Two Types of Stories…

How many different types of stories are there?  No, I don’t mean genres like Science-Fiction or various sub-genres such as  cyberpunk or space opera (i.e. Blade Runner or Star Wars; two movies with a glaring commonality).  An expert in literature or well read aficionado will tell you there are only seven literary tropes or archetypes.  I disagree.

I don’t think there are less than the aforementioned story archetypes from a literary perspective, but I do think there are far fewer types of stories from the perspective of our interaction with them and how they work upon the audience.  In this respect I think there are really only two types of stories.  The first type of story is the story that you can relate to, the second type the sort that an individual is inspired by; an argument could be made for a third sort of story, a hybrid of the first two.

The first type of story, a story the audience can relate to, is a tale they can imagine stepping into and taking over the role of the title character.  The core reaction to what the character endures is “This is just like my life, I deal with that too, something like that happened to me”.  It’s a story that at it’s core could exist in the world you inhabit.  A lot of young adult fiction is structured this way or tires to be (it can be more difficult when fantastic elements are part of the tale, but the elements are there).

The second sort of story is one that inspires the audience; they may not be able to relate to the tale but it ignites something within them to want to be like the characters they encounter.  A great example is the ending to Star Wars:  Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor wherein a supporting character tells Luke Skywalker that he is a hero, by his very existence he exemplifies all that is good in the galaxy.  Skywalker, this character posits, inspires others to be better people, and he gives the galaxy hope.  A great historical example would be Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas or Amazing Grace:  The Story of William Wilberforce by the same author.

The “third” sort of story is a hybrid, one that is simultaneously thematically relateable and inspirational.  Think Star Wars, Harry Potter, Dune, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or any number of superhero movies.  Audiences can relate to some of the deeper themes, but the situations which bring these themes out are beyond an audience’s ability to step into.  However, with superhero plots an audience often wants to embrace the identity of the hero and not the alter ego.

I’ve grappled with this paradigm in my own life as I consider where my own story falls amongst, one I didn’t really acknowledge and arguably dishonored for a long while.  For most who encounter it, my story falls into the second category, a story inspiration is drawn from but hard to step into.  The temptation will always be to try and transform it into something it is not.

Neither type is right or wrong, because both types are needed to reach those that need to hear them.

Which type is your story?

Posted on by Aaron in Uncategorized

About Aaron

Author, Speaker, and Super Nerd. Aaron Welty speaks and writes regularly connecting the dots of life, faith, and science fiction. Originally from Michigan, he now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

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