Sunday, November 8, 2009

300 Words

An amazing collection of 300 word stories published in the St Petersburg Times in 2004 made me consider what makes a good story today, and how we assess young adult writing.

If you're looking at criteria for assessment, there are many aspects of a narrative you might include in your rubric. You might focus on a mix of structure and narrative flow. You might look at voice, or a sense of presence in the novel. You may decide commend stories with a well defined story arc. Did they foreshadow effectively? Was there a suitable resolution? The list of considerations is endless.

It is a single characteristic however, that can establish a story as one worthy of credit ... character is often as far as you need to look. A well defined character drives the story. A character we care about and can empathise with, one that is a contradiction of emotions and desires just as we are.

A narrative with a strong, well defined character is essential to a story. When the author knows their subject so well that they 'know the change in their pockets', what makes them, drives them, what they yearn for and truly need. When their characters are so real we can reach out and touch them, then this is something worthy of attention.

The problem is of course, establishing a character rubric, a list of check boxes to determine success or failure is flawed. You can't easily assess the success of a story in this way. The only way to know a good one when you read it is to have a point of comparison ... which is why I'm off early to bed with a book.