Substance, Meaning and Perfect Form: What is Story?

When I look at manuscripts I mention function a lot; I noticed this recently. Some might think that functional analysis of words and scenes has an almost clinical feel to it; akin to the work I did for many years as a scientist where analysis of data formed a large part.

But actually without function, how true is form?

We write for many reasons, but the time needed to write and get it right, is a process of many stages and form changes many times as we attempt to carve out this as near to perfect thing as we can. Editing is the magical chisel that refines and refines. This is for me the true art of writing. Getting words on a page is only the first, often slap dash, haphazard part. It’s what happens afterwards.

Without refinement it can become too abstract and without a true shape.

So ask yourself what is this thing I do? What is story? And when does it stop becoming words on a page and turn into something real? A story that carries substance  meaning. A story we feel? And think of function as its heart beat. What’s it saying? How is a scene moving plot, or revealing character? Why is this character here, what is his role? If he doesn’t have one, perhaps he doesn’t need to exist?

Story burns at the heart of all good writing, or what you have otherwise are words without structure. There are places for the more abstract, this is after all art, and some might argue it can take many forms, but if you’re a writer, remember the power of the story for getting that message across.

So whether you write poems, plays, flash fiction, short stories or novels, you need story, it needs shape and above all it has to have meaning. Or why else are you writing it? What are you trying to say about the world? Whose mind do you want us to wander through so we might see the world in a different colour, rewire our thinking.

Function is what says these words carry meaning; this paragraph, this scene, this chapter, this character. If you give this beautiful thing its structure, its shape, its meaning and its perfect form you are giving it wings to fly. You are giving it life.


A story is a beautiful creation weaving its magic...

A story is a beautiful creation weaving its magic…



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