story.

In literature, it is a literary device that the writers use to convey main ideas, thematic strands, discursive practices, or messages through narratives meant to be stories of common events, phenomena or happenings. These could be for different purposes that writers envisage for their cultural growth.

Different Types of Stories

There are several different types of stories used in different cultures such as;

  1. Rebirth
  2. Quest
  3. Journey
  4. Travelogue
  5. Tragedy
  6. Comedy
  7. Tragicomedy
  8. From Rags to Riches
  9. Myths
  10. Legends
  11. Folk Tales
  12. Fables, Parables, and Jeremiads

Elements of Story

The story must have all or several of these elements to be called a proper story.

  1. Characters
  2. Plot
  3. Setting
  4. Conflict and resolution
  5. Point of View
  6. Narrator, protagonist or antagonist, or hero
  7. Theme and Main Ideas

Examples of Story in Literature

Example #1 

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney

Of the dragon there was no
remaining sign: the sword had despatched him.
Then, the story goes, a certain man
plundered the hoard in that immemorial howe,
filled his arms with flagons and plates,
anything he wanted; and took the standard also,
most brilliant of banners.

These lines occur in one of the oldest English stories told in verses, Beowulf. It narrates the story of a warrior, Beowulf, and his assistance to King Hrothgar, a Danish king, when he faces a monster, Grendel. These verses occur by the end of the story when he comes to fight a dragon. It shows that the dragon is killed and some thieves arrive and plunder the treasure on which the dragon was sitting. It also shows various story elements at work here; the resolution of a conflict, characters, plot, and setting.

Example #2

Animal Farm by George Orwell

On Sundays there was no work. Breakfast was an hour later than usual, and after breakfast there was a ceremony which was observed every week without fail. First came the hoisting of the flag. Snowball had found in the harness-room an old green tablecloth of Mrs. Jones’s and had painted on it a hoof and a horn in white. This was run up the flagstaff in the farmhouse garden every Sunday 8, morning. The flag was green, Snowball explained, to represent the green fields of England, while the hoof and horn signified the future Republic of the Animals which would arise when the human race had been finally overthrown.

This passage occurs in the novel, Animal Farm, by George Orwell. This shows that the animals are having their breakfast after they have overthrown Mr. Jones and thrown him out of the farm. They have taken hold of their fate. Snowball, the strategist, is leading the animals on the next morning, declaring the farm, Republic of the Animals. This passage shows almost all the elements of a good story; characters, setting, a plot as well as the main idea.

Example #3

Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

We all enjoyed Thwaites’s story and we made him tell it to us many times on our walks to and from school. But it didn’t stop any of us except Thwaites from buying Liquorice Bootlaces. At two for a penny they were the best value in the shop. A Bootlace, in case you haven’t had the pleasure of handling one, is not round. It’s like a flat black tape about half an inch wide. You buy it rolled up in a coil, and in those days it used to be so long that when you unrolled it and held one end at arm’s length above your head, the other end touched the ground.

This passage occurs in Roald Dahl’s novel, Tales of Childhood. Told in the first person, the narrator tells that they enjoyed the story and went to buy Bootlaces. The description of a Bootlace is interesting. The story presents characters, plot, and setting as well as an implicit purpose.

Example #4

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

I had arrived at that well-known portion of the story where Ethelred, the hero of the Trist, having sought in vain for peaceable admission into the dwelling of the hermit, proceeds to make good an entrance by force. Here, it will be remembered, the words of the narrative run thus: “And Ethelred, who was by nature of a doughty heart, and who was now mighty withal, on account of the powerfulness of the wine which he had drunken, waited no longer to hold parley with the hermit, who, in sooth, was of an obstinate and maliceful turn; but, feeling the rain upon his shoulders, and fearing the rising of the tempest, uplifted his mace outright, and, with blows, made quickly room in the plankings of the door for his gauntleted hand; and now pulling therewith sturdily, he so cracked, and ripped, and tore all asunder, that the noise of the dry and hollow-sounding wood alarummed and reverberated throughout the forest.”

This interesting passage occurs in the mystery story of Edgar Allen Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher. This passage shows a story within a story, an interesting technique by which a writer ensures his credibility regarding storytelling. This passage has not only the main narrator but also the main setting that is the building.

Functions of Story

Every good story has a moral lesson and every bad story is a moral, E. M. Forster is stated to have said. This maxim suits when it comes to showing the functions of a story. A story has a purpose behind it. This purpose could be entertainment, information, influence, persuasion or convincing for some political purpose. Therefore, it could function as propaganda, educational assistance, training guide, or even a motivational treatise.