Content is free; would you consider a donation? See below.

Literary Fictional Story

by William H. Coles


  • Story — an account of an event or a series of events.
  • Fictional — describing imaginary people or events.
  • Literary — writing that is important and memorable with permanent artistic value.


Literary story is imagined; it is not a memoir that tells a happening that the narrator knows occurred or has experienced. Although a real happening can stimulate the imagination for the basis of a literary story, to present a memoir story as a fictional story loses the potential of imagination-based creative elements. Imagination allows growth of characterization, motivation, setting, and provides a special memorable experience for the reader.

Structure and theme

The author of literary fiction explores the imagination for just the right story elements to describe an event in a series of scenes. The author then structures the story and establishes a thematic goal that will influence character and plot development.


Characters of the literary story must be interesting, be complex and developed, and contribute to the story with author-controlled prioritization. The author creates each character’s emotional story arc to fit in with motivations and actions of all characters, and to contribute to plot momentum. The characters in a literary story are unique, yet they are not bizarre. They have heroic characteristics, but they are not superheroes with powers beyond the limits of human expectation. In good stories, the reader has thorough knowledge of who the characters are and why they do what they do. The reader follows a progressive unity and focus of the story and the development of characters is always consistent with story conflict-resolution. In essence, story resolution must be in accord with everything the characters have done in the story. That is the essence of storytelling.


A literary story has a character driven plot with carefully developed and sequenced motivations that is presented through scenes structured with conflict, action and resolution, and results in sufficient reader emotional involvement to cause (1) enlightenment or (2) reversal of thinking. Successful storytelling depends on the author’s personal traits, beliefs and opinions. But the author is not part of the literary fictional story that demands an author’s willingness to imagine the most effective characterization and plot motives to assure story momentum and to achieve reader delight.

Click here to donate

Read other Essays by William H. Coles

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

12 thoughts on “Literary Fictional Story

  • F.M. Scott

    Well-informed and well-expressed. Mr. Coles describes a type of writing that produces a deep intrigue by getting into brains without sacrificing story. Two words that come to mind: Vladimir Nabokov.

  • rebecca hanley

    I intend to go through this workshop step by step. This is an important resource for those who have neither the funds nor the time to pursue expensive workshops or college programs. Thank you for presenting this material online. I am so impressed that you answer questions from confused aspiring writers.

    • admin

      Thanks for your comment.
      I’ll give a simplistic answer, but it is truly an in depth subject worthy of a lot of study. For plot, look to mystery as example. Man murdered. Clues found. Murderer sought, confronted and punished. There is a fatalistic progression to this plot. The discovery of the murderer is really based on fixed circumstances. What happens occurs from external events, at times being random. To be character driven, the action in the plot has to be generated by the character. An example that comes to mind is Zobel’s The Beast Within. Here a murder occurs because of a number of complex psychological interactions and the reader knows early who killed whom and why. Much of the tension in the novel is generated by a certain sympathy for the characters (because of their weaknesses and inabilities) and the worry about their apprehension and punishment. At any rate, the idea is that characters create the consequences that occur in a character driven plot. There is a clear relationship between what happens and character causation. Hope this helps.