Mastering English

What Makes a Good Story?

One of the most fundamental questions faced by a writer is, what is good writing? How do you know a good story when you read it, and how might you describe its best points? With plenty of help, we've distilled some of those qualities here.

  1. If it makes you want to turn the page, or read the next paragraph, and it keeps going on like that, it's a good story.

  2. If it makes you laugh or cry, somewhere along the way, it's a good story.

  3. If it makes you think somewhere along the way, it's a good story.

  4. If it keeps you awake long after your regular bedtime, it's a good story.

  5. If it makes your child happy, or enlightens your teenager, or makes a loved one's life better, it's a good story.

  6. If it makes you wake up in the middle of the night and reach for it, it's a good story.

  7. If you find yourself talking about it with your friends, it's a good story.

  8. If it captures your attention, and holds it when you really ought to be looking elsewhere, it's a good story.

  9. If you find yourself looking for it online or at the library or a book store, it's a good story.

  10. If it makes you lose yourself in it for an hour or a day or week and forget the cares of the day, it's a good story.

  11. If you find yourself re-reading it for the second or third or tenth time, it's a good story.

  12. If you remember the story vividly years later, it's a good story

  13. If it makes you seek out other works by the same author, it's a good story.

  14. If you use it as a cultural reference point, in various conversations, it's a good story.

Oddly enough, our requests for additional input have brought in several requests to shorten this list. (In that 'memorable' stories may not be 'enjoyable,' much less 'good' ones.) This issue remains under discussion.

Additions are welcome. Email Writing to Publish via Paul Carlson at, ewriters \at\ aol /dot/ com, and please make your subject line distinct.

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Mastering English